Archive | Safety RSS feed for this section

Slowing down Blackstone

13 Apr

Four years ago I moved to Omaha from Portland mostly sight unseen.

I decided the Blackstone district looked like the best place to land.

You see, I gave up my car when I moved to Portland and didn’t want to go back. 

Blackstone seemed to be extremely walkable, had several bus lines near it, and wasn’t too far from where I would be working. 

It wasn’t long before I got my reality check: that walkable street came with a narrow sidewalk and three lanes of traffic hightailing it at 45+ despite the 30mph (double check this number) speed limit.

Yes, technically I could walk along it and even get to work fairly easily, but not comfortably- especially compared to the streets I was used to walking in Portland.

Continue reading

Learning the Wrong Lessons

10 Jan

Derek Babb, Board Member and Bike Team Lead

Last week, I rode the Harney Street Cycle Track to see how well it was plowed after our recent snow storm. The previous day, I had seen Dear Evan Hansen at the Orpheum and there were several people parked in the bike lane, waiting to pick someone up. I loudly commented that you shouldn’t park there and my wife said, “He’s obviously waiting for someone.” I responded that there is no reason to be parked in the bike lane, even if it’s cold, even if you’ll only be a minute. 

All that background to say, we have so little here in Omaha that I feel like we constantly need to fight to maintain what we have, we constantly need to prove that we “deserve” the few painted bicycle gutters and the one “pilot” project protected bike lane we have.

Back to the snow. 

I went to as many public meetings as I could in the lead-up to the protected bike lane. I was there nearly 10 years ago when this lane was first proposed. I was there when we re-started the conversation. At every one of these public meetings, someone would ask, “What about when it snows?” The frustrating thing about that question is that it’s so lazy. Omaha is snowy for a few weeks out of the year. We have a baseball stadium that is only used for two weeks a year but I guess that is not the same.

We know that snow is a possible problem. We know that it is a top critique from people who would rather not have any bicycle infrastructure. We know that piles of snow in the bike lane will deter people from biking, further justification to people who claim “nobody ever uses the bike lanes.”

Last Monday, 48 hours after our snowstorm, I rode the Market to Midtown Bikeway to see how the snow had been cleared. The results were…spotty. 

Some patches were fully cleared, some businesses had cleared their driveways and pushed the snow into mounds in the bike lane, some places seemed to be untouched. There were also several other tire tracks in the snow, so it wasn’t just me (out to prove a point) riding in the bike lane. When I complained on Twitter, I received this response from Bike Walk Nebraska:

The thing that I keep thinking is, we are learning the wrong lessons. We know that people are going to use snow clearing issues as a blunt instrument to prevent future bike infrastructure. The goal needs to be a fully cleared bike lane as quickly (or ideally quicker) than the car lanes are cleared. We can’t afford to do a bad job and learn from that. We need to do an immaculate job and learn where we can be more efficient in the future.

Nobody is rooting for the success of this lane more than me. Mode Shift Omaha and other advocates have been trying to make this lane a reality for over a decade. We should have a network of connected, protected, safe bike lanes at this point. We have lost so much as a city through our inaction.

The good news is that Omaha is so far behind that there is no longer a need for pilot projects. We know what works, we have the benefit of being able to steal the good ideas from other cities and, rather than doing a study, simply implement those ideas here.

How do you clear snow? – Ask Minneapolis.

What about the cold? – See above. 

Will people ride where it’s hilly? – Ask Kansas City.

People don’t ride that much. – What happened in Des Moines when they added protected bike lanes? How about Lincoln?

Advocating in Omaha is exhausting. We have to fight to maintain what we have and it feels like actual permanent improvements are impossible. It’s been a long few years and I am tired. When do you stop shouting for basic infrastructure and move to a place that gets it?

In the meantime, I am upset with fellow advocates because the city isn’t even at the table. The city is doing nothing. The CIP is full of parking and road widening and Council Bluffs is embarrassing Omaha with their forward thinking and action on bike infrastructure. There are many lessons to be learned here, but I fear we are missing the most important ones.

Good News on Friday the 13th

13 Aug

Thank YOU for supporting our goal of amending the proposed CIP (Capital Improvement Program) to include money specifically for keeping the protected bike lane on Harney Street, aka the Market to Midtown Bikeway, permanent! We testified at City Hall, emailed our Councilors and thankfully were heard. We’d like to specifically thank Council President Festersen for making the amendment to include $3M for Harney St. and $1.25M for implementation of a new Bike & Pedestrian Master Plan. The Council will vote on whether to approve the proposed amendments this coming Tuesday, August 17th.

A person on a bike wearing a backpack is pedaling west on Harney Street through an intersection with green paint striping.
A rider pedals west on Harney St.

You can view the entirety of the City Council agenda here and check out all of the proposed amendments. Again, the City Council will VOTE for or against these amendments on Tuesday, August 17th so now would be a great time to find your City Council representative and email them encouraging them to vote yes on items 12 & 13.

A screenshot of items 12 & 13 from the City Council agenda. 12 is a recommended revision to the CIP to include $1.25M for a bike/ped master plan implementation and 13 is for another amendment to the CIP with $3M for the Harney St protected bikeway's permanence.
Screenshot of the proposed amendments

In other good news, there’s finally painted crosswalks at 72nd & Dodge! Thanks to Cindy on our Walkability Team for all of her work on this over the years (and for the photo of the new paint!). Take a look at one of our blog posts from 2017 here if you want to see the timeline of things at this intersection.

Photo of fresh white painted crosswalk stripes and stop bar at the corner of 72nd & Dodge looking north toward the Crossroads corner. There are orange construction cones alerting drivers to the new paint.
Photo by Cindy Tefft of the fresh white painted crosswalks on Dodge!

Just wanted to end the week with some celebration of our advocacy and progress! Keep your eyes out for an upcoming Walk Team event to celebrate this intersection and raise awareness of others with some issues.

Have a good weekend and maybe we’ll see you at our Coffee Chat/Ride which starts at the Blueline Coffee shop in Dundee, rolling at 8:00am for a 25 mile round trip. The ride heads to Papillion and Pint Nine to celebrate another accomplishment: a trail connection from businesses along the West Papio Trail to the trail itself. Here’s the general route plan, subject to change as we ride as a group!