Harney Bikeway: We did it! Or did we?

24 Oct dozens of cyclists begin ride on the Harney St Bikeway at a stoplight

The Harney Street Bikeway has been a top priority for the city, based on their own metrics, for the last 10 years. It took until last year, and a private donor, to make the “Market to Midtown” bikeway a reality. 

Last month, the mayor decided she had seen enough. Despite the City Council’s unanimous support of the bikeway, she and the board of Metro Smart Cities, decided to end the pilot program. Bike advocates, including Bike Walk Nebraska – a leading contributor to the project, were shocked. 

After a student-led protest of the bike lane demolition, the mayor announced that it would continue for the next year, until the new streetcar project pushed the bikeway out. BUT… that was only because a private donor (the same donor from the original pilot) agreed to pay for the ongoing maintenance. 

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The Life And Death Of The Market-To-Midtown Bikeway

24 Oct A large group of people, many wearing bicycle helmets stand in Dewey Park

by Brian Knoelk

If you build it, they will come.

The stated goals of the Market-To-Midtown bikeway pilot project was to see an increase in the level of bicycle ridership, including bikeshares and scooters; and see an increase in the perception of safety and comfort level of riders and vehicular traffic alike; and aimed to promote multi-modal transportation options and public safety.

In the first year of the Harney Street Bike Lane, sometimes referred to as the Market-to-Midtown Bikeway, the bicycle traffic along the route increased about one-third, while bikeshare use along the route increased 69%. The Bikeway was on target to beat pre-pandemic ridership, but fell short of pandemic ridership highs. The number is also affected by the work-from-home transition that many downtown employees have gone through. [Market-to-Midtown Bikeway: 12-Month Evaluation from Bike Walk Nebraska]

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MSO Board’s Statement on Harney Street Bikeway Removal

27 Sep Harney street bike way at intersection with Park Avenue with striped green paint and white bollards protecting the bike lane

September 26th, 2022

Mode Shift joins local Omaha multimodal organizations and advocates in expressing frustration and disappointment over the removal of the Market-to-Midtown Bikeway after a successful pilot period. 

The bikeway pilot was successful and accomplishes multiple city goals; removal wastes philanthropic dollars. 

Since the start of the bikeway pilot in July 2021, the bikeway has seen over 50,000 riders amounting to over one hundred cyclists per day. Groups like Bike Walk Nebraska, Heartland Bcycle and others have spent countless hours analyzing data from the pilot, which shows that despite being the only protected bikeway in downtown Omaha (bike infrastructure is more effective when there is a complex network), ridership on the bikway flourished. We highly criticize Mayor Stothert’s statement that “we need to analyze the data we got from our pilot.” The data has been analyzed and shows a need for this infrastructure in our urban core. Additionally, this project is a top-ranked project in the Transportation Element of the Omaha Master Plan of 2011.

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