Tag Archives: Omaha

New MSO Member Perspective

21 Jul

We asked a new Mode Shift member, William Carmichael, to share a bit about his transportation story. Enjoy!

In front of a wooden bookshelf, William is smiling at the camera with rimless glasses and a graying beard.
William Carmichael

I didn’t expect to take up cycling at 53. Still less did I expect that I’d ever be emailing city officials semi-regularly, asking for them to step up in support of transportation equity. It took parenthood and a pandemic to change my thinking.

 Like apparently a lot of people, I found myself contemplating getting a bike during the early days of COVID-related lockdowns and closures. I managed to make it through 2020 without pulling the trigger, but earlier this year our seventeen-year-old child got their driver’s license and a job, both in the span of a couple weeks. Although there was no practical way for us to adapt to the change in their schedule without needing some additional transportation options, I balked at the idea of getting another car; three vehicles for a family of three seemed like overkill to me, and still does. So I went ahead and bought myself a bike. It was an easy decision to make, mainly because I’m lucky enough to live fairly close to my job, and also close to a mixed-use trail that covers most of the distance *to* that job.

 A lot of people in Omaha don’t share my good fortune, however, and for many of them going without a car isn’t a choice, as it was in my case, but a necessity instead. Picking up cycling late in life, after decades not even owning a bike, made the obstacles that the city imposes on people without cars stand out starkly to me. As I said, there’s a great trail that I can take to work. But getting to that trail involves either traveling along a major thoroughfare with lousy sidewalks and inattentive drivers, or rolling the bike across places that aren’t supposed to be access points (although bafflingly enough there is signage to warn drivers of pedestrians and cyclists crossing the road at this specific non-access-point). And if one travels in the opposite direction, there is a gap of about a three quarters of mile in the trail, and the only option for crossing that gap is to travel through streets that are, if I’m being diplomatic, “unsuited to non-motorized traffic”.

 All of this in a part of town that I know gets better service and more attention from the city government than most. I started wondering about how I would feel about it if the bike were all I had. Observation and thought made in pretty clear that pedestrians weren’t being treated much better, and trying to use mass transit to get from my neighborhood to virtually anywhere else in the city would be so time consuming as to be entirely impractical. And again, other neighborhoods have it worse.

 I started looking around to find out if anybody was making an effort to have the city start factoring multi-modal transportation into its plans, and that is how I found Mode Shift.

“In the short time I’ve been involved, I have already seen them effect practical policy changes and directly serve the community via volunteering.”

I am happy to have found a community that’s working to transform Omaha, from a place where not owning a car is hugely detrimental into a city where public spaces are designed around the needs of people rather than cars.

[If you’d like to share your story about transportation or mobility in the Omaha metro, let us know! We’re always looking for blog submissions.]

Scooters Make a Comeback

17 May
Six orange and black Spin scooters are parked at a charging station with a digital display on the right.
Spin Scooters parked in a hub with digital display.

We’ve been communicating with the folks at Spin Scooters recently about their operations and potential partnership with MSO. Some exciting opportunities are in the works around data collection and demonstration projects, but tomorrow we’re testifying in support of their pilot program and Spin Hubs. For now with the return of the scooter pilot, our main concerns are with clutter of the scooters on sidewalks, impeding access for mobility device users in particular. Gratefully, their Spin Hubs should remedy that issue. Items #75 & 76 on Tuesday’s City Council agenda involve scooters from Lime & Spin, so read up and weigh in with your thoughts. Find your City Council rep here and email them your testimony if you can’t make it to City Hall Tuesday at 2pm.

Our main suggestions include:

  • Create more places for people to safely use the scooters! This will benefit all road users, particularly during the pandemic when we really need more outdoor spaces.
  • Allow on-street parking for scooter hubs, bike share, and everyday bike corral parking!
  • Design > enforcement. Fining someone $100 for riding on a sidewalk is reactionary and won’t solve the issue. 
  • Use this as an opportunity to create a better transportation system, as many City Council candidates brought up this past election cycle. This is one small step and now is the time to act! 

To read our full letter of support, download it below.

The Big Sweep

1 Apr

Safe sidewalk infrastructure should not be a joke. Yes, we’re publishing this on April 1st, but there’s nothing funny about the lack of maintenance and care that sidewalks in Omaha currently receive. Mode Shift Omaha plans to address this issue and sweep the sidewalks and intersection of 72nd and Dodge Streets, a job that the city says belongs to property owners. The property owners say either they don’t know about their responsibility or they view it as the city’s problem because the city is the one dropping loads of gravel, salt, and snow in the winter.

Creighton students from Dr. Wishart’s Environment and Society sociology course are volunteering with Mode Shift for this effort as part of their service learning about how transportation equity and sustainability are part of the larger environmental justice social movement. Keep Omaha Beautiful has supplied us with the gear to do the work. Please join us on Saturday, April 10th at 11:45 a.m. on the sidewalk in front of 7001 Dodge Street for “The Big Sweep” as we clean up and demand changes from our city. Avoid parking in private parking lots to participate in the event.

A hard to navigate sidewalk along Dodge Street is full of reddish sand and debris. A man in an electric wheelchair is trying to make his way up the street but is having a hard time. Wheel chair tracks are apparent in the soft mud next to the sidewalk because it's too difficult to make it by on the pavement.

Photo by C. Tefft; A mobility device user is maneuvering around the sand filled sidewalk.

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