Tag Archives: pedestrian

Snow Day: A Tale of Two Commuters

7 Feb

On the morning of February 4, 2015, several inches of snow fell on top of the 6 inches that blanketed Omaha two days earlier. Let’s hear from two citizens coping with the weather.

Snow day

Part 1: The Automobilist

Like every Wednesday, I start early for a 7:00 AM meeting with friends at a local restaurant. I peek out the window: more snow, as expected. But I’m ready for it.

Preparation
I don my snow clearing clothes and begin my standard operation. Assisted by my trusty snow blower, I clear the fresh snow and I manage to cut a path through the windrow of large frozen chunks that, as usual, the city snow plow left along the end of my driveway.

Commute
I leave my car idling while I change into my driving clothes – no need for boots and parka in a warm car – and soon I am on the road. My destination is nearby, but the vicissitudes of Omaha streets force me to drive out of my way to major streets and intersections. Despite the midnight passage of the snow plow, the streets are white and slippery, but thanks to my all-wheel-drive, ABS brakes, and new wipers, I feel safe in my warm cocoon. But I am not alone. A van from a construction company materializes in the morning gloom, spinning its rear tires as it attempts a steep climb. I wait until it sees me and drive around it. Next, a car breaks out of its driveway and skids uncertainly ahead of me. That’s the problem: I do everything to be safe, but I can’t count on others to do the same. I leave the neighborhood, join the slow moving caravan on the major streets, with ponderous traffic light stops.

Cars at Intersection

I close in on my destination and find that the best parking places are taken or piled with plowed snow. I park at a distance, make sure my snow scraper is ready for action when I return – the melting snow will have caked the windshield in ice – and I brave the cold, slippery walk to the restaurant.

Arrival
I burst into the restaurant with scalding ice crystals melting on my brow. I check my watch: 5 minutes late. I need some coffee. And a big breakfast. I’ll work off the calories later, when I drive to the gym and walk 40 minutes on the treadmill.

Part 2: The Pedestrian

Like every Wednesday, I start early for a 7:00 AM meeting with friends at a local restaurant. I peek out the window: more snow, as expected. But I’m ready for it.

Commute
I don my parka, boots, hat and backpack, and I step out the back door. My boots contact the snow with a satisfying crunch. My destination is nearby, a 40 minute walk through neighborhood streets and trails. Crystals settle on my hat and parka. My footsteps are muffled as I walk the empty streets, suffused in a glowing, pearly light. I walk by a construction company’s van, wipers sheathed with ice, attempting to climb a steep grade. It drives off in search of a less inclined alternate route. A car breaks through the icy windrow blocking its driveway, and skids uncertainly out of the neighborhood like a dazed mammoth. Otherwise, I have the streets to myself.

Empty street

Arrival
I walk straight into the restaurant and shake the snow off my parka and hat. I check my watch: ahead of schedule. I’ll enjoy a well deserved coffee and breakfast.

Part 3: The Comparison

The Automobilist The Pedestrian
Equipment

  • Parka, boots, hat & gloves (snow clearing clothes)
  • Snow blower (including fuel, storage, and maintenance)
  • All-wheel-drive vehicle (including fuel, storage, and maintenance)
  • Ice scraper
  • Gym membership
Equipment

  • Parka, boots, hats & gloves (walking clothes)
  • Backpack
Time

  • Snow clearing: 15 minutes
  • Car warming: 5 minutes
  • Drive: 13 minutes
  • Park: 2 minutes
  • Drive to gym: 15 minutes
  • Walk on gym treadmill: 40 minutes
Time

  • Walk: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour and 30 minutes Total: 40 minutes
Stress & Health

  • Stress: High
  • Health: Average
Stress & Health

  • Stress: Low
  • Health: Excellent

Author’s Note: The pedestrian narrative is from my actual experience. The automobilist narrative is derived by superimposing past experiences on February 4, 2015 — Chris Behr.

Bike/Ped Rally Logistics

9 Aug

A few things to note regarding the Bike/Ped Rally scheduled for noon on Sunday, August 10 at Stinson Park. We will convene at the Tower at noon, rain or shine.

Following brief comments from Councilman Chris Jerram, Mode Shift Omaha chair, Craig Moody, and Omaha Bikes spokesperson, Ryan Feagan, there will be optional, at-your-own-risk bikes and walks. Whether you’re biking or walking, please obey the rules of the road. It is not a closed course. Be safe. Ride right. Signal your turns. Stop at all stop signs and lights. Have fun. Be respectful. And wear a helmet if you’re riding.

Routes are as follows:

Bike Route— A 4.12 mile route utilizing shared roadways and designated bike lanes in the Aksarben/Elmwood Park Neighborhood. North on 67th through Elmwood Park. Roundabout north on Happy Hollow to Howard. To 55th. South to the Leavenworth Bike Lane. West to 60th. South to Woolworth. West to 63rd. South to Center. West to 64th. North on 64th Ave back to Stinson.
Bike Route
Walk Route—A 1.46 mile route on city streets with varying infrastructure for pedestrians. East on Center to 60th. North to Shirley. West to 67th. Back to Stinson.
Walk Route
Walk Route Alternate—No hills, good for children walking or biking. East on Center to 63rd. North to Shirley. West to 67th. Back to Stinson.
Walk Route Alternate
And if you want to roll on your own, the Keystone Trail is easily accessed from Stinson Park.
We look forward to seeing you all on Sunday. Have fun. Sign the petition. Wear a sticker. Be boisterous yet respectful. And be an advocate.

A Dodge Street Safe for Everyone

25 Jun
Image from KETV

Image from KETV–38 & Dodge Streets

The grievous death of Creighton University physician, Dr. Edward Horowitz, on Monday at the intersection of 38th and Dodge Street illustrates the serious challenges faced by the City of Omaha as Dodge Street becomes a future multi-modal transportation corridor. Dr. Horowitz was killed by a vehicle while crossing Dodge Street with the right of way and walking in a crosswalk.

Dodge Street represents Omaha’s central corridor and has been identified as the primary element linking the city’s areas of civic importance. Early work by Omaha by Design described this as a fishbone, with Dodge Street acting as an organizing spine for the city’s green spaces and neighborhoods, and where the highest level of the new urban design standards would be applied. The recent Central Omaha Alternatives Analysis concluded Dodge Street, Farnam Street, and Harney Street should host both a new Bus Rapid Transit line and an urban circulator, the locally preferred term for a streetcar. Both of these transit technologies have been celebrated as models of Transit Oriented Development, meaning an increase in development along these transit lines can be expected both in advance of, during and after the construction of these lines if they proceed as planned.

However, increased development and improved transit opportunities along and near the Dodge Street Corridor won’t succeed without reconceptualizing Dodge Street as a safe space for pedestrian movement and without providing the necessary facilities required for people who walk to move along and across Dodge Street in a safe manner. Nearly every transit rider is ultimately a pedestrian as the first or last leg of a transit rider’s journey is usually on foot, and the current design of Dodge Street is one of the least habitable places in the city for pedestrian traffic. An aggressive and visionary approach to Dodge Street is needed if the proposed transit improvements advance, something along the scale of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent Great Streets Initiative, which recognizes the important role great streets play in making great neighborhoods and great cities. Omaha’s central corridor and the neighborhoods defining it won’t be great without a new and visionary approach to how Dodge Street safely accommodates all forms of transportation.