Local News

Omaha Mayor terminated the bike lane project, Omaha residents disappointed

OMAHA, Nebraska – Approximately one year after the installation of bike lanes as part of a city mobility pilot project, Omaha has opted to end the initiative.

After learning that the Market-to-Midtown Bikeway pilot project would complete at the end of the month, Bike Walk Nebraska stated on Thursday that it would immediately terminate its cooperation with Metro Smart Cities.

According to a press release from BWN, the organization was informed by Mayor Jean Stothert and Public Works Director Bob Stubbe on Wednesday that the mobility program, set to expire on September 30, would not be extended despite the unanimous approval of the city council referendum and apparent success on all previously established performance measures.

The decision was apparently taken at the Metro Smart Cities advisory board meeting on Wednesday.

Julie Harris, executive director of Bike Walk Nebraska, tells 6 News that they were kept out of the conversation regarding the decision to stop the pilot project.

“Yesterday’s meeting was the first time we were not invited to a Metro Smart Cities advisory meeting since we introduced this initiative to metro smart cities,” Harris added.

Harris claims that the procedure was violated when they were not invited to the Wednesday meeting.

“Therefore, we are dissatisfied, as this was the initiative we brought to the city, for which we provided all the cash and did all the labor, but we were ultimately excluded from important debates concerning the project’s fate.”

According to an online update from the mayor’s office that verifies the project’s finish date, MSC is “responsible for scheduling and paying for the removal of the bikeway bollards, although a timeline for this work has not been defined.”

In a meeting with members of the media on Wednesday, Mayor Stothert stated, “The city of Omaha is committed to all forms of transportation in Omaha, including protected bike lanes in the downtown urban core.”

She continued, “We have a great deal of information from that pilot, but it has not yet been examined, so we still need to do that.” “What we do know is that it is extremely difficult to operate a bikeway beside a streetcar.”

Stothert stated that it has also been a problem in other cities.

Stothert stated, “Seattle, Washington attempted to run their streetcar along with their bikeway, and there were 12 lawsuits brought against the city, as well as injuries and deaths of cyclists who got their wheels trapped in the tracks, so this is something that we do not want.”

Harris contends that the two can coexist, and that when Harney Street is torn up for the streetcar’s construction, it will never be cheaper or more efficient to also establish a permanent bike lane.

“As of now, the streetcar will run right through the middle of our urban core, and even if there is no bike lane on that same street, there will be people on bikes, people pushing strollers, people using assisted mobility devices, and people on scooters crossing those lanes, so not putting a bike lane does not change the fact that we must build it to be safe for everyone,” Harris said.

Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution by Council President Pete Festersen and Councilman Don Rowe urging Public Works and Metro Smart Cities to extend the pilot initiative.

Despite the news, which was made in conjunction with the most recent update to Omaha’s Climate Action Plan, the mayor’s update indicates that the city remains “100% committed to protected bikeways.”

Nonetheless, it was rather unexpected, given the idea appeared to be gaining traction among city officials.

BWN Executive Director Julie Harris informed the council at its Sept. 13 meeting that “six-month project evaluation data showed a 140% increase in bicycle traffic on Harney” despite the fact that the implementation of the bike lane last summer first confused Omaha motorists.

BWN stated in a press release on Thursday that the organization was not invited to the Metro Smart Cities meeting on Wednesday, where the decision was allegedly made, despite contributing funding to assist the MSC program.

“In this spirit of partnership, BWN allowed MSC to use a portion of the funding BWN provided to create a website now serving all of its current and future pilot projects,” the Bike Walk Nebraska release states. “…The Mayor and Public Works Director reportedly voiced concern over the budget to maintain the Bikeway if the pilot period was extended an additional 18 months (estimated at $40,000). Bike Walk Nebraska has $38,930 in remaining project funds not provided to MSC which could be used for these costs. This could have been clarified at the meeting had BWN been in attendance.”

The Bike Walk Nebraska release also had a message for city officials:

“BWN calls on Mayor Stothert and the Public Works Director to clarify their intentions for the Bikeway and share their budgetary calculations and concerns voiced in the MSC meeting with BWN, the funders of this project.”

  1. Omaha Mayor pushes the climate action plan, expected the plan to be ready by 2024
  2. Traffic stop on Wednesday morning in Douglas County resulted with huge drug bust, two people arrested
  3. Construction projects on the bridges at Highway 370, Chandler, and J Street have all resulted in significant impacts for drivers, but the project is almost done
  4. Omaha residents will soon receive yet another affordable housing area, part of broader development project
  5. Omaha area businesses are in need in more warehouse space, how the city will respond to this request?

Related Articles

Back to top button