Category Archives: Advocacy

Plunger Aftermath

More on “Plungergate!”

A couple of weeks since our little protected bike lane demonstration, and we’re still getting comments on it. When I went to the dentist last Monday, the dentist and two of the hygienists/assistants asked me if I had been in the paper or on the news. After telling them the purpose and how we did it (with names withheld to protect the “innocent”) they proclaimed us heroes of the cycling community. Doesn’t hurt that the doc and at least of the assistants are cyclists.

63rd_Shirley

There’s also been a bit of semi-official reaction to the demonstration. Apparently, at the May meeting of the Mayor’s Active Living Advisory Committee, there was an agenda item titled “Guerilla Bicycle Facilities on 63rd Street.” While the minutes/notes of the meeting have yet to be published, I’ve heard that the group was of two sides: one side wanted to condemn the action, while the other suggested letting it pass. I look forward to reading the notes to see what (if anything) good will come of it.

The residents of the 63rd & Shirley neighborhood haven’t let it go yet, either. A Facebook page has been started to continue pointing out the dangers of that intersection and the speeding traffic on 63rd. At least one local station has continued coverage of the issue.

I don’t know what will come of this long-term. I do know that there hasn’t been this much attention paid to ped/bike infrastructure since the firing of Omaha’s “Bike Czar” (I hate that term) in the early throes of the Stothert administration. If folks continue to talk and react, and if they promote change where it’s needed, then I count the action as a success.

Roll on!

Making Decisions

Once Omaha’s Complete Streets Policy is in place, how will the city Planning and Public Works Departments make decisions on street design. One only has to move throughout the city (by any means) to know that there will be ample opportunity to put the policy into practice. But who will the decision makers design for?

If they look at current usage of the roadways to decide on walking/biking infrastructure, I fear that we will be doomed to more of what we now have: corridors designed with the automobile as priority. In my opinion (such that it is,) they should quit looking at the past. Furthermore, they shouldn’t design for the future; instead they should take the opportunity to design the future, a different concept altogether. I suspect that comment may need some explanation.

If the Planning Department designs for the future, they will look back at historical data and trends, extrapolate expected numbers, then adjust them actuarily to come up with what they feel will be the future use. The problem with this approach is that it is based solely on the past and will, therefore, continue to elevate the use of private automobiles over other means of transport. Hence, roads will be widened, parking added, and other transport options left to share what may remain (if anything.) In other words, more of the same on a grander scale.

However, if the planners instead utilize their education, knowledge, experience, but most importantly their imaginations, they can redesign our cities as more pleasant, enjoyable places to work, live, and play. Consider a concept I like to call Complete Neighborhoods. Currently, we look at neighborhoods as a collection of homes contained within the same area, borders defined often by busy streets. Imagine instead a neighborhood that contained not only homes, but also included businesses that provided central services: grocery store, drug store, hardware store. Those places we often need at least once a week all located within a mile or two (easy walking or biking distance) from home. Those places not needed as often, such as clothes, beauty or barber shops and entertainment, could be located another mile or two (still bikeable) out, with public transit granting access to those who don’t want to ride. Delivery services could provide a means for getting those big ticket items home. Workplaces (for those not employed in these shops) and green spaces could be intermixed throughout. These concepts are found in the book “A Pattern Language” which should be on the shelf of every designer in my opinion.

Allow me to state that I am not promoting a full-city teardown and starting from scratch. Instead, let’s look at current zoning laws and change them to allow these ideas as redevelopment occurs. In Omaha, we already see the desire for such development in areas like the Crossroads Mall, where it appears the zoning and bureaucracy have come together to stifle the creative thinking that Omaha will need as more folks see the opportunities that our city provides now and, hopefully, will provide into the future.

Think creatively!

Roll on!

Learning What I Don’t Know

For a while now, I’ve wanted to add to my cycling advocate resume by becoming a League of American Bicyclist Certified League Instructor (LCI). I’d take the Traffic Skills 101 class WAAAY back in 2013, and decided that the next step was LCI. There had been a class offered immediately after the TS101 class I took, but there was also a “meeting of the minds” of the cycling community from which came the rebirth of Omaha Bikes. I made the choice (and would do so again today) to attend that meeting and take the class the next time it was offered in Omaha. Little did I know that it would be 3-1/2 years later.

After rejoining the League (not sure how that lapsed), Laura and I both registered for the class, took the assessment, and got ready to spend a weekend with like-minded folks. Unfortunately, Laura came down sick, so I attended alone.

Friday evening, I took my seat along with the other LCI candidates. I knew many of them either personally or through reputation. There were even a couple from that long ago. TSI class. We covered the syllabus, and learned some basic teaching techniques. We also received our final presentation project assignments. Off to the races!

The next two days were filled with projects, drills, assessments and tests (I won’t bore you with descriptions). Finally on Sunday, we got the word on whether we were now qualified to teach.

I suspect that most everyone passed. However, I was given some remedial work to do on Avoidance Drills. Once I practice and demonstrate to another LCI that I have mastered them, I’ll receive my certification. In the evaluations I received from the  other candidates, I learned that one of my presentation/teaching weaknesses is student engagement. Basically, I come across as “teaching at” rather than “teaching to.”

Which got me wondering: Do I come across the same way on my little blog? I know there are not (yet) a ton of you reading my entries, but for those that do: am I coming across as “preachy?” If I am, what suggestions would you make to help me to better engage with you, the reader. Please let me know.

With that, I’ll leave you to enjoy what appears to be a magnificent Spring day. Get out there and breathe it all in. Until next time…

Roll on!

Tools for Omaha Commuters (and Others)

Thought I’d share a couple of things that I hope will make life easier for people who bike in Omaha.

First, a map I’ve been working on and adding to. Those of you who know me are aware of the map I created (and continue to curate) showing the Fixit repair stations in the Omaha region. I started this map back in 2014 and it has seen some use. Hopefully, the fixit stations have as well. I had been thinking of what things might also be of use to Omaha cyclists and realized that one of the questions I have before setting out is “Where’s the closest parking to my destination?” So I started working on adding that to the map as well.

With some help from Omaha Bikes and the city’s Planning Dept., I got my hands on a file of all of the city-installed bike racks in Omaha. There’s quite a few of them! After some quick searching and finagling, I was able to import it into the map. You can see the results here. It’s much easier to see/read on a PC than on your phone, but it is still usable. FixitOmahaI’m still playing with a couple of ideas with icons, data, etc., so keep checking back.

(UPDATE: I’ve created a Google Form so that you can report a bike rack or Fixit Station that is missing on the map. Just click here, fill in the form, and I’ll take care of the rest.)

(UPDATE 2: B-Cycle bike share stations have been added. Also, sometime next week, I hope to be adding (with help from the Planning Dept.) the formally recognized bike commuter routes.)

(UPDATE 3: The Planning Dept. came through, not only with the promised commuter routes, but also with the trails in the city. I’ve added them to the map. I think I’m done for the time being. If you have suggestions, please put them in the comments section.)

Since my map is a bit cumbersome to use on a smart phone, I started looking for other solutions, and I found one! The Bicycle Parking Project gives an opportunity to download their bicycle parking app for either iPhone or Android. I sent the above mentioned data file to the developer, and he graciously added the bike racks in Omaha to his database. It’s also incredibly easy to add new racks to it; just take a picture of the rack through the app and send it. You can see that’s what I did for the bike parking at Natural Grocers on Dodge. Bulk loaded racks are yellow, and those added by individuals are blue. You’ll note the button “Park Here.” If you select a rack and click on the Park Here, it will turn green; you can walk away and be able to easily remember where you left your bike. I’ll also be reviewing the map in this app periodically to see where new racks have been added and update the above map.

NtGrocRack

Hopefully, folks will find these little tools useful. If you can think of other information that you think would work, let me know, and I’ll see what’s possible.

Roll on!

Contemplation on What’s to Come

Winter sunriseSitting with my morning brew and watching as the rosy hues of dawn gave way to the golden rays of the sun,  I began thinking about the state of our cycling nation. Like the current national political landscape, we should be concerned about the direction and focus of our collaborative efforts. Let me explain.

In my opinion, there are two major bicycle advocacy organizations in the US: The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) and People for Bikes (P4B). In the past, these two groups co-existed well (or seemed to) with each lending its voice to the efforts of the other to further the cause of bicycle riding in the US. In particular, P4B was a sponsor/supporter of the League’s annual National Bike Summit.

This year, according to reports coming from the bike summit, P4B is noticeable in their absence. With no presence in DC and no mention on the event website, it appears that a schism may have appeared in our wheeled community. Are we destined to the same fate currently being suffered by the Democrat Party? Is the advocacy family to be split between the “establishment” of the LAB and the upstart thinking of P4B?

Several years ago, LAB recognized that they had (have?) a diversity problem. To help resolve it, they hired Adonia Lugo as a diversity manager. However, according to Dr. Lugo, when she made suggestions they fell on deaf ears, and nothing of substance changed. (Please note that this is entirely from web/news reports; I was not there.) Dr. Lugo left her position at LAB after a short term; LAB’s loss in my opinion.

Other stats I hear coming from DC also concern me. It was reported in one blog that the chair has set a goal to reach 100,000 members within ten year; this from a current enrollment of 20,000. With the reported increase in cycling over the last decade, why is this current number so low? Furthermore, what was the peak membership? If it has dropped, does that explain the staff reductions in the office? (LAB, please work to keep Caron Whitaker; she’s a great voice for us in the Halls of Congress.)

And what of P4B? Is it coincidental that they’ve instituted a Bicycle Friendly Places program that does much the same thing as LAB’s Bicycle Friendly America? Are they hosting their first Bicycle Friendly Places Conference (their version of the Bike Summit) this year? Does the leadership of P4B feel that LAB is falling short of their mission? Like the progressives in the Democratic party, are they willing to risk fragmenting the base to further what they see as the proper course of action?

Hopefully, this is conjecture on my part and there is no rift in the cycling continuum. Perhaps it’s all in my own perception, and the two organizations can and will continue to work together. As I finish up this little post, a glance out the window tells me that gray clouds have gathered, pushing back the rays of the sun. I hope, sincerely hope, that this isn`t a portent of what’s coming to the world of cycling transportation.

Roll on!

Bits & Pieces

Just some updates, recaps, and shorts that wouldn’t fill a post by themselves.

The plan on consolidating Fixit station repair has changed. The board over at Omaha Bikes has decided that they don’t have the bandwidth to assure that the stations are maintained. It proved to be more difficult to find a non-profit partner to share the labor portion of the plan. However, Eastern Nebraska Trails Network approached the good folks at Re-cycle Bicycle (a for profit organization) and they have forged an agreement to maintain the units that are to be placed by ENTN and Missouri-Papio NRD. Don’t know where this leaves the sixteen other stations in the metro; guess they’ll continue as is.

Folks wanting to know where to park their bikes in our fair city can download the Bicycle Parking app. Available for both Android (Google Play Store) and Apple (App Store[?]), the app will show you all of the city installed bike parking with data provided to the developer by the Planning Department and Omaha Bikes (with a little help from me.) The developer is also looking to add Fixit station locations to the app. Incredibly easy to use and to add privately installed parking as well.

ModeShiftOmaha is finalizing a candidates’ survey on multi-modal transportation in the metro. This survey will be forwarded to all candidates in the upcoming municipal election. Results will be compiled and published by MSO.

Finally, I’m reflecting on a better focus for this little blog of mine. It will, of course, still be bike transportation (other alt transpo as well,) but I feel the need to set some targets to shoot for. More on that to come.

In the meantime, the weather this weekend looks to be BEAUTIFUL! Time to get out and enjoy yourself in whatever (at least semi-legal) way you choose. Until next time.

Roll on!

Bike Month 2017 (Intro)

Well here it is, February 22, 2017, and Bike  Month is just over ten weeks away in May. This annual celebration of all things wheeled and people powered brings opportunities for riders, old and new, to find new ways to use their bikes for recreation, commuting, and all-around transportation.

There are several groups who give chances to get on your bike and ride.  The first to be covered here is 30 Days of Biking. Participants pledge (starting on March 1) to ride their bikes every day during the month of April. Any length ride qualifies, so if it’s raining, or cold, or whatever all you have to do is ride down the block and home again. Easy-peasy! 30 Days gives you multiple ways on social media to keep up with their community during the month. A great way to warm up and get into shape for the month to follow.

Here in Omaha, you can get your bike looked over and minor adjustments made for free. Just find Omaha Bikes at Earth Day on April 22. In addition to providing bike valet service for the event, Omaha Bikes will have a few volunteer mechanics to make sure your bike is safe to operate.

Now that you and your trusty steed are ready, May brings multiple events and opportunities to celebrate. Yep, May is Bike Month. If past history holds true, just about every bike shop in the city will have sales, classes, and events to keep you riding. As I see these events appear, I’ll add in another Events entry. I”m sure that Live Well Omaha will once again start their season long Commuter Challenge. Running from May 1 through September 30, it allows individuals and teams to log their miles of walking, riding and taking transit to earn bragging rights (and maybe a prize or two.)

Want to double your fun? Join the National Bike Challenge. Hosted by the League of American Bicyclists, the NBC has the same dates as Omaha’s Commuter Challenge. Keep your team and make those miles count twice.

I’ll post more on Bike Month as more details become available. In the meantime, check your bike and map your routes. Spring (and Bike Month) is coming!

Roll on!