Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Improved Street Design

The folks who live around 63rd and Shirley have been having issues with traffic speeding down 63rd. There have also been a number of accidents at this particular intersection. During a meeting, a representative from Omaha’s Public Works Department suggested putting a roundabout in the intersection as a traffic calming device.

During the meeting, he also made the statement that the bike lanes where the part of why traffic sped along this stretch of road. Initially, I was tempted to reject this premise out of hand, but on visiting the site realized that he was correct to a small degree. With parking only allowed on one side of the street and bile lanes on both sides, the available roadbed is probably wider than most. Combine that with the straight road, the perception is that the traffic can travel faster than desired (or posted.)

His solution: remove the bike lanes. The fallacy is that the roadbed will maintain its width. Even if parking was then permitted on both sides, I haven’t seen much parking on road in the times I’ve been there. Perhaps, if traffic calming is the goal, another look at the design is needed.

Instead of simple painted bike lanes, suppose a bikeway protected by extruded concrete or bollards was installed. Further, on the side where parking is allowed, what if the bike lane were placed between the parked cars and the sidewalk. Now the roadbed available to cars is effectively narrowed and traffic is (or should be) slowed. Granted, such an approach would cost a bit more but could be priceless in preventing injury or worse. Furthermore, such a design (with its more than perceived higher safety level) could entice even more riders onto the street where their increased numbers would make them more visible to motorists and slow traffic even more.

Perhaps the only thing that needs to be ripped out for safer roads is the thinking in the Public Works Department. Just saying.

Roll on!

Bike Month(?)

MaypoleMonday is May 1, and while some might celebrate the occasion by dancing around a pole with ribbons, those of us who pedal recognize it for what it truly is: the start of Bike Month. Started and  sponsored by the League of bikemonthAmerican Bicyclists, it should be 31 days full of two (or three) wheeled events, reaching a crescendo during Bike to Work Week where all the commuting warriors of the road receive our praise and adulation.

A Google search of events nearby proved disheartening. Apparently, in Omaha Bike Month will be more whimper than WOW. Even looking at the website for Omaha Bikes was a disappointment. Here’s what I did find.

Bike to Work Week will be May 15 – 19. The annual Mayors’ Ride will be on May 18th, followed by a Handlebar Happy Hour (the only event with the Omaha Bikes brand I found.) The ride will start at the Bob Kerry Bridge at 5:00pm.

The only recognition of Bike to Work Day that my search revealed was a Commuter Appreciation Station that will be hosted by the good folks at Omaha Bicycle Company. They’ll be at 1700 Country Club Avenue, so stop by if your route takes you that way. I’m sure there will be others but I couldn’t find them advertised.

Not sure if it was coincidental or planned, but on May 5 the Bike for Sight Ride heads out from Miller’s Landing. More info at http://bikeforsight.org.

The Omaha Commuter Challenge also kicks off on May 1, so log your biking, transit, and walking miles.

Don’t forget the National Bike Challenge. This year a Strava account is a requirement. Not a fan of Strava so I’ll likely sit this one out.

One event noticeably missing from this year’s lineup: Cyclofemme.cyclofemme If it truly is missing, I hope it makes a return next year as it is a great vehicle for promoting gender equity in cycling.

If I’m correct in this (and I sincerely hope I’m not), the entire celebration of Bike Month will be compressed into two days in Omaha. If I’m wrong and you know of other planned events, please let me know in the comments. I really, truly want to be wrong. At any rate, I hope I’ll see you on the roads and trails around town, not just in May but year-round. Until then…

UPDATES:
5/3/17 – Two more Commuter Appreciation Stations have surfaced:
Trek Bicycle Stores will be at Aksarben Village near the Keystone Trail
Alley, Poyner, Macchietto Architecture at their offices, 1516 Cuming St.

Omaha Bikes has a contest going following their Positivity theme. Details on their website.

5/4/17- A couple more stations:
Bellevue Bicycle Club – behind Culver’s in Bellevue
RDG Planning & Design – 10th & Farnum

5/17/17 – Bellevue Bicycle Club’s Ride of Silence

Roll on!

Bits && Pieces

Last week I took the bus to meet Laura at Metro’s South Campus. While waiting at a transfer stop, I observed three separate cars jump the curb while making a right turn. Good indication that something more needs to be done in design of our streets to make them safer for people who walk or bike.

Had the opportunity to hear Chuck Barohn of Strong Towns speak at the Sustainability Launchpad. Lots of good ideas, but in some ways he takes more of a market approach in forming his arguments rather than a people approach. Still, an informative discussion.

image

image L.P.

Today is Earth Day. I remember the first one, way back in 1970. While I appreciate the celebration of our planet, it concerns me that the other 364 days of the year aren’t focused on the same things. We need to be protecting Mother Earth EVERY day. At any rate, we’ll be rolling out of here on our bikes in a little while to go see what’s new in the community. Perhaps even taking part in the March for Science this evening.

Short post, but as always…

Roll on!

Happy New Year!!

It’s a new year, a new month, a new week, and a new day. Sounds like the perfect time for new beginnings, doesn’t it?I plan on being much more active this year, not only in bike but also myself. You will recall that Laura (my partner in life) underwent shoulder surgery last year that kept her off the bike until the very end of the season. I chose to forego riding myself in consideration of her feelings. That will change in this new year, because 1. She’s healed and ready to go, 2. She is now the proud owner of a Copenhagen Wheel, and 3. We’re both tired of getting around town in a little metal box!

So let’s discuss #2 from above for a minute. I ordered the wheel back in early 2015 hoping (unrealistically) that it would arrive in time for our first anniversary. The good folks at Superpedestrian wanted to assure that the product they put out was as safe and reliable as they could make it. So that anniversary passed, and another, without the wheel.

Finally, just before Christmas, I received notice that it had shipped.  Just two days after that holiday, the elves in the brown truck delivered the box. Like little kids, we ripped it open and gazed on our Red Ryder bb gun (yeah, I know it’s a corny allusion to A Christmas Story, but we were happy!)

lauras-cph-wheel

Hurriedly, I read through the instructions, grabbed the wheel,and ran out to the garage. I’n not sure I ever took a wheel off a bike as quickly as I did Laura’s Citizen, but in short order I was attaching the Copenhagen to it. All this on the garage floor as the wheel itself weighs around 50#, and I was too lazy to try to lift it into my repair stand (resolution#1: weight training!) Meanwhile, Laura downloaded the app, read the manual and familiarized herself with the controls.

The time had come! I rolled the bike out of the garage, and it stood in the driveway with its bright red hub shining in the sun. I grabbed my mountain bike (because it was the most readily  available) to follow along on this maiden voyage in case adjustments were needed. And follow I did. It took Laura about 30 seconds to figure out the new addition and she took off like a shot. When I reached where she had stopped to allow me to catch up, she was all smiles. At this point, she had a hill or two she wanted to climb/test the wheel, so she took off while I returned home. Twenty minutes or so later she returned with a smile that I imagine could only mirror that on the day she got her first bike as a kid. She’s hooked!

Her/our intentions are to ride the bike to work once the weather warms a bit so the next order of business is mapping out a safe route to follow. Now that she can easily climb the hills (particularly the one we live on) bikes as transportation will become much easier. Even if I do have to accept that she’ll be the one in the lead.

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope to see you on two wheels around Omaha!

Roll on!

Election Aftermath

So the 2016 election cycle in the US is over, and Donald Trump has been selected to lead the country and, by extension, the free world. The good news is that there will be another election in four years. The bad news is that we have to wait for four years.

So what will this mean to transportation in the US? No direct questions were asked during the campaigns and debates relating to the plans of either candidate, and there is little to be found on the nominee’s website giving any real substantial plans on anything, let alone transportation. What we do know is this: Trump is a pro-business demagogue who won by pandering to the lowest of feelings in us: racism, bias, sexism, etc. One need only watch video of his rallies and the behavior not only of the candidate, but also his followers, to begin to see what may be in store for the nation. I envision years, nay decades, of progress unraveling in the days to come.

But to get back to point: transportation. In his victory speech in the early hours of November 9, Mr. Trump mentioned the need to rebuild infrastructure. Considering his corporate ties and business cronies, as well as his promise to undo the environmental accords of recent years, I predict the improvements for ground transportation will be centered around the continued use of the automobile, with the resultant spewing of noxious fumes into the air we breathe.  Hopefully, the conservation members of Congress will be able to protect and preserve some of what has been gained in the last eight years.

However, since most transportation planning takes place at more local (city, county, state) levels, we can’t wait for another change in Washington. More than ever, we need to be vigilant in the choices our mayor, governor, councils, commissioners, and state senators make in transportation. We need to educate, advise, nudge and prod them into continuing the right path. And we need to start NOW. In Omaha, elections for mayor are next year, and I’m going to be looking for the candidate who has the most progressive plan for transportation in the city. We have four years before we get to choose again who leads the nation; let’s put them to good use by organizing and learning to use our combined might.

Roll on

On Autonomy

Like many who watch developments in transportation, urban design, and particularly the areas where they overlap, I’ve been following the self-driving story. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, let me say from the start that I’m in favor of ANYTHING that makes our roads less deadly to the vulnerable user, whether on foot or on bike. However, I think that waiting for the autonomous car will mean many more will be sacrificed in the name of transportation. What we should be doing right now is redesigning our transportation infrastructure and promoting alternatives to personal motor vehicle traffic.

Currently, many of our roadways are overdesigned for the speed limits posted. In fact, that speed limit is adjusted up or down based on how fast 85% of the drivers are going, regardless of that posted speed. So when we make the road wider and straighter in the interests of “safety,” we are in effect giving the motoring citizen the privilege of resetting that speed limit. Sure the road is now marginally safer for those encased in a metal box, but for vulnerable users it just became exponentially more dangerous. Furthermore, by enhancing the perception that the road is now faster, we encourage more drivers to take it, moving rapidly toward congestion once more. Each time this cycle plays out, we take away from the vulnerable citizen who chooses to walk or pedal to her/his destination.

And what of that final destination? Here in the US, the motoring public has acquired the right to free (or highly subsidized) storage of their metal box, we design and legislate parking requirements. Never mind that for 60 – 80% of the day, those spots stand vacant, waiting for someone to fill the lot. Not a very sustainable use of space in a growing city.

Now I’m sure that some motorist reading this blog will come out with the tired, old “bikes don’t pay road taxes, so they shouldn’t be on the roads” theme. While it is true that we don’t burn fossil fuels and thereby pay gas (I.e., road) taxes, most of us do own cars that we drive from time to time so we DO pay gas taxes. Furthermore, it’s a myth that the gas taxes pay for the roads; if they did, we’d all be traveling on scraped dirt. No, the bulk of road money comes from income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and all the other little dings that the various levels of government put into our disposable income. I would further suggest that riding our bikes helps to keep overall health costs lower, saving you (or your employer) a few bucks on health insurance and doctor visits. And that subsidized storage of your vehicle mentioned above? Twelve to fifteen bicycles can fit in the same space as your SUV land yacht. I suggest, therefore, that even without the gas tax, riding a bicycle is a fiscal plus to society as a whole (and yes, to me as an individual.)

So bring on your autonomous vehicles. Just make sure they’re equipped with robotic arms so that they can flip off cyclists who will still be on the road. Wouldn’t want to lose that privilege, now would we?

Roll on!