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.
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.
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.