Tag Archives: transportation

What Will It Take?

I’m starting to get a bit frustrated about multi-modal progress in Omaha. While the city administration seems to react positively to concerns and ideas, in practice they don’t seem to get it. Here’s a few examples of the mayor and her minions not quite “getting it.”

In 2016, Omaha was recognized as having one of the better Complete Streets policies in the country. Admittedly, our policy is pretty decent on paper, but there doesn’t feel like a lot of effort or thought backing it up. At a forum during the mayoral campaign, I asked Mayor Stothert about Complete Streets implementation in a recently announced development project. If I understood her answer correctly (and I’m pretty sure I did,) she said that because the development would only affect two or three blocks of the road it didn’t make sense to follow the policy. Her thinking was that those two blocks wouldn’t lead to or from anywhere. Following that logic, Complete Streets would not be implemented ANYWHERE unless the entire length of the road was developed at once. While I’d love to see that happen, I know that’s not practical. The only way Omaha will end up with a Complete Streets network is if it’s piecemealed together, taking advantage of ALL development/redevelopment opportunities.

My second example is 63rd St. You will remember this thoroughfare from my posts on Plungergate. For a five block (1/4 mile) stretch, this residential street widens to allow for bike lanes on both sides and parking on the east side. Unfortunately, the lanes are only striped and (from what I’ve observed) use of the curbside parking is minimal. This extra width entices motor vehicle drivers to accelerate to highway speeds, and many of them do. This makes what should be a quiet peaceful street next to Aksarben Village a de facto drag strip, menacing pedestrians crossing and cyclists riding the street.

At a neighborhood meeting, the “solution” suggested by Public Works was to remove the bike lanes and allow parking on both sides of the street. This suggestion fails for several reasons. First of all, if streetside parking is not being utilized on the one side already allowed, why would it be used on both sides? The road is still wide, even the hint of narrowing provided by the bike lane is removed, so what will cause the NASCAR wannabe’s to drive reasonably? I don’t see it either. In my opinion, what should have been suggested is a Complete Streets/Protected Bike Lane treatment that… Oh wait! That flies in the face of the mayor’s forum response to me. Carry on! I doubt that the proposed roundabout is going to appreciably affect the safety of vulnerable road users.

My last example today is the widening of 120th St. In reviewing the Environmental Assessment, it appears that they plan on connecting the Papio Trail to the trail system in Tranquility Park. Great idea! No really, it is! However, the detail shows the connection being made north of West Maple up near Old Maple. While the city’s GIS data shows that the trail does reach that far currently, the reality is that it ends in Heflinger Park, south of West Maple. What are the plans to extend the trail northward to meet its soon to be created link to Tranquility? If there are no such plans, I have to wonder: did anyone from the city actually look at the trail, or did they just assume the GIS data was correct?

Now the mayor has a new buzz word to deal with: Vision Zero. I understand that she’ll be tasking ALAC with reviewing other policies and developing one for Omaha. I hope ALAC will take the time to recognize that the goals of Vision Zero can be best reached by rigorous application of the Complete Streets policy. Further, that such application needs to start now and not wait for the completion of the Complete Streets manual. After all, the tenets of Complete Streets can be found in the nine policy documents already adopted by various entities within Omaha.

Roll on!

Stand up; Resist!

As everyone is aware, the climate out of DC has definitely changed. No, this is not the result of CO2, methane or any of the myriad other greenhouse gases we continue to spew into our atmosphere; that’s a DIFFERENT kind of hot air. No, I’m talking about our newly minted President, Donald J. Trump (henceforth referred to as DJT.) Barely two months into his tenure at the White House, DJT has already alienated many of our allies, undone years of environmental progress, and (assisted by his Republican Congress) stated to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Now he’s released his budget. With the exception of the military, pretty much every other facet of government will have drastic cuts to their budget. Since this blog is about transportation, let’s focus in on that area.

You will recall that during his campaign, DJT emphasized the need to repair, replace and maintain the nation’s infrastructure. However, his proposed budget shows no sign of that thinking. According to The Hill,  he’d like to cut the DOT budget by 13%. His budget eliminated the TIGER grants and TIF funding that many states, cities and locales have relied upon to develop alternative transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, it eliminates funding for Amtrak and for the Essential Air Service program, both of which are vital to small rural towns and areas. Guess the only infrastructure he’s really interested in is a wall between the US and Mexico. Yeah, I know he said that Mexico will pay for the wall, but what DJT isn’t telling you is that that payment will come in the form of tariffs on Mexican goods, which translates into higher costs for those producers who will understandably pass on those costs to us, the consumer. So who’s REALLY paying for that wall?

The good news is this is a budget proposal. It has to be passed by Congress before it becomes a fact. And while some within his own party are saying “No” right now, the vote isn’t actually being taken yet. Let your legislators in DC know where you stand. Tell them what you want. If we work together, we just may win. But if we stand quietly, we most assuredly lose.

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!

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!

More Parking? Really??!?

Last week I listened to a recording of an interview that Mayor Stothert did with KFAB radio here in Omaha in which she reviewed her tenure as mayor and touched on her future plans for the city. One of the topics mentioned for the future was the development for Lot B near the Centurylink Center.

During that discussion the mayor noted that a large portion of parking downtown is unused for most of the day. She went on to say that Lot B was prime property for development and should be utilized more along the lines as mixed use. My initial thought was “My god! She’s finally getting it!” That sentiment lasted all of three seconds as she followed with a statement that those 850 parking spaces would have to be moved elsewhere.

Now I’m just a lowly accountant/consultant, but if they’re largely unused now, won’t that still be the case if you pave over another plot of land to put them elsewhere? And, if I heard correctly, the area she wants to move them to is closer to the river which also seems to me (the lowly accountant/consultant) prime real estate for a park or other public development.

Unfortunately, this is just a continuation of the car-centric thinking that pervades almost all of American society. There is an innate belief that if you own a fuel burning vehicle, you have the right to subsidized parking close to whatever destination you wish to choose. Wouldn’t it make more sense to find ways to provide MORE than adequate transportation to desired destinations other than hopping in your car? Instead, we add to an infrastructure burden that we already are unable to maintain. Personally, I’d much rather see the water infrastructure fixed (over a dozen main breaks in the last month) than widen 168th street. Sure, I know that the money for the roads will largely be coming from the state and federal governments, but that only shows that the mind shift needs to come from levels higher that City of Omaha government. But the shift has to start somewhere.

So let’s start by NOT moving those parking spaces, but eliminating them. Provide alternative transportation to those events that MECA makes their money on (sure would be nice to see their books.) If we want Omaha to be a city for the future, we need to start taking the future into consideration. Right now, I’m not seeing it.

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!

Winter Is Coming!

No, this isn’t a reminder that the new season of Game of Thrones is on the way (although John and his friends are coming back soon,) but a statement of fact. The days are getting shorter, the nights colder, and ol’ Sol doesn’t seem to be warming us up as much.

So how do you prepare for Winter’s embrace? Here, I pretty much hang up the road/touring bike and check out the mountain (for everyday errand running) and fat bikes (for when the snow gets a bit deeper.) I also dust off the indoor stationary bike for keeping the lungs and legs ready for longer rides in the Spring.

For clothing, I break out the Merino wool tops and the running tights. I find that using these as a base layer works in most colder situations. Footwear is a switch from sandals to closed shoes, with an overshoe as needed. And wool socks. Can”t beat the wool for keeping the toes toasty!

During the Winter months, I also review my advocacy efforts over the past year and try to look ahead to the coming year. 2017 will bring a mayoral election to Omaha , and I hope to make transportation choice one of the issues the candidates consider. I’ll also be putting similar litmus tests to council members and representatives in the Unicameral. As I get answers to my queries, I’ll post them and give my opinion. Stay tuned!

Roll on!