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Cold Commuting

January 29th, 2013 | Author: Sam
Category: Bike Commuting

If you are commuting in this cold weather, know that you are not alone! Read a recent post on The Crux for inspiration, commiseration, and preparation (snow and cold are coming again this week)! Have fun and be safe!

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The Potential of Bike Boulevards in Omaha

January 16th, 2013 | Author: Sam
Category: Advocacy, Bike Commuting, Bike Lanes

Ideas on How to Make Cycling Networks in Omaha a Reality in the Short Term

posted by Sam on behalf of Jim Rogers

The Omaha trail network is slowly but steadily growing and promises someday to result in a comprehensive cycling network covering the entire city in such a way as to make bike travel in this city safe and easy.

However, trail construction, while a laudable goal that should definitely remain a priority, is a slow and expensive process. The vast resources needed to support such construction requires political commitment that cannot always be counted on. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, many citizens and legislators are hesitant to commit the resources necessary to create something as ambitious as a comprehensive cycling network, especially when most non-cyclists do not consider it a priority when the economy is slumping and unemployment is high.

Therefore it is my opinion that Omaha Bikes and the entire biking community should also consider other options that might achieve many of the same goals in a less expensive or politically dependent way. One intriguing possibility is the Bicycle Boulevard. Here is a video presentation of a very sophisticated Bicycle Boulevard system in Berkeley, CA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX8wkI7CwpU.
The Berkley system is very nice but also very fancy (and probably very expensive)– it includes roundabouts, chicanes, speed bumps, signals, traffic blocking staples, etc. But is it possible to achieve the same effectiveness without all the bells and whistles? How about using simple barricades such as plastic, sand-filled barriers often used in construction? These could be used at the ends of blocks in order to block through traffic along a street as shown in this schematic.

Bikes and pedestrians could get through the barriers (and emergency vehicles could push them out of the way if necessary), and bicycles would be allowed to ride the full width of the street. The only cars that would be on these streets would be local to that block and be able to enter only on one end (and thus move slowly over short distances with little potential for conflict with cyclists). Unlike bicycle lanes and Berkley-style BB’s, this type of system is very low cost, very reversible, and easily changed. I think they would require about as close to zero money as one could get, yet it would be very effective at creating safe routes immediately for cyclists in any direction.

And the immediate part is what I most like about it. To do something bigger takes so much time and effort and always risks alienating the majority of the public that won’t use this type of facility. I’m not getting any younger and I want to be able to travel this city safely by bike before I’m too old to do it!

Another advantage is for us year-round cyclists; since a residential street Bicycle Boulevard will still just be a regular street, the snow will be cleared just like any other street. I can tell you that there is no way I’d use a one of the bicycle lanes created as part of the 20-mile loop after a snow– the plows will likely put the snow in the bike lane, it will always be icier near the curb than at the crown due to runoff, and all that with cars whizzing by a few feet from your elbow! In a residential street Bicycle Boulevard one could ride at the crown of the road or dodge icy spots by riding wherever necessary in the road to avoid hazards. Add to this the elimination of the “door zone” problem year round and we’re talking about a much safer system for cyclists year-round.

What about the impact on residents of a Bicycle Boulevard? I have heard (but don’t know for a fact) that people living along these types of routes like them because it effectively turns their street into a cul de sac, a feature that is usually associated with high home values and greater safety for children to play in the street. Again, this is just hearsay (and possibly untrue), but I’ve read that once these systems get going, many neighbors are enamored of them enough that they actually compete to have a Bicycle Boulevard on their street. Even if that’s not true, it seems hard to imagine that people would be too upset about them, and if they were it’s easy enough to simply pick up the barrier and move it elsewhere.

So how would it be decided which streets/routes would become a Bicycle Boulevard? My idea for the development of these types of route would be crowd-sourcing. Much like the Omaha Bike/Pedestrian Map, I think the bicycling community should contribute information they have as to good routes and then build the system according to that. Again, if any problem comes up with a route or a better one is found, it’s simple a matter of moving the barriers. I think it would be a fun way to engage the entire community and give them a sense of ownership of the system.

Personally, I don’t see any real downside to this type of system, but then I’m not a transportation expert. So what do you all think? Good idea worthy of trying? Or is there a fatal flaw that I’m missing?

Winter Riding

January 8th, 2013 | Author: Sam
Category: Bike Commuting, Snow, Winter Riding

I walked outside yesterday and thought What a nice day! Nothing like a couple weeks of high temperatures in the teens to make the 30s feel good! All in all, this week seems like it’s going to be pretty nice, and I’m ready to ride my bike! I know there are many of you who have been riding through every kind of weather. And when I have to, I do too. But what I mean is that I’m ready for a ride for fun! So, nice weather is my reason for wanting to ride right now. And I know others have their reasons. I found some on Bike Winter:

“Why are people raving about winter cycling?

“MOMENTUM: When you stay in the saddle year-round, you never have to experience a sore butt again. Instead of wasting time every spring relearning the rhythms of traffic or the best way to load up all the groceries, you just keep getting more nimble, strong, fast and confident. Best of all, you get to spend more time with your beloved steeds.

“HEALTH: Biking is just what the doctor ordered to keep you sane and spry, especially when the lack of sunshine sends your spirits plummeting and your main physical activity is walking to and from the omnipresent platter of holiday cookies.

“COMFORT: Assuming you are dressed correctly, you’ll be as cozy as drivers stuck in traffic, and more comfortable than people shivering at the bus stop. Many cyclists now prefer winter cycling to sweating buckets in July.

“ADVENTURE: By battling headwinds, blizzards or just a habit of running late, you get the same endorphin rush as winter skiers. However, whereas most skiers only suit up a few times a season, you can bicycle every day.

“CONVENIENCE: For many trips, cycling is faster door to door than driving or taking transit. After a snowstorm, it’s easier to dig out a bike than a car, and often easier to ride than walk. Streets also tend to get cleared of snow faster than sidewalks. (Though we think sidewalks should be cleared too!)

“BUDGET: Use the money you save on car insurance, transit passes and gym memberships for a down payment on a house, a sabbatical, charity or really nice bottles of wine.

“CAR(E)FREE LIVING: Thinking about kicking the car habit? Once you discover that your bicycle is a reliable, all weather, all occasion form of transportation, you will wonder why you ever poured so much money and time into a car.

“What are your reasons for staying in the saddle year-round?”

Those are some good reasons for cycling year round. Maybe another reason is that we love to tinker with our bikes, making our own improvements and changes. And bad weather gives us the inspiration we need to think up that next good (or new, at least) idea. Check out this modification: We know that studded tires are a bonus when there’s ice and snow. But I saw this great D.I.Y. version that I thought you’d like to see (picture at the right). Yep, those are zip ties on that bike’s wheels. Check out the Tree Hugger website for detailed instructions. I hope I’m not being too cynical, but after getting over the novelty of this idea, I immediately though that it would be the devil to change a flat. But maybe some people aren’t worried about that. Any other winter biking suggestions or bike modifications?

Omaha Bikes

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1516 Cuming Street | Omaha, NE 68102
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