March 26th, 2013 |
, Urban Design
Just when you thought the campaigning was over and we had elected the POTUS and a new Congress, Omaha’s election season ramped up! This year Omaha will be holding elections for mayor as well as for the seven seats on City Council. The primary election is April 2 and the general election is May 14.
Omaha Bikes teamed up with ModeShiftOmaha to pose some transportation and bicycling questions to our candidates. Volunteers from ModeShift compiled the responses. Click the links below to see what the candidates said (or if they even responded!). The questions are posted below for reference as well.
Lastly, if you want to hear from the mayoral candidates first-hand, there will be a candidate forum tonight focusing on land use and development issues in the Omaha Metro (which includes bicycling and transportation). The forum will be at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass Street. Doors open at 6:00 and the forum is from 6:30–8:00pm. It is a free event. If you can’t make it, look for a summary of bicycle-specific candidate comments on our blog later this week.
Here are the questions we asked the candidates:
- What do you see as Omaha’s most pressing transportation needs? If elected, how would you address these needs?
- During the past two years, the City Council approved the Transportation and Environmental Elements of the City’s Master Plan. Both include a commitment to shift modes and accommodate all users of streets, including: pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users of all ages and abilities. What would you do to ensure this policy is advanced?
- Various laws and procedures require the city to solicit public comments for projects related to transportation planning and project design. What will you do to ensure that citizens representing all areas of the community have opportunities to authentically engage in these processes?
- Expanding suburbs requires expanding expensive public services such as sewers, police and fire protection, schools, and building and widening streets; these costs get higher the farther out you build. Researchers at UNL project a 60% or greater increase in population, employment, and housing in the Omaha area by 2050. What will you do to ensure fiscally sustainable growth for Omaha?
- Given the increasing congestion and travel times in the Omaha Metro area, as well as decreasing financial resources for transportation from federal and state government sources, what should the city do to address congestion?
- The number of traffic deaths in Nebraska, most of them in Omaha, reached its highest level in the past decade last year. Of the 207 traffic-related deaths, about 20 percent were pedestrians or motorcyclists. What would you do to help improve safety? In particular, what role do you think the OPD should play as the primary agency charged with keeping Omaha safe?
- A frequent constraint the city faces around improving transportation choices are state standards that pre-empt local needs. What will you do to work with the State of Nebraska to enable Omaha to build infrastructure that is more context-specific for our urban environment?
- The transportation needs of our community are diverse and changing, what would you do to make sure that Omaha accommodates the transportation needs of all citizens now and in the future?
- A growing number of studies find that biking and walking, for transportation or recreation, are associated with significant health benefits. Currently, 64% of adults and 28% of youth in Douglas County are obese or overweight. What would you do to promote increased biking and walking as a public health priority?
- Do you support retaining the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator position with the City? Why or why not?
- Would you support high speed intercity passenger rail that is now being considered in Iowa? If so, what will you do to encourage the implementation of a useable passenger rail option between Omaha and Chicago? If not, why not?
- The City of Omaha recently completed a study of parking and determined that “Downtown Omaha has enough public parking to meet today’s needs, and the needs for the next 20 years.” Research shows that plentiful parking leads to higher emissions, greater congestion, and depreciated land use. Now that the City of Omaha has a Parking Manager, what role do you see her/him play in reducing the demand for parking and better utilizing currently available parking in the city
- How often do you use a Metro bus, bicycling, or walking for transportation? If you have school aged children, how often do they take the bus, bike, or walk to school?
March 18th, 2013 |
, Bike Shop
Jay Leighter interviewed Sarah Johnson for his Crux podcast. It’s an interesting reflection about biking in Omaha and changes that have happened, are happening, and will happen. They’ve got a great discussion about different kinds of bikes and approaches to biking.
If you are interested in women and biking or want to get a bike shop/bike advocate perspective, this is a great podcast to hear.
March 12th, 2013 |
, National Bike Summit
Like most people nowadays, I’m on social media. But I haven’t fully embraced it yet, nor am I a paid journalist. I only mention this because it explains why I am a few days late in sharing some of my reflections and takeaways from the 2013 National Bike Summit rather than running my thumbs and phone camera for three days as the world passes by. And it was a quick three days, so I am glad to have waited.
The 13th annual summit, which is put on by the League of American Bicyclists, ran from Monday, March 4 to Wednesday, March 6. This was the largest Summit ever, attended by more than 750 bicycling advocates from all 50 states, several Canadian provinces, and several U.S. territories. Similarly, Nebraska sent its largest and most diverse contingency ever.
The full Summit kicked off Monday night with a dinner and keynote talk by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Secretary LaHood has been very involved with advancing bicycling since President Obama appointed him in 2009. He has traveled the country and visited communities both to hear about their issues and see the impact of bicycle projects supported by Department of Transportation funding or programs. My main take away from Secretary LaHood’s remarks is that bicycling is having an impact across the U.S., and that American’s are embracing the bicycle for recreation, transportation, and enjoyment.
Secretary LaHood was followed by a trio of leading thinkers in the bicycling community: New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, President of Trek Bicycles John Burke, and Vice President of the Brookings Institute Bruce Katz.
The point that Ms. Sadik-Kahn made that stuck with me is that the public is ahead of the media and politicians when it comes to understanding the importance and impact of bicycle infrastructure. As evidence of this, she noted that the bike lanes in New York City are polling better than the mayoral candidates.
Mr. Burke chose to underscore the power of the bicycle’s ability to solve individual and communities issues related to health, as well as economic and environmental benefits. He also pointed out that the bicycle industry in the U.S. is large and growing larger as it includes companies designing and manufacturing bicycles and bicycle parts, as well as the retail and distribution chain.
Finally, Mr. Katz shared his observations of the trend of decreasing household size in the U.S. over the past century, and cited that as evidence and motivation for the urbanization of the suburbs. He also pointed out that in the past cities’ and states’ bicycling and pedestrian programs were at the mercy of federal funding, but that the recession has shifted the balance so that the federal government is now more in service of the movements and projects in cities and states.
For me the big idea from Monday of the Summit is that bicycling in the U.S. has more momentum than it has had since before the proliferation of the automobile in the early 20th century. And we really shouldn’t be surprised because the bicycle can address so many of the challenges our country faces today: community disconnection and sprawl; sedentary lifestyle issues like obesity and heart health; tight budgets at the household, community, and state level; traffic and parking congestion; and air pollution.
Without any major transportation legislation in Congress this year the League had a little more leeway to expand the Summit program. Although this was my first Summit, it seemed like the League used that expansion to focus and broaden the programs and speakers. Even after the first day, it was clear that people at all levels of the bicycling movement are proud of what they’ve accomplished and excited about the future. So even though it isn’t timely, I’d like make up for my un-timely un-hipness and compose a tweet to capture day 1 of the Summit:
Main idea from d1 of #NBS13: Bicycling mvmt poised to build on strong foundation to become a practical means to address our big challenges w/ #health #econ #envmt
March 11th, 2013 |
Last week, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend my first National Bike Summit. Working professionally in the “getting butts on bikes” game since mid-2008, this was a trip I’ve spent a long time dreaming about. Aside from being the most important event of the year for bicycle advocates, the Bike Summit is in Washington DC, the spiritual home of bike sharing in the United States. I was going to get to ride Capital Bike Share.
Nebraska had a 12-person delegation, which was quite a bit larger than other, similar states. (Kentucky, for one, only sent a single delegate.) With a delegation of that size it allowed me to view the entire experience through a single lens: bike sharing. Not only was Capital Bike Share my primary mode of transportation throughout the conference, I shared housing with folks from Kansas City B-cycle.
So, what did I learn about bike sharing? The myriad of things I learned about bike sharing can be summed up in this statement: The time is now for all of us to be having the conversation about bike sharing in Omaha. As people who bicycle in Omaha we all need to be having conversations with our friends, co-workers, families, and neighbors about what bike sharing is and what it has to offer our community. Why you might ask? Allow me to quote:
This term “game changer” came up again and again, and every time a speaker used the term they discussed the impact adding thousands upon thousands of bike trips had taken on urban environments. Imagine how much easier it will be to build support for bike projects when dozens of additional bike trips every day are added by a broad variety of riders. Imagine how much easier it is to convince someone to ride at lunch when there is a bike sharing kiosk outside of their office. Imagine the impact on businesses in Omaha when the majority of bike share users in DC were somewhat more likely to patronize businesses that had a station out front. Imagine what bike share can do for us in Omaha.
At Omaha B-cycle we are ready to bring bike sharing to Downtown Omaha. We have the tools and the know-how to make it happen. What we need is support. Yes, financial support is crucial, but the support of the cycling community is vital as well. The more we are all talking about how important bike sharing is to Omaha, the easier it will be to get that financial support. And then, bike sharing will make all of our lives easier.
PS. If you have any questions at all about bike sharing, please talk to me at the Omaha Bikes meeting on Tuesday or drop me an email at bturner at livewellomaha.org. I’m happy to have the conversation!
March 6th, 2013 |
Greetings from your nation’s Capitol! It’s been another whirlwind week at the 2013 National Bike Summit. We’ve gone from Sequester to SNOWquester here at the end, which has created a wrinkle in our plans to visit Capitol Hill, but we won’t let that dampen our spirits! More on this topic a little later; for now, I want to focus on the issue I found most profound at this year’s event. I think this is my 4th (or is it 5th?) National Bike Summit, and although the format is basically the same from year to year, there seemed to be a major shift for 2013.
At the 2012 National Bike Summit, there was a really great pre-summit forum that focused on Women on Bikes. It lasted a couple of hours and featured a fantastic panel of women who have been doing great things in this field that we love so much. The speaker from the recently formed Black Women Bike DC club (see article about them here) wowed us with her passion and her leadership, and we got introduced to the term MAMIL: Middle Aged Men In Lycra – a humorous, yet compelling description of what the bicycle movement had traditionally been all about. (Truth be told, the acronym would probably be more accurate if it was MAWMIL, where w=white). This forum also had me harkening back to a speaker from King County, Washington that I had heard a few years ago at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference about how the cycling “movement” will not truly be a movement until it becomes more diverse.
This year’s NBS felt like a quantum leap forward in diversity.
At one point in my live tweeting bonanza during the Women Bike forum, I peeked my head up long enough to get a good look at the group around me. At that point, I tweeted, “The diversity of humanity at this forum is awesome. Viva Bikes!” It was truly remarkable: women of all ages, races, orientations, and levels of cycling experience. There were plenty of men, as well (former Omahan Matt Martin was one of them!), cheering us on and urging us to continue working to evolve the culture of cycling. The sessions during the forum featured women who were pioneers (Georgena Terry and Jacquie Phelan, to name a couple), women were leading the charge on the local level through Safe Routes to School and other initiatives, all the way up to perhaps the most influential woman (dare I say, PERSON!) in cycling today, Jeanette Sadik-Khan – the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation who has worked to completely transform that city into a cycling wonderland.
The feeling of diversity and inclusiveness didn’t end with the Women Bike forum. The general sessions were peppered with amazing women speakers, all doing outstanding work to promote cycling across the country. I think I recall Andy Clarke, President of the LAB, say at one point, something to the effect of, “We are desperately clinging to the coat tails of the women cycling movement!” (Wise move, my friend.)
But believe it or not, it wasn’t the rockstar women that represented the biggest shift I noticed: it was the language. This year’s National Bike Summit felt more like a National Multi-Modal Summit, and it was awesome. Sure, they had touched on these subjects in the past, but this year it was loud and clear, front and center. Words and phrases like bikeable/WALKable neighborhoods, urbanism, density, human infrastructure, equality, social justice, transit were popping up frequently. Two different sessions I attended had audience members asking about the impact of adding cycling infrastructure in lower income areas with regard to gentrification. We learned that a simple change in our vernacular – using the term “people on bikes” rather than “cyclists” can make all the difference in the world.
The League is also stepping up their efforts. The newly announced Equity Advisory Council, and hiring of Hamzat Seni as the new Equity and Outreach Fellow show a commitment to addressing these important issues that have been neglected for too long.
Although this year felt like a quantum leap forward, I think everyone would agree that we have a lot of work ahead of us if we truly want to represent the diversity of humanity that deserves and can benefit from balanced, multi-modal transportation options in our communities. The League certainly seems to be gaining speed as they pedal on this journey, and I’m looking forward to the efforts that Omaha Bikes can initiate to support the cause locally.
March 2nd, 2013 |
Category: Bike Commuting
, Bike Philosophy
Jay Leighter, Creighton professor, is still blogging about riding his bike to work. He recently added a post called “Impact in the Aggregate.” In it, he discusses how his view of cars has changed. On the one hand, he’s noticed that he feels confined in cars, limited. But on the other, he has come to appreciate the comforts of owning and using a car. For most trips, we don’t really need a car (depending, probably, on where you live). Taking a utilitarian approach to driving frees up the options for other forms of transportation.
Let us toast to being multi-modal!
March 2nd, 2013 |
Dicks Sporting Goods at the Oakview Mall area is looking to hire 1-2 bike technicians to help out during the spring and summer months. If you would like to apply, contact Nick Boyes at 402-330-1184.