While Omaha Bikes strongly disagrees with Mayor Stothert’s belief that the “goals have been reached” for our Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator position and therefore the position is no longer needed within the City Government, we are encouraged by news that she signed an Executive Order creating an Active Living Advisory Committee. Nothing can truly replace a dedicated staff member working within the City Government to plan and implement bicycle and pedestrian facilities and we hope a last minute solution to this problem can be found.
However, the Mayor’s creation of a committee to advise her on biking, walking, and other active living principles is a modest step toward balancing the scales. Naming Julie Harris chairwomen of this committee is a very promising start; there are few, if any, better qualified individuals to lead such a group of advisors. Omaha Bikes believes there are three immediate steps Mayor Stothert can take to help ensure the success of the Active Living Advisory Committee. Omaha Bikes would like to ask the Mayor to (1) take the additional step of pledging to frequently listen to, communicate with, and act on the advice of the Committee.
Additionally, we would like the Mayor to (2) pledge to sign a Council-approved Complete Streets Policy when it comes to her desk. If existing City staff currently has the ability to implement safe places for biking and walking in every project, a Complete Streets policy will ensure that every project in our city will take these concerns into account.
Finally, when talking about the future of bicycle and pedestrian projects in Omaha, Mayor Stothert referred to “a dedicated person in our planning department that will continue to oversee this and make sure all those initiatives are being done.”We would like Mayor Stothert to (3) publicly identify this person as soon possible to help ease the worried minds of those passionate about the future of our City and its biking and walking projects.
While this is a very unfortunate way to begin a dialog on the future of bicycle and pedestrian projects in Omaha, Omaha Bikes is pleased we are having the conversation and hope that Mayor Stothert is willing to take the additional steps outlined above to ensure all bicyclists have a seat at the table and a safe places to ride.