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Omaha Bus Rapid Transit Station comments

August 26th, 2015 | Author: Dale Rabideau
Category: Advocacy | Tags:

Omaha Metro presented three designs for BRT stations and are soliciting feedback through Aug 29 (this Saturday).

For BRT to be successful, it must appeal to people who have access to automobiles. Thus BRT must provide a service that competes with, or at least comes close to, a person’s experience in a car. Three requirements come to mind: Functionality, Comfort, Speed. These three characteristics need to be experienced in two places: the stations and the buses. We will concentrate on stations here.

Station Characteristics that Serve Functionality, Comfort, Speed

  • protection from the elements (sun, rain, snow, wind, temperature) – this is the most important design criteria but the presented designs are sorely lacking best practices when compared to other BRT stations already in service such as Cleveland cited in ModeShift Omaha’s station writeup.
  • aesthetics – the designs seem to have concentrated on this aspect. Aesthetics is more difficult to judge than protection. Simplicity, robustness, fitting into and complimenting established place settings are some criteria.
  • Heartland B-cycle stations should have space set aside at stations which connect to destinations with stations, e.g. UNO, Dundee, etc.
  • Parking protection for private bicycles. A minimal roof covering the bicycle parking stations should be included. These are common at train commuter stations and BRT is suppose to mimic the experience of a train on wheels. The bicycle roofs can serve double duty by providing protection from sun, rain, and snow for people to stand under if the station seating is filled to capacity.

Putting these all together, I would take the old small town depots pre WWII as a starting template for design.

  • A roof running the length and width of the station platform. Aesthetics should be simple with steel supports and a roof to match the environmental architecture (shag shingle, or UV and infrared blocking sunscreens, or retro train depot, etc.)
  • A pedestrian seating area protected from wind with metro system bus map, ticket station. This would run about half the length of the station.
  • Bicycle corral that holds 10+ bikes perpendicular to the street. If empty, people can lean against them in lieu of seating area.

In areas where the right-of-way is too narrow for a full station, a skinny station simulating full size except the seating is one row all facing the street and the bicycle parking has rings end to end running parallel with the street.

The Westroads Transit Center has a couple of these features. I would tweak that template with the above recommendations and use minor aesthetic cues, trademark, real time display for next buses, to distinguish the BRT from a metro transit center. In other words, use a transit center plus features for each BRT station. If BRT is a train on wheels, a train depot (modern passenger or retro small town) should be the base from which to build on.

If you agree with, or disagree with any of these suggestions or ModeShift Omaha’s suggestions, or have other features you would like to see at these stations, please participate in Omaha Metro’s survey by Saturday, Aug. 29.

South Omaha Trail – August update

August 25th, 2015 | Author: Dale Rabideau
Category: Trails, Uncategorized | Tags:

After attending the ribbon cutting of the West Papio Trail extension to 108th and Giles, I took a look at the South Omaha Trail construction which is the other Metro Trail extension occurring in 2015.

In the four weeks since the last update, progress in moving painstakingly slowly:

Looking West on D St

Looking West on D St

MUD has finished natural gas main work but storm sewer lines need to be added/updated. There are grade stakes put in for dirt and cement work.

Looking East at end of D St to 36th St

Looking East at end of D St to 36th St

The trail bed is starting to be cut into the side of the hill.

Excavator pulling dirt down the bank

Excavator pulling dirt down the bank

Bull dozer is moving top soil and vegetation off the trail bed

Bull dozer is moving top soil and vegetation off the trail bed

From 36th looking West

From 36th looking West

This 2.5 block (300 yd) 5% grade will build strong muscles going East and provide a break from pedaling going West. Seasoned bicycle riders will slow down for intersections at the bottom along D St. Cars will likely pull onto the trail before stopping, or more likely, just slowing to turn because of little car traffic on the dead end D St. I hope the plan includes bike/pedestrian crossing signs and stop lines for 38th St, 39th St, and 39th Ave that alert the people driving to stop for people on the trail.

Bull dozer dumping top soil

Bull dozer dumping top soil

Cement retaining wall

Cement retaining wall

South side of wall is driveway

South side of wall is driveway

North side of wall is trail side

North side of wall is trail side

9% grade will be a challenge for West bound people riding and walking.

Why the Slow Progress?

In talking with a Vrana employee, two issues were mentioned. First, the amount of rain we’ve been having this year has limited the number of days for moving dirt. Second, the source for dirt has changed. Up to Memorial Day, the dirt was coming from work on the North entrance of the Henry Doorly Zoo. Kiewit suspended dirt removal till Labor Day because of unforeseen issues at the Zoo. Now because of design changes in the African Grassland Safari, all the dirt will stay in the Zoo which leaves Vrana looking for another source for 30,000 cubic yards of dirt.

I mentioned the CSO work in Spring Lake Park where the lake is being restored as part of the sewer separation and beautification of Spring Lake. I also mentioned that Tranquility Park was tapped during the 2011 flood for dirt to raise the levy around the South Omaha bridge sewer plant.

If you know of a source for large quantities of dirt, preferably near the trail construction area, please let Vrana know.

From the gentleman I was talking to, meeting the February completion date is a concern unless drier weather and a source for dirt come sooner rather than later.

Previous posts on South Omaha Trail:
July Update
June Update
March Update
Initial Post with Overview

Comparing Omaha with Montreal

August 20th, 2015 | Author: Dale Rabideau
Category: Activate Omaha | Tags:

The Guardian reports on Montreal’s bike friendly success.

Upon reading the article about Montreal’s Tour de L’Ile, an 18-60 mile ride with 30K people participating, I wondered how that compares to Omaha’s recent Corporate Cycling Challenge, a 10-42 mile ride with 4.4K people participating.

Montreal has 1.65M people on 140 sq miles of land (11,700/mile) with 400 miles of bike lanes, 150 miles of that separated from motor traffic.
Omaha has 447K people on 127 sq miles of land (3200/mile) with estimated 100 miles of separated bike lanes (Metro trails) and less than 10 miles of bike lanes and less than 20 miles of sharrows.

Omaha has 27% of Montreal’s population and Corporate Challenge was 14.6% of Tour de L’Ile.
Omaha has 27.5% of Montreal’s bike lanes. Thus based on population, we have about the same lane miles per person. But Mayor Denis Coderre has promised to double Montreal’s bike lanes. Thus, with the new Complete Street Policy, we would need to build at least 100 miles of bike lanes to match Montreal’s planned build out for bike lane miles per person.

When we compare bike lane density per square mile, Omaha is only 25% of Montreal. Thus for grid coverage, we need 300 more miles of bike lanes to bring us up to Montreal’s current lane density, and another 700 bike lane miles to match Montreal’s planned density.

Our low population density is a limiting factor for bicycle and transit participation. Couple that with our low bike lane mileage per square mile and low transit route coverage, contributes to low bicycle and transit mode share.

If we tripled our biking infrastructure to match Montreal’s density, would we double the turnout at the Corporate Challenge and match the Tour de L’Ile? Even more important, would adding another 300 miles of bike lanes significantly increase our bike share mode?

Speaking of bike share, Montreal has 5000 Bixi bikes compared to about 300 Heartland B-cycles. Based on population, that would be equivalent to 1350 B-cycles for Omaha. How much would another 1000 B-cycles increase bicycle mode share?

Montreal is more hilly than Omaha with a triple peak hill at the center of the city over 700′ above sea level. They average 82″ of snow, we 32″. There average high of 79F in July produces much less sweat than our 89F.

As the article recounts, bicycling became popular in the 70′s with the oil embargo and never went away. “We had a lot of what I call cycle frustration,” Silverman says. “At the time there was no infrastructure, nothing to encourage biking, all the transport spending since the war had gone into cars.” Montreal has taken 40 years to get where they are today, and have a plan to double lane mileage. Omaha is less than 10 years into advocating for more and improved bicycle infrastructure. With the recent Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, it may be 30 years before major arterial routes like Center Rd, Leavenworth out to Elmwood Park, etc. are completely fitted with protected bike lanes. We can advocate for this to occur more quickly but maybe those long estimates are more realistic since we don’t have a large community that rides bicycles most days.

“The cycling culture is seen as a draw for Montreal, a place regularly included in the various league tables of the world’s most liveable cities….“We’re very proud. We changed the city. It’s rare you get involved in a movement that really changes things.”

To change our opportunities to ride, we need people to get involved. We need more people to figure out how to ride more often to school, the store, with friends, to work. We need more people to participate in large rides like the Corporate Cycling Challenge, the OWL Ride, and the Commuter Challenge. And we need people to contribute ideas, energy, and even money to advocacy groups like Nebraska Bicycle Alliance, Iowa Bicycle Coalition, ModeShift Omaha, Community Bicycle Shop Omaha, The Bike Union Mentoring Program, Omaha Bikes, and others that encourage, educate, and enable people to ride bicycles.

Bicyclists Deaths Associated with Motor Vehicle Traffic

August 17th, 2015 | Author: Dale Rabideau
Category: Health | Tags:

Bicyclist Deaths Associated with Motor Vehicle Traffic — United States, 1975–2012, August 14, 2015

My takeaways:

  • many less children are riding bicycle now than in the past
  • mortality rate increase for 35-74 age group is less when compared to their increase in riding instances and time
  • choose route selection that decreases bicycle and motor vehicle interaction (use the Omaha area topography map and the Live Well Omaha map found on
  • infrastructure changes that segregate bicycles from motor vehicles needed as their numbers and speed increases (
  • education for best practices sharing the right-of-way is needed for people who ride and people who drive

Some observations from the CDC report:

  • For lower 48 states, annual mortality rate per 100,000 has dropped by half: 0.41 to 0.23
  • Nebraska mortality rate dropped from 0.29 to 0.08, 71.9% (Table)
  • Iowa mortality rate dropped from 0.31 to 0.15, 52.2% (Table)

Broken down into age groups, rates varied in magnitude and direction (Fig 2):

  • <15 has dropped from 1.18 to 0.09 per 100,000
  • 15-34 has dropped from 0.4 to 0.2 (visual estimate)
  • 35-54 has risen from 0.11 to 0.31 (currently highest rate)
  • 55-74 has risen from 0.15 to 0.3 (visual estimate)

 In 2012, males accounted for 87% of total bicycle deaths in the United States. This proportion increased over the 38-year study period, from 79% in 1977 to a peak of 90% in 2001.”

Although bicycles account for a relatively small share of trips across all modes of transportation, the share of total household trips taken by bicycle has doubled over the last 35 years, and in 2009, bicycling accounted for approximately 1% of trips in the United States (4). Recent years have seen the largest increase in bicycling; for instance, during 2000–2012, the number of U.S. workers who traveled to work by bicycle increased 61% (6). This growth is not uniform because most has occurred among men aged 25–64 years, whereas cycling rates have remained steady for women and have fallen among children (4).”

Several countries and some U.S. cities have higher bicycle use and lower mortality rates than the United States overall. Many have implemented multifaceted, integrated approaches to bicycling that address safety while also promoting cycling (1). Such approaches often include extensive bicycle infrastructure (e.g., physically separated bike lanes), traffic calming measures (e.g., speed humps), legal interventions (e.g., lowered speed limits), travel programs (e.g., safe routes to school), and education to encourage safe bicyclist and motorist behavior (1).”


how we get a child to ride a bicycle and why

August 4th, 2015 | Author: Dale Rabideau
Category: Family

I read this article from Momentum magazine on Five Ways to Get Kids Excited About Bikes. That got me thinking about how I’ve worked with my 5 year old grandson over the years to enjoy riding.

How to Ride.

In Uterol – ‘in the womb’ is the first opportunity a child has to ride a bike. Though some mothers choose to stop riding when they become pregnant, others continue riding until shortly before giving birth. Another article from Momentum is on How to Bike While Pregnant. Just as I sometimes feel more confident in my bike handling skills than at other times, I listen to my mind and body. If you decide not to ride while pregnant, that is the right decision for you and your baby. Whether pregnant or not, if all we do is worry about getting hurt while riding, we shouldn’t be riding.

In a Trailer – We have a bicycle trailer that can carry up to 70 lbs. We waited till our grandson was a toddler before pulling him in the trailer. With his size allowing him to face forward in his car seat, we felt comfortable with him being strapped in the trailer facing forward. We can pull down a barrier to protect him from objects thrown by the rear bicycle tire.

child's trailer

child’s trailer

On a Tricycle – He got a tricycle for his first birthday, but really wasn’t big enough to ride it till he was 2.



We have hardwood floors so he spun the front wheel and learned to power slide the rear wheels around corners. Though five and way to big, he still occasionally gets on the trike and rides around on the hardwood floors.

On a Bicycle – Learning to ride a bicycle. There is something about this rite-of-passage, almost as monumentous as learning to walk. Think about how much mobility walking gains one over crawling. Riding a bicycle over walking expands one’s mobility as much, if not more.

When the grandson was almost 3 years old, we bought a 16″ kids bicycle putting the seat all the way down so his feet were flat on the ground and took the pedals off so he could walk the bike around while sitting on the seat.

kids 16" bicycle

kids 16″ bicycle

He practiced on and off for 8 months in the basement learning balance by striding along. We would practice when I went over there once or twice a week but did not push it. I would ride his bike and demonstrate correct form. We would take turns for two or three times per practice. It was a slow development of skills.

When I saw him coasting 10′ or so and balancing between strides, he was ready to try with pedals. We had lost the pedals and had to buy another pair so make sure you remember where you place them! For the first time, we brought him and the bike over to our driveway which is slightly downhill and is on a cul-de-sac so there was a wide open area to ride around without having to go straight. On the second try, he was pedaling and riding around in wobbly way, but he was riding! I was hooting and hollering and he was looking at me instead of where he needed to ride and almost fell down. Still lots to learn but he was riding a bicycle at 4 years old.

Now at 5, he needs a bigger bicycle as his seatpost is fully extended. The goal is not to get the biggest bike he can ride but to get a proper fitting bicycle. An extra small 26″ adult bicycle can weigh 30-50% of the child’s weight. A 20″ or 24″ bicycle will have a better geometry and weight.

On a Tandem – In addition to learning to stride, we bought a tandem bicycle that has another crankset on the seat tube above the stoker’s crankset. Along with handlebars that come out farther, we rode around on streets when he was 3 and a half years old.

tandem with child stoker

tandem with child stoker

This is still one of his favorite ways to ride because he doesn’t have to work as hard and we cover a lot of distance. We will start at Lewis and Clark Landing on the Missouri River and ride to the Omaha Children’s Museum or the Henry Doorly Zoo. We don’t ride just to ride, we ride to get somewhere to have fun. Hopefully he will connect fun with riding the rest of his life.

Omaha Devo assigns a coach with 3-5 kids to learn how to ride mountain bike trails. They start on grass and move to singletrack and progressive technical trail features. Because my grandson still didn’t ride in a narrow path well his parents decided not to sign him up this year.

Why Ride.

At all ages, motivation is key to riding and riding more. The younger the child, the shorter the rides in general. Time in the trailer or on the bicycle should be considered more than distance. Periodic breaks for longer rides, whether just stopping to get out of trailer or off bicycle to drink, or a playground to exercise different muscles and mental enrichment. Just as adults need to build up stamina and endurance, so the children.

My grandson doesn’t see riding as the end but a means to an end. For example, we ride to the park, playground, library, community center, school, lake, etc. We love to throw rocks in the lake and will ride about 15 minutes to get there. When my children were in middle school, we would ride 30 minutes to get ice cream cones. We took the family on trips down the Wabash Trace, starting at different towns in order to see more of the trail.

What is our motivation to ride? Hopefully it is for fun or joy. But there is usually an underlying reason or two that produces the fun. Maybe fitness, competition, adrenalin, sight seeing, saving money, limiting our carbon footprint, social, etc. The more reasons we have for riding, the more fun and the more time we spend riding.

An old proverb says -

  • raise a child in the way she should go,
  • and when she is old,
  • she will not depart from it.

Riding bicycles is for a life time. Today is the first day of the rest of their life. Let’s ride a bike.

Omaha Bikes
1516 Cuming Street | Omaha, NE 68102

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