Category: Advocacy | Tags: bikes, election, election questionnaire, mayor, Omaha
Omaha Bikes compiled and submitted a brief mayoral candidate election questionnaire (4 questions below) to Mayor Jean Stothert and Senator Health Mello on the topics of Public Safety, Growth & Development, and Trails & Recreation
Over 30% of adults in Omaha rode a bike last year, but recent on-street bike counts are down. We believe this is due to a lack of safe places to ride on the street. What specific projects or policies would you adopt to increase the safety of these users?
First, thank you to Omaha Bikes for all you do to make bicycling in Omaha safer and more enjoyable. Your commitment to enhanced bicycling in our city for recreation, health benefits, and transportation is very much appreciated. I enjoy working with you and other partners including Live Well Omaha, Modeshift Omaha, and my Active Living Advisory Committee.
We are always open to advice and suggestions on how to make Omaha safer for those who love bicycling. Areas with missing or inadequate signage should be brought forward. We will encourage the city and our Public Works Department to implement road diets, like the one planned on North 30th Street.
Finally, a full review of national best practices and innovative steps that can be taken now in Omaha – and which are cost effective – is appropriate and I will ask our Active Living Advisory Committee to engage and lead that effort.
[Editor’s note: Senator Mello combined his response to the first two questions below.]
Will you pledge to implement a Vision Zero policy for the City of Omaha by the end of your term?
I will look to our Active Living Advisory Committee to evaluate and make recommendations regarding a Vision Zero policy for the City of Omaha. Any idea that is proving worthwhile anywhere in world is worth considering, in whole or in part.
Fortunately, there is so much we have done to reduce traffic fatalities in our city and state. I am also encouraged that we are making progress in our country in reducing these fatalities.
In general, our efforts in Omaha and Nebraska should be focused on the following to reduce fatalities:
- Local law enforcement of existing speed limits, since a great number of traffic deaths are caused by excessive speeding.
- Local and state efforts to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths by public education and enforcing driving while intoxicated laws.
- Public education around the need for seat belt use, proper child car seat use and restraints.
- Public education and laws addressing distracted driving.
- Designing and constructing safer roadways and interchanges.
- Better lighting and pedestrian markings in cities and towns.
- Greater awareness and use of dedicated bicycle lanes.
- Greater use of public transportation and shared vehicle usage such as carpooling and ride-sharing services.
Finally, what may lead to the greatest improvement in highway safety and reducing traffic fatalities is the development of autonomous vehicles and other collision avoidance technologies. With these and other improvements I am hopeful that in a generation or sooner, young people will look back in shock that over 30,000 citizens die on our roads each year in America.
Omaha’s infrastructure crisis creates unique challenges for cyclists. While our city has a number of great bike trails, many of these run north and south and are geared toward recreational use. Expanded bike trails and additional lanes running east and west for greater connectivity and safety is a necessary step forward. In addition, as a candidate for Mayor, I have released a ‘Safer, Stronger Neighborhoods Plan.’ One aspect of that plan is committing Omaha to become a “Vision Zero” city for pedestrian and cyclist safety by 2021. To accomplish this, I will collaborate with community leaders in analyzing our death and injury patterns and work to implement action plans that move us to “zero.”
Growth and Development
As our city continues to grow, what would be the most effective tool would you adopt (e.g. change to specific municipal codes; TIF guidelines; financing mechanisms, etc.) to ensure your government and private partners work together to build bicycle friendly infrastructure?
The full implementation of the Complete Streets Policy we recently adopted and are in the process of finalizing. This policy is one of the best ways to work together to build bicycle friendly infrastructure. This policy is designed to provide safe, accessible streets to all users.
The city will look to leverage City of Omaha funding (Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) funding, and Improvement Funds such as the Downtown Improvement Fund and Midtown Improvement Fund) with development projects to help create additional bicycle-related infrastructure.
And, we must work closely with existing and new Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to identify opportunities within their district boundaries to create bike friendly infrastructure (i.e. bike corrals, racks, etc.)
I am very proud of our commitment to alternate transportation like our expanded partnership with Heartland B-Cycle. To help the bike-sharing program grow, the city purchased the bikes and stations and Heartland B-Cycle continues to manage the program. Our agreement will lead to more than 300 bikes available at 70 stations around the metro area.
As part of my plan to modernize our infrastructure across the city, including bicycle friendly solutions, I will create a citywide Infrastructure Bank—a public-private partnership mechanism that will bring state, local, and federal funding along with private and philanthropic funding. Because our city’s challenges require long-term vision and planning, I will also create a 10-year needs assessment to set priorities for the city’s infrastructure improvements. This assessment will draw on civic engagement from all areas of the city.
Trails & Recreation
Given the success of the recently completed South Omaha trail expansion, how do you propose to fund expansion of trails and other recreational bicycling facilities that benefit our city?
We currently provide some funding for this in our CIP and can expand that as funding is available and project warrant it. The city also has a line item in the CIP for maintenance and repair.
Future trail expansion will largely need to be a partnership of the City and other government entities, philanthropic organizations and recreation interests. Omaha is the perfect place to continue building on the public/private partnerships that have served us so well as a community for so long.
We will also need to further identify where opportunities for expansion of trails are and how they integrate with other bike facilities and infrastructure.
As mentioned above, my citywide Infrastructure Bank will be used to fund and modernize our infrastructure system, including expanded pedestrian and bike trails and lanes. In addition, Omaha is now set to receive an additional $6.5 million annually for street repair because of legislation I supported as a State Senator. As we form a comprehensive plan for infrastructure improvements, we must include bike-friendly infrastructure in that plan. To not do so is to let crucial opportunities pass us by. Finally, I believe that we can lead from the Mayor’s Office in using best practices such as budgeting for outcomes to make sure our budget priorities move us towards a stated goal.
The questionnaire was submitted with the following guidelines on April 24th.
- Deadline: May 1 by 5pm.
- There is no word limit. 100 words or less would be adequate.
- We will publish response received* on our blog at omahabikes.org on May 2nd and share to our constituents via social media and email newsletter subscribers. May is Bike Month and we view this questionnaire as an important piece of our Bike Month outreach strategy.
- The responses will be posted as received without editing, truncation, etc. No analysis or interpretation will be published by Omaha Bikes based on candidate responses.
- The questions were shared with each candidate simultaneously once the correct contact method was conveyed to us. As such, each candidate’s responses will be published in the same blog post on May 2nd.
*Responses were received before the deadline by both campaigns and are displayed in the order received.
You can find your polling place on the Douglas County Election Commission website.