Election Day is coming up on Tuesday, May 14. Our friends over at Mode Shift Omaha have summarized the positions of the mayoral and city council candidates with regards to their stands on active transportation. You can find all of the info on their website.
This is an important election for the future of our city, so please get out and vote. Even better – ride your bike to your polling place!
May 1 marks the start of Bike to Work Month, the local and national bicycle commuting challenges, and is a great day to remind everyone to travel with compassion. People for Bikes and Volkswagen have teamed up to create this humorous PSA video to remind everyone that we all roll together. Bike safe, drive safe, and travel with compassion!
Bicyclists that follow social media in Omaha are probably familiar with the big push recently that encouraged people to vote online to show support for the local non-profit InCommon’s “Recycle Bicycle” project. As a result of this national contest, InCommon received $25,000 that will be used to “… provide low income people part time jobs, purchase bicycles at a discounted price, build strong and lightweight recycling carts, assist inCOMMON in appointing Leslie Wells as the Common Good Coordinator and begin recycling for local businesses who would otherwise throw those recycling items away.” AWESOME!
Does the term “Recycle Bicycle” sound familiar to you? If so, it is probably because you’ve heard of the Recycle Bike Shop, which is located at 47th & Center. Mike Turman and crew sell new and used bikes, new and recycled goods and accessories. They do great work fixing up used bikes and making them available for a reasonable cost. Formerly on S. 13th Street, the shop really bloomed after moving to their new location a couple of years ago. ALSO AWESOME!
It is easy to see where the confusion lies, and it would be easy to get these two things mixed up, and make some assumptions that may not be correct as a result.
The Recycle Bike Shop is a small business that relies strictly on sales to make ends meet. They also rely on the donation of used bikes for a portion of their business.
InCommon is a local non-profit that works hard to leverage grant opportunities to fund the projects they champion. They also rely on the community’s support through awareness and donations.
BOTH are awesome members of our growing cycling community, and we celebrate them as they continue to work to meet the needs of their neighbors and customers!
Thanks to a Transportation Enhancement grant from the Nebraska Department of Roads, Activate Omaha will be providing free bicycle safety classes for adults and kids in 2013 and 2014. The grant was awarded to the Metro Area Planning Agency, with Activate Omaha partnering to put it into action.
Local League Cycling Instructors (LCI’s) will be teaching these classes, which will utilize the League of American Bicyclists’ Smart Cycling curriculum. There will be several 2-hour “Confident Commuter” classes available that will focus on skills needed to ride in traffic, and there will be one more full Traffic Skills 101 class that is available for people who would like to be on the tract to becoming a trained LCI.
The kids classes for 2013 will be offered at the Omaha Open Streets events and select elementary schools.
The primary election for Mayor and City Council (and Omaha Public Schools) is now upon us. Omaha Bikes and Mode Shift Omaha have been working together to determine where the candidates stand on various transportation issues that affect Omaha. Candidate questionnaires were distributed in March, and were returned by Mayor Suttle, Brad Ashford and Jean Stothert. The individual responses can be found here. One of the team’s recommended questions was also included in the League of Women Voters Guide, which can be found here.
Fortunately, the Mayoral Forum sponsored by Omaha by Design, The Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Council, and the Eastern Nebraska Development Council provided additional opportunities to hear the candidates’ views on the issues. Transportation was also a topic at the Forum sponsored the following week by the Benson-Ames Alliance. These Forums, along with questionnaire responses, provide citizens with a clear idea of the candidates’ views.
The following analysis has been provided by members of the Omaha Bikes/Mode Shift Omaha team that worked on the questionnaire and attended the Omaha by Design Mayoral Forum. Please also see the analysis of the questionnaire responses here.
Dan Welch, a former City Council President, spoke of issues in which he was personally involved (such as building the West Dodge Expressway), displaying an understanding of the workings of the decision-making process. When asked what single thing he would do to make Omaha more livable, he said “lower taxes.” He also stated that he does not support the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator within the Planning Department (calling the position “Bike Czar”), and incorrectly said city money was being spent on that position. Additionally, he stated that he drives Leavenworth Street to work every morning, the road diet/buffered bike lane has only caused traffic congestion, and he has never seen a cyclist using the bike lane.
David Nabity took several opportunities to criticize Mayor Suttle and to make claims against the Planning Department, choosing to focus on building permit procedures. When given the chance to discuss what he believed he could do as Mayor to make Omaha more livable, he returned to criticizing the Planning Department, while also mentioning that a permanent Olympic swimming facility or theme park would be a good addition to Omaha. He did mention the need to address labor force transportation mobility, but gave no sense of how he would achieve this. When speaking of developments like Crossroads, he said that his approach would be to personally review the business plan to see if it “made sense,” and he would support it as long as it did not add to traffic delays.
Jean Stothert positioned herself as a supporter of Omaha’s growth, but balanced with fiscal prudence and common sense. She mentioned her support of several projects and measures, and how it contributed to Omaha’s vibrancy. She supports Planning but thinks the Transportation Master Plan lacked funding specifics. She also supports in-fill development and wrote in the answers to our questionnaire that she supports multi-modal transportation if funding is available. Her mix of detailed knowledge and overall process, along her calm and clear responses were impressive. She refrained, however, from extending any clear vision for Omaha.
It is worth mentioning Stothert, Nabity and Welch all seemed to think Omaha by Design’s mission is mainly about making Omaha “prettier,” rather than on improving the quality of Omaha’s built and natural environments.
Brad Ashford spoke of overall process, and collaboration between departments and government entities. He supports more bike and pedestrian traffic, but this got buried in comments about his long relationship with Omaha. His support for a “complete streets” policy came out much more strongly in his written answers to our questions. He was one of only two candidates that mentioned north and south Omaha and spoke of being supportive of historical preservation. He also spoke of his support for bus rapid transit.
Mayor Suttle projected a detailed knowledge of transportation issues. He was the only person who mentioned the “complete streets” concept, having become a proponent following a trip to Boulder several years ago. Suttle was also very knowledgeable about how state legislative issues are impacting transportation and land use in Omaha, discussing his support of the Land Bank bill that is currently pending in the Unicameral, and how federal and state funds are allocated for transportation projects. He was also supportive of a multi-modal transportation system in his questionnaire responses.
Transportation has clearly become a prominent election issue. It is pretty clear which candidates support active transportation and the land use policies that support it. Please review the evidence and vote in the Primary Elections on Tuesday, April 2.
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:
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.
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
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:
“Bike Share is a game changer.” – Policy leaders. #nbs13
— Omaha B-cycle (@OmahaBcycle) March 5, 2013
“That’s a game changer.” – @mayorballard on bike sharing in Indianapolis.
— Omaha B-cycle (@OmahaBcycle) March 5, 2013
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!