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.”
One of the (many) things I love about my job at Activate Omaha is giving presentations. I don’t know how many I’ve done over the years, but it’s been a fair amount, and the audiences have run the gamut from kindergarteners to senior citizens. It’s always fascinating to see what part of the presentation resonates with the group and sparks discussion.
Today I presented my usual “What’s Going on With Activate Omaha” to a lunch time service club. These types of audiences are usually on the older side, and usually more male than female, which was the case today. The resonating points with this group really struck me, though, leaving me with a “Huh. Maybe I should blog about this?” feeling. This post might be better suited over on the ModeShift Omaha site, but I’m going to throw it out here for the sake of conversation:
Why are people so willing to use and embrace alternative transportation as a tourist, but not in their home town?
The information I gleaned from my retroactive focus group today included some of the following quotes:
“We visited my son in Chicago, and used public transit there. It works really well.”
“We hopped on one of those pedi-cabs down in San Antonio. We got back to our car so much faster and it was fun!”
“We took the light rail from the airport and got to our hotel in no time. It was great.”
This got me to thinking about how many people that have told me about their mostly positive experiences with public transit and bicycles in OTHER cities. I know, I know…our bus system doesn’t go here and there. Our streets aren’t this or that. We don’t have a cool light rail system. I understand that tourist areas are likely to be spiffed up with visitor’s needs in mind. I get it. But are the buses that much sexier in other cities? Are the streets really that much more bike friendly?
As a tourist, you may not be very familiar with the area, the amount of time it will take to get from point A to point B, or what will happen if you misjudge any number of variables, including your ability to read a transit or bike route map. You may not know someone local you can call to pick you up if you misjudge. Doesn’t that seem inherently “riskier” than jumping on the #2 bus on Dodge and taking a route where you can recite every single landmark between point A and point B with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back? Or riskier than riding your bike to the grocery store a mile away?
Why don’t these vacation experiences of ease and convenience translate back to similar behavior when people get home? Do we need to rethink and market alternative transportation with a “tourist” (rather than citizen/resident) mentality, or would it matter?
Lots of questions for this weary Friday brain. Any answers?
This week, the cycling community lost a great friend and advocate, Leslie Bohm. There are people who knew and worked with Leslie much more than I did, and you can read their touching sentiments here. I only knew him for about 4 years; one of the really great things about Leslie was that he treated you like a dear friend whether he knew you for 5 minutes, 5 years or 50 years.
I met Leslie in 2008 when Kerri Peterson, Tammie Dodge and I made a site visit to Boulder to speak to people involved with cycling initiatives and to investigate this cool new Safe Routes to School program we wanted to potentially bring to Omaha. We showed up at Crest View Elementary in Boulder on a chilly October morning. A bundled, bespectacled man rolled up on his bike and started espousing the awesomeness that eventually became the Boltage program. After being blown away by the number of kids biked to school in the cold weather, Leslie invited us to a nearby coffee shop so that we could warm up and continue to chat about all things bikes.
Here’s the thing: One of my top 5 Gallup strengths is Learner. I’m sure that if Leslie were to take the test, his number 1 strength would be Communication. Give him a topic he was as passionate about as bicycling, put the two of us together, and we could probably talk nonstop for hours. I came prepared only to drink coffee and listen; before I knew it, I was borrowing his pen and paper. I wish I still had the notes I took at that coffee shop. I can remember very vividly what they looked like: every square inch of that piece of paper was covered in Leslie bicycle advocacy wisdom. Stars, arrows, underlines, more stars. I remember saying, “I feel like I’m putting a star next to everything I’m writing down!”
National Bike Summit March 22, 2012. L to R: Tania and John Burke, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Leslie, Chris Kegel, and Leslie’s wife, Lynn (Photo credit: Leslie via CarePages)
Not long after that trip, Leslie came to Omaha as a last minute addition to the panel that we brought to town to speak to about why Omaha needed to start thinking about becoming more bicycle friendly. Trek Bicycles CEO John Burke, League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke and Bikes Belong board member Leslie Bohm proceeded to wow a room full of Omaha CEO’s and community leaders. We were on our way.
Since that time, Leslie has been on call for us whenever we needed advice. We loved catching up with him at the National Bike Summit every year. If Communication was Leslie’s number 1 strength, then Positivity was surely a close second. He never gave up hope that we could make this country more bike friendly. His wife, Lynn, was quoted in the Boulder Daily Camera this week, saying “He believed through cycling people could be involved in their neighborhoods, have access to each other and enjoy an active lifestyle.”
When we got the word last year that Leslie had been diagnosed with brain cancer, we were devastated. As we should have expected, however, he never gave up. His fitness from years of cycling, hiking and skiing helped him endure experimental treatment, and his positive attitude certainly played a role. When we saw him in Washington last March at the bike summit, his big smile and hugs were as bright and heartfelt as ever.
Leslie’s impact on us from that first chilly day in Boulder has shaped our work as we have worked to make Omaha more bicycle friendly. When he learned that the League of American Bicyclists had designated Omaha as a bronze level Bike Friendly Community in 2011, he sent a video message of congratulations to us. At the end of his message he said, “Congrats on bronze; now let’s go for the gold!” The Omaha city council voted on Tuesday, the day we learned of his death, to pass the Transportation Master Plan. That seemed rather fitting … that we were one step closer to gold with that milestone, and a sign that Leslie’s legacy of advocacy will continue.
He will be missed, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Lynn and his two sons, of which he was exceedingly proud, Griffin and Cooper.