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Tempest in a Teapot – Learning Together in Advocacy – Positivity Blog Series 2 of 5

March 28th, 2017 | Author: Pell Duvall
Category: Advocacy, Mission, Positivity, Urban Design, You name it | Tags: , , , , ,

This is blog 2 of 5 in our 2017 focus on positivity. This series is designed to offer perspective of how our approach to be a trusted resource to make the Omaha Metro Area safer for people on bikes.

With news and social media feeds bombarding us with information daily, it is often difficult to determine if or how to respond to statements we see. The goal of this summary is to illustrate how a few truthful statements combined with limited substantive data led to a perceived bicycle advocacy crisis.

As I was socializing with friends after a day full of meetings and catching up after the National Bike Summit (more on this in our next blog post), a Twitter mention notification appeared the evening of March 16th on @omahabikes from an individual prompted my response.

Tweet1

 

I excused myself from the group to investigate. From the scope of what I could recall and/or find on my phone, I quickly determined that I had not been briefed on any pending project with possible negative impact on bicycle infrastructure in that area (nor in any part of the metro area). I promptly responded that we would investigate. Several responses from other individuals and organizations, including @ModeShiftOmaha and @AEPNAtweets, offered a few snippets of information for follow up. I added this to my trusty task list to follow up.

The following morning, I dug in a little to find out more about what was happening. I could find no evidence on cityofomaha.org and was then unable to view the AEPNA update on Facebook as I was not yet approved by the group admin.  I was then quickly distracted by the daily flurry of emails, social media, and general Friday catch up work. Later that day, I spoke with Stephen Osberg, the City of Omaha’s designated contact for bicycle and active living, and he was unaware of existing plans to remove bike lanes on 63rd St and recommended I contact Omaha Public Works for more information.

KETV later published a story about safety concerns after several serious crashes and a fatality at this intersection. With a several important meetings at the start of the week and focused on several key events and some internal organizational necessities, I was delayed in reaching out to Omaha Public Works for more information about how Omaha Bikes could help. After a bit of phone tag, we coordinated a time to chat by phone the following afternoon. And this is where positivity becomes a key value to this exchange.

At 3pm on a Friday after a very long week, the city engineer took time to discuss the situation with no goal other than to understand how to make our city safer and help each other do just that. He verified that there were several proposed plans and confirmed that there several plans proposed to calm traffic at this dangerous intersection in various methods. These plans will be presented to the Active Living Advisory Committee later this month and none involve removing current bike lanes. (Some proposed plans even extend existing lanes to the south!)

He also explained some details about what their traffic studies have revealed about this street with a 30 mph speed limit:

  • Vehicles traveling on S 63rd St to the north of Shirley St (where the bike lanes are) averaged over 8 mph over the posted speed limit
  • Vehicles traveling on S 63rd St to the south of Shirley St (with no bike lanes) averaged only 3 mph over the posted speed limit

Traffic calming methods vary by situation but generally use several principles: vertical deflections (speed bumps), horizontal deflections (traffic circles or chicanes), and/or lane narrowing slow the traffic. Parking lanes, striped bike lanes, and curb bump-outs are a few examples of how to narrow the actual or perspective of a lane to slow traffic.

To offer some perspective about why this is 100% relevant to the safety of all road users in that area, I offer the following graphic representation around pedestrian deaths from a Vision Zero collaborative presentation I gave at the Nebraska Bike/Walk Summit just last week (bicycling statistics are also very comparable):

20-MPH-increase-chance-of-survival

We discussed our mutual concerns at length about availability of information as well as what is most important to address here: safety. With the current design, we would essentially double the chance that a person riding a bike or walking would be killed in the event of a crash with a motor vehicle. We agreed this was an opportunity better understand our mutual goals with future projects, so Omaha Bikes can be a source of information and reassurance when questions are raised.

In the end, we learned that this tempest in a teapot is not a wrongful response of any one person or organization. It was a series of public statements about proposed bike infrastructure changes with limited access to planning resources. We see this as an opportunity to continue to strengthen and build relationships between public agencies and advocacy organizations be a trusted resource to make the Omaha Metro Area safer for people on bikes.

B is for BIKES! | Looking for 111 bicyclists to participate in iconic performance

September 7th, 2016 | Author: Paige Reitz
Category: Advocacy, Bike Performance Art, Community, Event, Uncategorized, Urban Design | Tags: , , ,

The New Philharmonic​, an Omaha-­based ensemble of contemporary classical performers, is looking for bicyclists to participate in ‘B is for BIKES!’ the midwest premiere of the iconic work Eine Brise (A Breeze): A fleeting action for 111 bicyclists ​by renowned composer Mauricio Kagel.

This project serves to highlight cyclist and pedestrian awareness in the urban landscape of Omaha through aesthetic means. Performing entails riding around a few blocks in Benson at a slow pace with all the other performers – in sort of a critical mass formation – and participating in the creation of a unique soundscape using both a bicycle bell (will be provided) and your mouth in the form of whistles and whooshes. It is a very small time commitment – the actual performance is expected to take less than 4 minutes. All participants will receive a bell, t-shirt, and dinner + drinks post performance. No previous performing experience necessary.

Sign-up to participate: https://goo.gl/forms/MfKKZncmPtYDLSTS2

B is for BIKES! is generously sponsored through the Omaha Gives! Back Grant through the Omaha Creative Institute with organizational assistance from our partners at ModeShift Omaha, Benson First Friday, Omaha Bikes, and LiveWell Omaha.

EVENT DETAILS
Program: B is for BIKES!
Organizer: The New Philharmonic
Location: Benson First Friday | Maple Street between N 58th and N 63rd Streets
Date and time: Friday October 7th, 6PM
Admission: free on the street performance
Questions: contact Paige Reitz at paige.reitz@gmail.com

2013 Omaha Elections/Mayor Candidate Forum

March 26th, 2013 | Author: OmahaBikes
Category: Advocacy, Community, Events, Urban Design

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:

  1. What do you see as Omaha’s most pressing transportation needs? If elected, how would you address these needs?
  2. During the past two years, the City Council approved the Transportation and Environmental Elements of the City’s Master Plan. Both include a commitment to shift modes and accommodate all users of streets, including: pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users of all ages and abilities. What would you do to ensure this policy is advanced?
  3. Various laws and procedures require the city to solicit public comments for projects related to transportation planning and project design. What will you do to ensure that citizens representing all areas of the community have opportunities to authentically engage in these processes?
  4. Expanding suburbs requires expanding expensive public services such as sewers, police and fire protection, schools, and building and widening streets; these costs get higher the farther out you build. Researchers at UNL project a 60% or greater increase in population, employment, and housing in the Omaha area by 2050. What will you do to ensure fiscally sustainable growth for Omaha?
  5. Given the increasing congestion and travel times in the Omaha Metro area, as well as decreasing financial resources for transportation from federal and state government sources, what should the city do to address congestion?
  6. The number of traffic deaths in Nebraska, most of them in Omaha, reached its highest level in the past decade last year. Of the 207 traffic-related deaths, about 20 percent were pedestrians or motorcyclists. What would you do to help improve safety? In particular, what role do you think the OPD should play as the primary agency charged with keeping Omaha safe?
  7. A frequent constraint the city faces around improving transportation choices are state standards that pre-empt local needs. What will you do to work with the State of Nebraska to enable Omaha to build infrastructure that is more context-specific for our urban environment?
  8. The transportation needs of our community are diverse and changing, what would you do to make sure that Omaha accommodates the transportation needs of all citizens now and in the future?
  9. A growing number of studies find that biking and walking, for transportation or recreation, are associated with significant health benefits. Currently, 64% of adults and 28% of youth in Douglas County are obese or overweight. What would you do to promote increased biking and walking as a public health priority?
  10. Do you support retaining the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator position with the City? Why or why not?
  11. Would you support high speed intercity passenger rail that is now being considered in Iowa? If so, what will you do to encourage the implementation of a useable passenger rail option between Omaha and Chicago? If not, why not?
  12. The City of Omaha recently completed a study of parking and determined that “Downtown Omaha has enough public parking to meet today’s needs, and the needs for the next 20 years.” Research shows that plentiful parking leads to higher emissions, greater congestion, and depreciated land use. Now that the City of Omaha has a Parking Manager, what role do you see her/him play in reducing the demand for parking and better utilizing currently available parking in the city
  13. How often do you use a Metro bus, bicycling, or walking for transportation? If you have school aged children, how often do they take the bus, bike, or walk to school?

 

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