Category: Advocacy, Mission, Positivity, Urban Design, You name it | Tags: advocacy, bicycle, bikes, Omaha, omaha bikes, positivity
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.
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):
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.