Omaha’s only protected bike path to be removed, bike organization cuts ties with transit planning group
Omaha’s first and only protected bike lane will be removed. At its Sept. 21 meeting, the Metro Smart Cities advisory board decided not to permanently extend the Market-to-Midtown bike path, which began as a pilot project in April 2021, partner Bike Walk Nebraska said. of Metro Smart Cities, in a press release.
Bike Walk Nebraska also announced it would sever ties with Metro Smart Cities, an organization tasked with piloting innovative public transit ideas and co-chaired by Mayor Jean Stothert. Bike Walk Nebraska also said it was not invited to the September 21 meeting after being invited to all the others.
At the time of project approval, Metro Smart Cities had agreed to cover the $250,000 cost of installing and maintaining the bike path. The group, made up of regional corporate actors and elected officials from the city, has ensured its upkeep until now. At that time, the City had the option of making the bike path permanent and taking charge of its maintenance.
During its meeting on September 20, the municipal council unanimously adopted a resolution reaffirming its support for the bike path. The resolution urged city officials to work with Bike Walk Nebraska and investigate an expansion of the pilot project or potential new locations. The Reader recently reported that the bike path has shown positive results.
The bike path and a proposed streetcar route run down Harney Street from 10th Street to Turner Boulevard. In a Sept. 22 press release vetoing the council resolution, Stothert said it would be dangerous to have both a streetcar and a protected bike lane on the same street.
During public comments on the council resolution, Jay Noddle, chairman of the Omaha Streetcar Authority, said he did not want the streetcar to replace the bike lane. Julie Harris, executive director of Bike Walk Nebraska, said Harney Street was the best location for the bike path and the two routes could co-exist along Harney Street.
Stothert’s press release also says the city is developing a bicycle and pedestrian master plan to integrate all cycling facilities and make multimodal transportation safer. She says the Market-to-Midtown pilot was just that, and its 18-month lifespan provided enough data to inform future decisions about bike lanes in the urban core.
In its press release, Bike Walk Nebraska said future funding, which it estimates at $40,000, was a concern for the project. Bike Walk Nebraska said it has $38,930 of remaining project funds that could have been allocated to Metro Smart Cities.
In August, Bike Walk Nebraska released an evaluation of the bike path that showed a 69% increase in use of bike share programs. The report says that many of the challenges associated with maintaining the bike path could have been solved with a permanent installation.
According to the mayor’s Sept. 22 press release, Metro Smart Cities will be responsible for planning and paying for the removal of the bike path bollards, the plastic barriers protecting cyclists from vehicular traffic. An exact timeline for this work has not been determined, the statement said.
The reader has contacted the mayor’s office for comment; his spokesperson is absent from the office. Metro Smart Cities also did not respond to requests for comment.