Published Jun 22, 2009
Published Monday June 22, 2009
Riders cheer city’s 1st steps in bike routes
By Maggie O’Brien
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Bruce Johansen, a professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, rides on Happy Hollow Boulevard near Cuming Street. The City Council has approved construction of a bike lane on 32nd Avenue between Wright Street and Woolworth Avenue as part of a 20-mile bike route the city is creating in Omaha.
Patrick Brennan has biked more than 100 miles through the Pyrenees on an amateur leg of the Tour de France — twice.
The Iowa RAGBRAI and Nebraska BRAN cross-state rides? Piece of cake.
In other words, the 42-year-old Omaha cyclist isn’t afraid of much when it comes to riding his bike — except for some of Omaha’s busiest streets.
Bike enthusiasts in Omaha “have to know where to go, instead of trying to ride on a busy street and getting nosed by cars,” Brennan said Sunday.
He was pleased to hear that the city’s plan for a 20-mile bicycle street route is moving along. The project will create designated bicycle lanes on certain streets to allow more people to safely ride to work, the grocery store and other places to which they might normally drive. The lanes will be marked with a white line and will be on the right side of the road.
Several of the streets along the planned routes are secondary roads that once served as streetcar routes and thus are wider, offering a place to install a bicycle lane without having to widen streets.
The City Council last week unanimously approved construction of a bike lane on South 32nd Avenue between Wright Street and Woolworth Avenue. That route should be done next year.
The plan calls for a commuter route through Benson to be the first one done; it’s scheduled to be completed this summer.
That route will start at 60th and Maple Streets in the Benson business district and snake southeast. It will go south of the Holy Name neighborhood, through Bemis Park and run along a stretch of Burt Street past Creighton University, and end downtown.
“This is really Omaha’s first step toward commuter traveling,” said Todd Pfitzer, city traffic engineer. “It’s very cool.” Currently there is only one bike lane in Omaha, running for a few blocks on Happy Hollow Boulevard.
The roughly $600,000 project is being paid for mostly through private donations from the Peter Kiewit Foundation and an unnamed source. However, some federal stimulus money will be used to help fund the lane along 32nd Avenue and other improvement projects in the area, said Marty Shukert, former city planning director.
Brennan said more people will feel braver about riding their bikes alongside traffic once the commuter lanes are completed.
“Instead of taking your car to get a bite to eat, you can ride your bike,” he said. “It would definitely make people not so concerned about getting hit by a car.”
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