Monday, June 22, 2009

Riders cheer city’s 1st steps in bike routes

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.”

Contact the writer:

444-3100, maggie.obrien@owh.com



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7 comments:

Scott Redd said...

This is good news. I'm not sure why this segment was picked to start first. I suppose the City has their reasons, and they've got to start somewhere.

My daily commuting route is near this planned bike lane, but there's not much reason for me to choose this way unless I want an extra mile and some extra hill climbs and descents. However, I might try it out once the lane is done just to say I did.

Here is a google map of the bike lane.

And here is a google map of my interpretation of the entire 20 mile system.

Steve said...

I think the first segment is still going to be the route from Benson to downtown, which makes a lot of sense to me. While it's not a route that will provide the most relief from traffic on busy streets (since the route is pretty mellow already), it is one that many people will use right away. Heavy usage of the first route could help garner support for more.

32nd street? I heard somewhere that it'll be a relatively easy and low-cost conversion. Maybe the choice is just so the city can say it's doing something. Regardless, I'm glad things are starting. And, hopefully attention will be paid to the problems out west soon.

erik said...

let's ride the bike lane to heaven.

Niko said...

Hello: I'm a planner in SF, CA and read somewhere about the flexible center traffic lane on Dodge Street (eastbound in the AM, westbound in the PM). I'd love to find out more about this; does anyone have a link to additional information on it? I'd very much appreciate it. Thank you.

Niko said...

...and if you do, could you please e-mail it to me, at niko@eisenletunic.com? Thanks again.

Lanny said...

REgarding 32nd between Woolworth and Wright - it is 32 AVE, not Street. The street is in line to get some "traffic calming" treatment, and the bike lane is part of that effort. Likely treatment is one proposed by Omaha-by-Design efforts. As noted, this particular section was once a streetcar street, hence its is significantly wider than most or our cow paths (aka neighborhood streets). It narrows south of Wright (the Lo Sole Mio area).

Scott Redd said...

I rode this way to work downtown this morning, reaching 32nd Ave. via Vinton St. coming from the west, and riding it all the way to Woolworth Ave. The lane felt wide and comfortable, but even at 6:30am, it's fairly busy.

It seems weird that the bike lane doesn't really start anywhere useful, or connect with another route or trail. If one knows the area, however, then one knows that Wright St. intersects with the Field Club Trail to the west. Also, Wright St. connects with Hanscom Blvd., which then joints with Vinton St. just west of the bridge over the interstate. I find that using Hanscom Blvd. to shortcut off some of 32nd Ave. and Vinton St. to be a peaceful and gently graded alternative.