Thursday, December 10, 2009

So is anyone else annoyed at Omaha?

Let me pose another question. If Omaha can't take care of clearing snow from it's current bike paths, how is it to manage bike lanes when those lanes are pushed to the curb?

For five years now every time it snows the Keystone (in Douglas County) rarely gets cleared (Ralston somehow get's there section clear). I bring this up because once again the Keystone is covered in drifts of snow. As a four season commuter and one half of a one car family I find this annoying. Now I understand we received a lot of snow but having grown up in Lincoln, a town who's bike paths get cleared before the streets, I find this unacceptable. The difference? Lincoln's bike paths, I believe, fall under the jurisdiction of the parks and rec department. Who is responsible for Omaha's trails?

Okay, enough lip service from me, I'll shut up now and keep riding my bike rain, sleet or snow. We cyclists persevere, we always do.


Sean said...

I definitely agree. I know that last year as soon as you hit the Douglas/Sarpy county line, Sarpy county was clear and Douglas was not.

As far as who is responsible? I'm not completely sure. In one of my classes we had a representative from the Papio-Missouri Natural Resource District come and talk one day and I asked him that exact question. If I remember right, he said something along the lines of that the NRD helps plan and develop the land for the trails but the counties in which the trails run are responsible for maintenance.

If I am remembering correctly, than it is a matter of the county setting aside the resources to clear the trail.

As for this year I haven't had a chance to see if Sarpy County is clear or not.

If I am wrong with my information someone please fill in any blank or wrong spaces.

The Lucas said...

On my way home from work, I stopped and helped two people free their cars from being stuck in drifts. Kinda ironic.

And as for snow clearing on the Keystone, earlier this week I rode it from Center to Harrison and there had been no snow movement. I can't imagine what it is like now nor do I know where the lines fall.

Sean said...

That is ironic. I did the same thing on Wednesday

Steve said...

I remember being forced to ride 60th St. from Q St. to midtown last winter due to a non-plowed snow-and-ice-covered Keystone trail. It's no fun trying to keep up with traffic on a busy road while fighting the resistance of studs and knobby tyres. Probably not the safest either. We should write some letters or call the mayor's hotline. We should also keep riding and talking, as well.

JordyC said...

I was riding yesterday, and was none too pleased to have to take the roads vs. my normal Keystone. I felt that cars were respectful enough, but I can't say I felt too safe. Take the general hostility toward bikers in Omaha, and add in poorer visibility, less road space, and the drifts that occur on turn ins/outs. Great combo. I'm also not the finest snow biker, so I felt a little out of control at times. What can be done?

MOD said...

Steve, I'm with you. I had to ride 60th from Q and then take Center through the curving bit to Saddle Creek once, at night none the less. Only time I ever felt exposed on my bike.

Sean said...

JordyC: I totally agree that cars are more respectful as of late. I think it is because they no we have nowhere else to go. As for riding in the snow and through those drifts and turn in/outs, try to attack them at a square angle or as close to as you can. I found that this helps. Ride safe.

JordyC said...

Thanks for the advice Sean. I think it's just a matter of practice. The gigantic gloves I've started wearing now that it's gotten colder certainly don't help my feel of the bike. As an aside, I also work full time on, a newish community website. If we can use that as a platform to shed more light on bike related issues in Omaha, I'm ALL for it.

dale said...

Drove the bike de'lights route last night (postponed till next Friday). Turner Blvd trail, Leahy Mall, along Riverfront Rd were all plowed. Many street crossing were plowed shut from road plow.

Most of 16th St bike lanes were not plowed, let alone parking space to curb.

Sean said...

Not trying to stir the pot too much but I can see both sides of the coin here.

I agree that the trails need to be plowed, but at the same time with all of us being "forced" to the streets instead of taking our normal trail routes, it is making cyclists more visible to the community and telling the city that people do ride even in winter and even in blizzard conditions.

So isn't that a good thing?

MOD said...

Agreed Sean, like I said, we will persevere, we always do. I have a love hate relationship with bike lanes. If what you say is true, why do we even need bike lanes? We should be able to claim our space on the road. Bike lanes are great but can give a false sense of security.

Anyway that's another subject. What I don't get is the city hiding behind the "we need to clear the streets first". That's bull$h!t. The amount of time it would take to clear trails (which do get used) is miniscule and would hardly impact the big picture of snow removal. In the meantime, people are walking on snow, compacting it, so when the trails do get cleared a week later, they are pot marked with icey footprints that turn into mine fields for the remainder of the winter, rendering the trails virtually useless.

It's not like we have a lot of trails around hear.

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

I fully agree.

I can see the streets being a priority for emergency vehicles and the like, but after the streets are clear I agree that there is too long of a delay before the trails get cleared.

Has anyone been around a major trail to see if anything has been done?

xChokex said...

I can't believe I'm seeing complaints about riding on the road, which is where we belong. Don't be such wusses. I've been riding the roads all week. In fact, there is no bike trail that goes anywhere near my 30-mile round trip commute.

erik said...

perhaps in your part of town, where comparisons of 'wussiness' are still held valid, there are no functioning bike trails. in midtown and downtown, however, they serve a vital role as the only functioning bike-specific transit corridors in our city. i'm sure everyone here is more than fine to ride on the streets, but the issue at hand is that the city continues to disregard the rights and needs of cyclists. this needs to change.

finally, you will find your comments much better received if you eschew patriarchal language. There are many more hardcore than you, and all of us, such comparisons are silly.

Cyclists have a right to properly maintained facilities.

theunicycleguy said...

I would suggest making a call to the Mayor's Hotline at to report sidewalks/bikelanes/trails that have not been cleared.

Telephone (402) 444-5555 (Voice)
(402) 996-8490 (TTY / TDD)


Fax (402) 444-7963

Mail The Mayor's Hotline
Civic Center - Suite 304
1819 Farnam St
Omaha NE 68183-0304

But here's the thing about reporting a sidewalk/trail that has not been cleared...The process to get a crew out there is just as tough as riding through the snow.

When you complain to Jim Scuttle, here's what'll happen...The city sends a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the sidewalk owner. The owner has 10 business days to respond. When a response has not been received, the city sends someone out to the offending sidewalk to take a picture of the property, that'll take another two business days. The city then sends a crew of three men with the picture in hand to the site to clear the snow (one guy unloads the shovel/snowblower, one guy scoops, the other guy supervises). That will take another two or three business days. The city then takes a picture of the cleared sidewalk and then has another person send the property owner a bill, two more days.

Yea, you can call it into the Mayor's Hotline or the Public Works Office, but im pretty sure it'll be July before the sidewalk is cleared. I guess the only real way to get noticed is to stand up, raise your voice, and be heard. Deliver your complaint in person to Mr. Scuttle and his brain trust.

Good Luck, Mr. Phelps.

MOD said...

Actually I believe all of us have been riding in the streets this week. Personally, I don't have a problem with it. But I do enjoy riding as much for pleasure as I do utility, they go hand in hand for me. I do however find riding off street (not sidewalks) more enjoyable as I'm not getting buzzed by traffic the entire time.

Now excuse me while I drag my wussy ass out the door so I can ride my bicycle on the street to work.

RF said...

economics, constituencies, demographics. Limited budgets, resources, overtime for road crews, parks & rec, etc. Glad there are links here to mayors office etc. If nothing else it gets your voice heard. Maybe.

With limited resources... if I plow streets, cyclists and cars can get around today. If I plow bike trails, then bikes can get around today. The latter scenario is much more cubic feet of snow moved per commuter. And if I'm the guy in charge of clearing snow for the city, I know what I'd do first--that which helps the most people, first. I kind of enjoyed the opportunity to ride all major streets that parallel the keystone the other day, hopefully building drivers awareness that yes, that trail 100 yards to my left is, in fact, not clear.

That being vented... I'd love for the keystone to be clear. And I'm contacting a friend at the mayors office to find out why its not.

erik, from what you've said before, I don't think your tax dollars contribute to road/trail cleanup in this city. To call trail clearing a "right" seems quite strong.... but then again "rights" are confused notions nowadays.

erik said...

RF: "Right to the City"

end of story.

RD said...

i'm with RF.
City has limited resources it's more of bang for the buck. with budget down that's the reality plus the 3 lanes we have in omaha were not accessible since there is street parking on those streets.

erik said...

it's a simple matter to run a plow down the smooth powder of a bike trail, especially since bicycles don't generate the grime and pack that you see on typical streets (which compound the difficulty of clearing). i don't think anyone expects perfection, but the routes should be cleared just as infrequently as surface streets. there is no hierarchy to transportation users, and if there is a question it should default to those who need it most. by that calculus it certainly seems vulnerable cyclists fit the category (not everybody has a back-up vehicle they can use when it gets nasty).

and again, it is not overreaching to state that cyclists have a right to similar treatment -- the city needs to get it's shit together and treat road users equally.

MOD said...

I'll give some props to Omaha for clearing segments of the Keystone. Unfortunately they get another F because they only went after the low hanging fruit. Underpasses and bridges on the trail system are still not cleared. And in the week that passed prior to clearing it has turned sections of the trail into the better part of a Belgian cobbled climb. Because of the city's inability to clear anything in whole I was left portaging my bike through everything from ankle to knee deep snow. I will stress again, the amount of man power required to clear the trail network would have an insignificant impact on the whole. Which i why it gets pushed aside. Hmm, back on the bike in the morning. Looks like it's 60th south all the way to Harrison, sorry keystone, you're too inconsistent.