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Bike-friendly Omaha? “You’d be surprised!”

Posted by on March 10th, 2010 at 5:27 pm

National Bike Summit 2010 Day 1-2

Advocates from Omaha, Nebraska.
L to R: Tammie Dodge, Kerri Peterson,
Julie Harris.
(Photo © J. Maus)

One of the great things about being at the National Bike Summit is the feeling that biking, as a movement, is growing. And each year I’m reminded that it’s growing far beyond the typical, bike-friendly cities you always see on top ten lists.

Last night I met Julie Harris and a few of her friends from Activate Omaha.

When I did a double-take at her name badge and joked about biking in Omaha (in a nice way, I wasn’t condescending) she jumped right in and said, “You’d be surprised!” Julie said they’ve got seven bike-friendly businesses, a nascent bikeway with 20 more miles coming soon (paid for with $600,000 raised from private corporations), and a solid Safe Routes to Schools program.

Nebraska is one of 48 states represented at the summit this year. Nice meeting you Julie and best of luck in your advocacy work!

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  • A-dub March 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Wow. Just a tid-bit condescending. Pretty low expectations of those fly-over states.

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  • q`Tzal March 10, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    The MUP’s in Omaha aren’t bad. The ones built parallel to streams don’t have the big safety problem of road crosssings: the trail goes under the bridge and there are “offramps” up to the main road. If your destination is somewhere along these trails it is very easy to maintain a high speed on these flat routes and never have to stop.
    Don’t run the stop signs though: you don’t have near the anonymity, much fewer cyclists, there as here and you will be identified.

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  • Jules March 10, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Thanks for the shout out, Jonathan! We have a ton of momentum in Omaha right now with cycling, including a fleet of awesome folks who are committed to making a difference.

    We may be a “fly over state,” but we love cycling as much as anyone else. We look forward to following in the footsteps of the places like Portland as we strive to represent “bike friendly” in the midwest!

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  • Paul Tay March 10, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Coming soon to the streets of Tulsa, OK: Solar hybrid Space Shuttle on three wheels. My small bank account be DAMED.

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  • OmahaBikes March 11, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Thanks for the shout out.

    We are picking up steam here in Omaha. Portland better keep moving forward or we will be knocking on your back door in 5-10 years ;-).

    Thanks for all the work you are doing for bicycle transportation advocacy Jonathan. Your blog is the primary reason we started the OmahaBikes blog.

    For those of you that may be interested, Omaha is interviewing for a “Bike/Ped Coordinator” position. This is one of the many steps we are taking to start making progress towards making Omaha a more bike and pedestrian friendly city.

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  • Daveusetoliveinomaha March 11, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I was an everyday cyclist in Omaha from 2005 to 2007 before my move to Portland and still cycle there on viists about twice a year. I would love to see Omaha become an enjoyable cycling city. It’s almost like a tale of two city’s though. The Eastern 1/3 of the city, which consists of downtown and midtown, a collection of close-in neighborhoods,is much like inner east side Portland. It has lots of tree-lined neighborhoods and smaller streets with some one ways cutting through neighborhoods. This area’s population, consisting of working poor, working class, and middle class gentrifiers, is very open to an increase in cycling infrastructure. Once you pass the ubiquitous 72nd Street it becomes a scary scary world for cyclists. 6 lane roads everywhere and your lucky if they have sidewalks nonetheless cycling infrastructure. This portion of town has been developed so car centric for so long and the population that lives their doesn’t even realize that some people cycle as a viable form of transportation. Omaha would be best served by picking it’s low hanging fruit by creating bike boulevards and appropriate bike lanes(here’s looking at you Farnam) in their older more liberal parts. Hopefully the rest of the city sees property values increase and the general joys of livable neighborhoods and asks for the same.

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  • Jules March 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Check out the archives of the OmahaBikes blog ( find a link to the map of the 20 mile bike loop that is coming soon. Farnam not in line, but there is a route that will connect downtown to the Benson business district, and one to the Aksarben Village area via Leavenworth.

    There is always more that can be done, but we’re headed in the right direction.

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  • Brad March 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks to flat terrain, there are many cities in the Midwest that could easily surpass Portland in bike friendliness and commuter usage over the next decade. Many already have MUPs along rivers to serve as the backbone of a high speed bike travel system.

    Nice work, Omaha.

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  • Jules March 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks,Brad … But in another “You might be surprised” topic, pull up an elevation profile of Dodge Street from one end of the city to the other, and be prepared for an OMG moment! 🙂

    The MUP’s that follow the creeks are about the only consistently flat areas to ride in the whole city.

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  • Jordy March 24, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    I traveled to Portland before I moved to Omaha, and I was blown away by the bike culture there. Only my time living in Amsterdam (sadly brief) surpassed it.

    That said, I feel like Omaha has a really vocal minority. I wrote an article on the Guerrilla Trail Crew, a bunch of guys that voluntarily maintain the trails come rain, shine, or snow. I was amazed by how many people came out of the woodwork and said nice job, or wanted to use it as a springboard for more change. There may not be as many bikers here as in Portland, but the ones that are here are just as committed.

    It’s by no means an ideal city for bikers–surprisingly hilly and married to the car–but it’s getting better, and that’s what’s important.

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  • CaptainKarma June 4, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Omaha is not so bad at all. I lived there back in the day. I used to tow my two toddlers around in a reverse-facing cannondale trailer to go for ice cream. We often went from south Bellevue up past the Zoo and on into the Old Market. Don’t remember it being too un-friendly, but then, the drivers had to look into the eyes of my two little, er, cherubs, and decide how to act. I’m sure things have only gotten better. And now there’s a bike bridge across the Missouri?

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  • Jordy June 5, 2010 at 12:14 am

    There is indeed a footbridge from Omaha to Council Bluffs. It leads from a strange part of town in Nebraska to an even stranger part of town in Iowa. But it’s a nice spot for an evening walk, and while a failed “centerpiece” for the city, not a bad addition at all.

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