Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2008 Omaha Bike Summit Report

There were almost as many bikes as cars parked outside the National Parks Service Building last Saturday morning, October 18th, 2008. This was the site of the 2008 Omaha Bike Summit. When I arrived Bikeable Communities was putting up their banner.

This was the Agenda...
7:45 - 8:30 Registration & Welcome Bikeable Communities!
8:30 - 9:30 City of Omaha progress and status report - Marty Shukert
9:30 - 10:30 PedNet Presentation - Robert Johnson
10:45 - 11:15 Bicycles & Policing in Omaha - Deputy Chief Mark Sundermier
11:15 - 11:45 Green Streets Master Plan - Connie Spellman, Omaha by Design
11:45 - Lunch / Presentation on Missouri Pedestrian Bridge - Chistian Brown, HNTB
12:30 - MAT Bus Bike Rack Demo / Pedestrian Bridge walk or ride
1:15 Bike Parking opportunities & alternatives - Mark Wyatt, Iowa Bicycle Coalition
1:45 Bikeable Communities!

RDG planning consultant, Marty Shukert started off the morning with the city's view of the Omaha Bikeway, a 20 mile system of bike lanes and signage for cyclists and motorists. His presentation started with showing the 2008 Omaha Metro Area Bicycle Map and talking about the plan to make 20 miles of Omaha streets biker friendly. The Omaha World-Herald published an article about this plan on May 13, 2008. Omaha to add bicycle lanes to some streets. He focused on north, central and south paths for east-west links to downtown. The plan is designed to reduce friction for cyclists to use Omaha streets and reduce tension when motorists and cyclists share the streets. It was interesting to hear Marty talk about the history of Omaha streets and how the street car system that was retired in the 50s is what contributed to some of Omaha's wider streets. One of the streets this plan will focus on early in the plan is Leavenworth. Marty had examples of good signage and street paint used in other cities for bike traffic.

Bike Signage/Paint

Marty also showed an example from St. Louis of iconic signs marking the entire biking street system. It sounds like Omaha will use a marking system like that as well. It was good to hear that the $600,000 grant to fund the implementation of the 20 mile bike plan would start getting used to put some of these ideas into action as early as spring 2009.
There was a second initiative that Marty talked about that would link Omaha and towns to the west like Elkhorn, Valley, Waterloo and even Fremont. This Western Douglas County Trail System would be paved. This plan includes making "Buffered Bike Lanes" on streets like Old Maple. Marty showed street wide allocation examples that looked like this...

I also learned that Mayor Mike Fahey formed a Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee and they are looking into hiring a coordinator.

Everyone in attendance seemed excited to hear from someone that is a cycling advocate with plans to make bike transportation more mainstream in our area.

The next speaker was Robert Johnson from Pednet in Columbia, Mo. The focus of Pednet is on cycling education. Here is the link where you can learn more about their programs. PedNet Pedestrain & Pedaling Network But the point Robert made that really had some merit was the fact that building bike transportation infrastructure is great but communities need to be educated on cycling to confidently be able to use that infrastructure. I liked that Robert backed up the success of his programs by using surveys showing how his students were using there bikes more after the training. Here are some of Robert's slides ...

Bike Education Slides

In 2006, Columbia MO was selected as one of four communities in the nation to participate in the Federal Highway Administration's Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot program. Here is a link to "getabout Columbia" which PedNet created. getabout COLUMBIA One of the main ideas Robert teaches his cyclists is that even if there is a bike lane, when stopping at the intersection the cyclist needs to take the car lane. They learned from planners in Portland, OR that this was the way to reduce accidents where right turning trafic hits a cyclist. Robert referred to this as the "Right Hook".

I stayed to listen to presenters through lunch. After lunch, I went out to the parking lot of the National Parks Service Building and learned how to put my bike on the MAT Bus. I rode over to 16th and Capitol and put what I learned to use by riding the bus most of the way home.

Special thanks goes out to Tammie Dodge of Bikeable Communities and Activate Omaha for efforts in putting on the 2008 Omaha Bike Summit. The speakers and presentations were right on target and everyone in attendance seemed to really enjoy the subject matter. I know I did. I'm sure we're all looking forward to hearing more about Activate Omaha and Bikeable Communties in the future.


David Hembrow said...

There are ways to sort out the dead corner problem without cyclists going into the car lane.

What is usually done here is that the cycle lane / path stop line will be ahead of that for the car lane. And that a different set of traffic lights will give cyclists a few seconds of head start too.

This prevents motorists and cyclists being in a race to go when they get a green light. By the time the drivers start, they'd have to drive directly over the stream of cyclists to make their right turn.

It's also common here that right turns by drivers are prohibited when cyclists have a green for straight on. By having separate traffic lights for cyclists you gain a lot of possibilities, such as giving cyclists a green light twice as often as drivers and allowing them to go in all directions at once. Such innovation helps to insure that cycle journeys are faster using the cycle paths than driving or cycling on the road would be.

I should perhaps also point out that your proposed buffered lanes are rather narrow. The standard here now is to try to achieve a 3 m buffer (i.e. about 10 feet) and for bike paths to be a minimum of 2.5 m wide ( 8 feet ) if unidirectional or 4 metres ( 13 feet ) wide if bidirectional. The paths typically widen at junctions.

Biker Bob said...

Thanks for the input David. Those are options that I think will get considered in time. However, right now our city is just in the infant stages of planning. So most of the changes at first will be "low cost" changes which include paint and signage for the most part. Kind of a "work with what you have" strategy at the moment.

Over time, as cycling becomes more mainstream (as we hope it will) or as the city makes a stronger commitment to HELP cycling become more mainstream for transportation, some of the high capital investment options you mentioned should become more viable.