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Advocates and cyclists react to Mayor's decision to end Midtown to Market bike program

Posted at 7:22 AM, Sep 23, 2022

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — If you commute to work, you want a commute that is quick and easy.

For cyclists like Drew Ruchti, there isn’t a quicker or easier way to get to work than using the Midtown to Market bike path.

“I drive from my house to my job every morning on this bike,” said Ruchti.

Ruchti says the path doesn’t just make his commute easier but safer as well.

“Every single day, every single commuter I talk to has a story about how they almost get hit. The bike lane solved that for us,” said Ruchti.

Unfortunately for Ruchti, and the many other cyclists who utilize the protected bike lane, the Midtown to Market path will soon be going away.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Mayor Jean Stothert announced the city would be ending the Midtown to Market pilot program.

The decision was made at this week’s Metro Smart Cities board meeting but there was one important group left out of the board’s discussions.

“Our project that we brought to the metro smart cities board for this protected bike lane was on the agenda. Despite being at every other advisory board meeting to update and answer questions, we were not invited to attend,” said Julie Harris with Bike Walk Nebraska.

The decision to end the pilot project, without any further input from Bike Walk Nebraska, has been jarring for Harris and other supporters of the project.

“We had metrics assigned to us essentially that we needed to track to show success. We basically showed success in every area, I think it was every area,” said Harris.

In her statement, Stothert said the pilot project has provided the necessary data to proceed and evaluate future decisions about protected bikeways.

City planning director Dave Fanslau told KMTV that the plan is for the city to coordinate with MAPA, the NRD and an outside consultant to come up with a New Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan.

But bikers like Ruchti say Harney is already the best corridor for cyclists to use and says without it, things will only get worse for bikes and cars.

“I will have to bike in the street. And I will be taking up the whole lane so sorry to you if you end up behind me,” said Ruchti.

Fanslau says public input on a new Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan will be gathered through open houses and surveys and they hope to have a draft plan completed by midsummer.

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