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Biking expanding in Omaha while bike lanes make slow progress

Posted at 10:22 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 23:28:46-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Biking in Omaha is growing quickly, with dozens of new rental stations popping up around the metro this year. But advocates say while bikes are available, there is still a need for safe spaces to ride them.

After many years of being seen mainly as a form of exercise, biking is getting back to its origins and is once again being seen as a form of transportation.

Benny Foltz, executive director of Heartland B-cycle, said the nonprofit is working to make that mode of transportation more available for the Omaha metro.

“So now bike share is viewed as public transit," Foltz said. "It's not about getting exercise. It's about getting someone from Point A to Point B because they got to get there.”

The nonprofit believes so much in that idea, that they are offering an equity program for free and discounted rides to those who need them. There are four options: the Community Partner Pass, Pedal to Health, Low-Income Reduced Rate Pass, and the Library Pass Program.

“Basically if you can’t afford a membership, we want to get you one," Foltz said.

The nonprofit currently has 75 stations and is installing their 76th station this week at 13th and Nicholas.

They also have plans to install a dozen stations along the ORBT route, as well as constructing a few editions for the Market to Midtown Bikeway, the North Omaha Trail and the First Ave. Trail in Council Bluffs.

One of their newest editions is outside Culxr House on 24th St, where the desire for biking options was going unmet. Marcey Yaters, executive director of Culxr House, says the location is perfect with their arts and community center, the Heartland Ministry Center, and a school all close by.

“Folks were excited about it," Yates said. "A lot of people got signed up the other day. I’m seeing traffic of just people with my own eyes using the bikes. So I think it's a good thing. It’s never not bad to have a bike to ride to get to A and B.”

While there are plenty of bikes, there’s still a need for safe places to ride them.

Sarah Johnson with Mode Shift Omaha says she’s thrilled to see plans for a protected bike lane being tested out along Harney St. this year, but it feels like progress has been slow.

“It’s just still a pilot after 10 years of talking about it," Johnson said. "And it’s just one lane.”

Like the bike rental program, the Market to Midtown Bikeway is also being funded by a nonprofit. Johnson says she’d like to see the city itself leading the way for bettering biking transportation.

“It really should be something that the city is getting behind and championing, instead of just like waiting for a nonprofit to pick it up and fit the bill.”

Mode Shift Omaha has plans to do some demonstrations later in the year with hopes of showing city leaders the value and impact bike lanes have on traffic ways.

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