OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha’s first protected bike lane is on its way, with the City Council voting unanimously to approve a pilot program that will run along Harney St.
The plan for the Market to Midtown Bikeway, which will stretch from 10th St. to Dewey Avenue, is to take three-lane sections of Harney St. and covert one into a protected bike lane that will feature flexible delineators.
The second lane will be used for parking and bus stops.
Julie Harris, executive director of Bike Walk Nebraska, says the bike lane, though temporary, is a good step in getting Omaha caught up in the race for better biking transportation.
“A lot of Omaha’s peer cities has done a lot to invest in bike infrastructure, and so I’m glad to see that we’re making progress on the pilot so that we start to try to keep up with the other cities that are like Omaha that are really going full speed ahead on this," Harris said.
While Omaha does have bike lanes with painted lines on streets, Harris says protected bike lanes with barriers are better at ensuring the bike lane is safe and available for travelers.
Bike Walk Nebraska is one of several agencies working with Metro Smart Cities, which will be running the pilot program. Metro Smart Cities will be covering the $250,000 cost for the bike lane.
"Through philanthropic support and partnership with Bike Walk Nebraska and Metro Smart Cities, we'll be covering the entirety of the cost of installation, operation, and maintenance of the protective infrastructure for a two-way bikeway in the southern lane of Harney St.," Kevin Andersen with Mayor Jean Stothert's office told the City Council on Tuesday.
Metro Smart Cities will be responsible for maintaining it until September of 2022, with the city having the option to make the fixture permanent at which time the city will be responsible for the bike lane.
Metro Smart Cities will be monitoring data from the bike lane for the next two years, seeing how many people are using bikes, how it's impacting traffic, and how it will affect local businesses.
"Bike tourism brings in a lot of money to communities," Harris said. "People that come in on bikes or use bikes are spending a lot more at the store when they come in. They stay longer, and they spend more money."
Harris says they plan to work with Heartland BCycle to offer more bikes for rent along the path and will be talking with local businesses about installing bike stands.
Metro Smart Cities says it is hoping to start construction on this project this spring and have it up and running by summer.