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Harney street bike lane won't be removed after private donor steps up to fund the project

Posted at 7:04 AM, Sep 30, 2022

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — The fight to preserve Omaha's only protected bike lane started with a call to action that drew dozens of supporters to Dewey Park Thursday evening.

Supporters of the bike lane were working against the clock to save the project and by Thursday night they were just a few hours away from the city removing the lane entirely to prepare for the construction of a streetcar.

"The demolition is slated for tomorrow, it removes the only safe bike transit option in Omaha," said Noemi Gilbert, one of the organizers of Thursday's rally.

Communication about the future of the bike lane, or a lack thereof, has been a sticking point for supporters.

The decision to not extend the project was made without input from the project organizers, Bike Walk Nebraska.

City officials say they have been working on a new bike and pedestrian master plan and that has included inviting a number of community stakeholders to give input on the project.

"It's important that we keep working together collaboratively in an open process and really listening to each other and engaging the community at the street level. To find out not just what is important to us personally but to really what's needed for better access and connectivity for the citizens of Omaha," said Jason Brummels, executive director for Trails Have Our Respect, also known as THOR.

Brummels says the conversations with the city are in the early stages and no specific timetables or plans have been developed thus far.

By the end of Thursday's demonstrations, the future of the bike lane remained bleak.

That was until a statement from the mayor was released Thursday night, stating that a private donor had agreed to fund the Harney bike lane until construction starts on the streetcar.

"I feel so much joy and so much surprise, I was totally not expecting this. I was expecting bureaucratic systems to do what bureaucratic systems often do and let us down even when people stand together," said Gilbert.

The decision to keep the bike lane for the foreseeable future was a big win for supporters, but Gilbert says she the fight to improve Omaha for cyclists doesn't end here.

"Jean Stothert has consistently said bike infrastructure is a priority of hers, but until we see that reflected inside of city budgets and city plans, I'm not gonna believe her," said Gilbert.

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