New Omaha bike lanes confuse, frustrate Midtown drivers and cyclists

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 5:41 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The new bike lanes on Harney Street connecting Midtown Crossing with downtown are quickly becoming a popular route for bike riders.

But as with most things new, there are some problems.

”I think it’s going to be confusing to drivers.”

To get on I-480 South at 29th and Harney Street during the afternoon rush, drivers have to act quickly.

“I can definitely see it being confusing.”

When the red arrow turns green, drivers have five seconds to make the run before the green turns yellow. Only two cars can legally make it through the light and drivers cross paths with the new bike lanes.

”I would be really frustrated.”

“I’ve already noticed some drivers being a little unsure.”

“There are some intersections that are worse than others.”

Ben Kammerer navigates this new bike option going to work. He says he pays close attention to all intersections, especially this one.

”I’ve definitely seen some people turn right on red in front of me anyway.”

A 6 News’ camera caught drivers turning through the intersection as the light turn red.

“It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.”

The city’s traffic engineer says they knew this intersection would be challenging. He says there are sensors detecting bicycle movement in the bike lanes.

That, in turn, controls the light and how long the green turn signal operates. When no bikes are detected, the turn signal lasts for about 20 seconds.

When bikes are detected, the crossing time for bikes is increased, thus reducing the time for cars to turn right. The sensors don’t detect pedestrians.

“So, it turned red, and I know you can’t go on the red and then it turned green and for whatever reason, that freaked me out but this little red hand here, it doesn’t turn into a walking sign ever so there’s never an opportunity to cross,” said Andrea Lurski.

Andrea decided the safest route for her was to cross Harney to the north, then cross 29th Street on the other side of the street. Avoiding the confusion but the problem rolls on.

“They really should clear this up and fix it.”

The city’s traffic engineer says the intent was to make the intersection as safe as possible. He says they will monitor the intersection to see if everything is working as intended.

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