Ridership higher than anticipated 6 weeks after Omaha’s protected bikeway opens

The addition of a protected bike lane has Omaha residents excited to finally be able to bike in the downtown area.
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The new Midtown to Market Bikeway has already become fairly popular after just shy of two months since its official opening.

The bikeway is the first protected lane in the city, with bollards and parked cars offering protection for riders.

Metro Smart Cities and Bike Walk Nebraska have been the driving forces behind the lane from the idea up until its completion. The local organizations also manage, maintain, and tracks riders who use the lane.

“We hear people say they’re riding it more often than maybe people who may have been using it before, were hearing businesses say that driver behavior is improved,” says Julie Harris, the Executive Director of Bike Walk Nebraska.

Those who use the lane are encouraged to share their experience and feedback through an online survey, and Harris says they’ve received plenty of results already.

“We’re hearing a lot of people say they never thought about biking downtown before and now they’re giving it a try because of this lane.”

Harris says results have been overwhelmingly positive so far, but they have received their fair share of constructive criticism.

“We know that we’ve still got some maintenance to do along the lane, we know we’ve got some potholes and cracks we need to fill,” she says. “Some people have trouble navigating the intersections when they’re coming westbound because it’s a one-way street for cars although we allow both ways on bikes.”

Difficult spots include the already existing construction at Harney and South 10th streets, along with the project in front of the juvenile justice system. Harris says they’ve been able to create safe lanes for bikers around the construction.

“We’ve adjusted some placement of some signs, signals, and that’s helping a lot so every time we get that good constructive feedback, we’ve been able to go out for the most part, tweak, change and adjust, and make it better each time,” she says.

In around six weeks, Harris says ridership has far exceeded their expectations, with an average of 140 riders on weekdays and well over 200 on weekends. These numbers are comparable to many trails that run in and around the city, she says.

Riders using the lane on Monday shared their personal experience with 6 News, saying despite some problems, the lane is an impressive and useful addition to the downtown area.

“Unfortunately I ran into some issues about cars being parked in the bike lane,” says Jacquline Smith, who lives near the lane and uses it to workout. “There are some issues with having some, like, holes to steer clear of but overall, I feel a lot safer being in a bike lane, there’s more space to ride a bike versus trying to ride on the sidewalk and I don’t have to compete with cars.”

“It helps me to get around a lot faster and not to have to risk my life around cars and that,” says Patrick Loveless, who uses the lane while working as a deliveryman for Pickleman’s.

“There are puddles and crevices and things that fill up with water that are unpleasant to ride on, but, it is an improvement overall, a good first step,” Loveless says.

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