Mayor Stothert: Omaha’s protected bike lane to remain thanks to anonymous donor

The announcement came hours after a ‘bike in’ protest.
The bike lane stays.
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:46 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2022 at 10:14 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Hours after a group gathered Thursday to protest the removal of Omaha’s only protected bike lane, the mayor announced the lane will remain in place until construction begins on the city’s streetcar route.

In a statement issued Thursday evening, Mayor Jean Stothert credited a private donor for preventing the lane’s removal and said she remained “100% committed to dedicated protected bikelanes.”

Her full statement:

“The bikeway will remain in place until construction of the streetcar begins on Harney Street.

Since our decision to end the Market to Midtown bikeway pilot, we have considered numerous options to keep and pay for the dedicated protected bikeway.

A private donor has agreed to completely fund and maintain the current bikeway, study alternate routes in the urban core, and recommend a conceptual design for a permanent protected bikeway.

The streetcar will run on the south side of Harney, so the bike lane will eventually be moved, possibly to the north side, or to another downtown location.

In the short term, the Harney bikeway will be restriped and new bollards and delineators will be bolted into the street.

The pilot however is over tomorrow, the data collected will be used in an analysis.

I remain 100% committed to dedicated protected bikeways, and I am grateful to the donor making this possible.”

Emailed statement from Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert

Thursday afternoon, protesters had congregated at Dewey Park in Midtown before heading on a “bike in” protest, before Stothert’s announcement was made.

The bike lane has been along Harney Street for more than a year as a pilot project but last week, Mayor Stothert ordered its removal.

Despite support from City Council last week to extend the pilot project, the mayor and Metro Smart Cities made the decision to remove the lane — a decision that came after the Omaha Streetcar Authority announced the official streetcar route, which will run along Harney Street, too.

Organizers of Thursday’s rally told 6 News that taking away the bike lane is in complete disregard of what Omaha citizens want.

“I feel very happy, I feel very grateful, I feel very safe,” said rally organizer Noemi Gilbert after learning the bike lane will now stay in place. “I feel a lot of belief that people together are stronger than bureaucratic systems that attempt to break us apart.”

“It’s wild to me that this happened and we created a change,” says organizer Isabella Manhart following the announcement.

Bike Walk Nebraska, which created the bike lane pilot project idea, and brought it to life with the help of Metro Smart Cities, released a statement following Stothert’s announcement Thursday night.

Bike Walk Nebraska would like to thank everyone who spoke up in support of the Market to Midtown Bikeway over the last week. It was gratifying to hear from such a diverse spectrum of people advocating for safe bicycle infrastructure and we know that it made a huge difference. Thanks to all of these voices and much work behind the scenes, the Market to Midtown Bikeway will remain in place until the streetcar construction begins.

Bike Walk Nebraska has the highest standards as caretakers of the grant funds we are awarded. We are relieved that our funder’s vision for this project can be realized and that the remainder of our funds can be used in the most efficient and effective way possible.

We are proud of the work we’ve done and look forward to the impact this pilot project will have on the future network of protected bike lanes in Omaha’s urban core.

Bike Walk Nebraska

Bike Walk Nebraska was not involved in or associated with Thursday’s protest.

Julie Harris expressed her disappointment with 6 News last week after the mayor originally made the announcement to remove the bike lane, despite the organization having the funding to keep the project going.