Two wheels may be better than four
Last year, Minneapolis usurped Portland for the No. 1 spot as America’s most bike-friendly city, according to Bicycling magazine.
And Omaha? Omaha ranked 42nd. Not bad, to be included in the top 50 cities, but will we ever overtake cities like Kansas City (33rd), Denver (12th), or New York (8th) to become the “New Amsterdam” of the western biking world?
If Mayor Jim Suttle and local bike advocates have their way, we could see rapid upward mobility for the two-wheeled form of transportation. Last year Suttle hired Carlos Morales as Omaha’s bicycle-pedestrian coordinator to facilitate Bike Omaha’s, an urban development project designed to add 20 miles of new bike trails from downtown Omaha, through Benson, Midtown, and South Omaha.
In fact, this development is likely what propelled Omaha into the biking hotlist, as the story from Bicycling magazine stated, “Aggressive trail development and local events make Omaha a great place for cyclists.”
Morales attributes the Bike Omaha pilot program to “Planning Director Marty Shukert, who is a great advocate for biking. Most of it was his project, and ideas were vetted with Activate Omaha and Omaha Bikes to determine what was most needed and most viable. The whole concept was born of ‘We put down bicycle facilities where they fit,’ traditionally calmer streets that are easier for people to manage on bikes and they tried to avoid really big hills,” said Morales from his downtown office.
“We’ve identified areas where we have more traffic lanes than we need,” said Morales, “such as Leavenworth Street turned into three lanes from four lanes.”
The new bike lanes are all located on city streets, creating routes from downtown to Benson, Aksarben Village, and the Henry Doorly Zoo, as well as a lane connecting Creighton University to Midtown Crossing and the Field Club Trail. Many of the routes will connect existing bike trails, including the Keystone Trail, the Field Club Trail, and the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Morales says about half of the lanes are complete, with the entire project slated to be finished by the end of this summer. He says the purpose of these lanes is to encourage people to become more active while ensuring their safety.
“The sidewalk tends to be where we have the most accidents,” said Morales. “With people coming out of driveways or parking lots. I do encourage people who do ride on the sidewalk to ride at a walking pace. National statistics show accidents happen more at dawn or dusk. They show they happen at intersections, whether people are turning, or coming into a crosswalk. When it gets dark, it enhances the risk factors.”
The Mayor’s Office is encouraging Omaha residents to participate in the Bike Omaha Commuter Challenge, sponsored by Trek Bicycle Stores of Omaha and Activate Omaha. The challenge encourages people to commute to and from work by bike by forming teams with coworkers and recording miles logged. In its sixth year, the challenge has already expanded beyond past years’ participation levels, with 1,091 bikers registered for this year’s challenge, which will begin May 1 and continue until Oct. 1. Last year, 1,000 Omaha riders logged 159,000 miles to and from work on their bikes in 14 weeks.
“Our main goal is to get people more physically active for health purposes,” said Morales. “If you ride one to four days, that is better than none at all. You could combine it with the bus, you can drive halfway to work, and ride halfway. Or try it one a day week on a casual Friday or dress-down day.”
More information on biking in Omaha and the Bike Omaha Commuter Challenge are available at activateomaha.org.
“To make our top 50, a city must also support a vibrant and diverse bike culture, and it must have smart, savvy bike shops,” explained the editors of Bicycling Magazine. Indeed, Omaha’s burgeoning bike culture is well-supported by the following shops, and many more. Not only will you get premium service for bike repairs and upgrades, but all of these shops provide useful gear, such a headlights and helmets. Best of all, bike shop employees are notoriously full of useful information, making them the some of the best go-to sources for biking and trail tips.
5265 North 129th St.
This family owned and operated shop offers “totally outrageous service.” Not only do they sell sweet rides and provide great service, but Bike Masters sponsors their own community social rides from their location. Check their website for details.
14510 Eagle Run Drive
Bike Rack is a large, comprehensive bike shop with two locations, one in West Omaha, and one in Lincoln. The shop is partnering with other local businesses to bring DreamBikes to Omaha, an organization that helps provide used bicycles in low-income neighborhoods. Details can be found at their website.
Community Bike Shop
525 N. 33rd St.
The Community Bike Shop is a fantastic resource for people looking to learn how to fix their own bike. The cooperative is open three days a week in the summer; Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-4 p.m. The cooperative offers open shop and workbench time on Saturdays, with advice from volunteers. They also offer a ladies’ night on Monday nights from 6-8 p.m., where ladies of all ages learn basic bike maintenance. The cooperative is also sponsoring 12 classes on bicycle maintenance and repair throughout the summer, organized by topic, and five classes on safety and urban riding. They also accept donations of old bikes and bike parts.
1310 Mike Fahey St.
Greenstreet Cycles is Omaha’s newest bike shop, and walking into the modern NoDo store alone is enough to get you excited about biking. Having just celebrated its one-year anniversary, Greenstreet is already a tour de force in expanding Omaha’s biking horizons. The shop sponsors or supports many social rides around the city, and despite the cool exterior, employees are warm and open to questions of all sorts from beginners to experienced urban riders. All the staff members “ride the ride” as it were, commuting via bicycle, and exploring creative ways to haul people, groceries, recycling and more on their bikes. Stop in for some advice, information, inspiration, or just to check out one of their amazing bikes outfitted with snow tires. Yes!
1324 North 40th St.
4910 South 135th St.
Olympia Cycle is one of Omaha’s oldest and most reliable stops for bicycle parts, repairs and advice. Take it old-school at the North 40th Street location, or visit their newer location in Millard.
Re-Cycle Bike Shop
1902 South 13th St.
Re-Cycle is a great stop if you are in the market for a bike on a budget. This agreeable shop not only sells new bicycles, but sells refurbished bikes, buys bikes, trades bikes, and will sell your bike on consignment. “We realize that you have a unique set of goals that we want to help you achieve,” they say on their website, and their courteous staff will entertain nearly any bike-related inquiry, making this a most bike-friendly shop for those who are freshly back in the saddle.
Trek Bicycle Store of Omaha
7214 Jones St.
Although a chain, Trek Bicycle stores have taken an active role to promote biking in our community. Trek is sponsoring this year’s Bike Omaha Commuter Challenge, and the shop provides a wide array of resources and information to local bikers, in addition to bike parts, accessories, and gorgeous, brand-spanking-new rides of many varieties.
Here’s a short list of upcoming social rides and biking events. Beyond the events listed here, regular rides and special events are scheduled throughout the summer by many local organizations, giving Omaha residents many opportunities every month to pedal with their peers, and enjoy the companionship of local bike culture.
Taco Ride, every Thursday evening.
The Taco Ride is Omaha’s most well-known and well-traveled social ride. This year’s Taco Ride kicked off March 31. Every Thursday evening, a heavy pack of bikes of every sort heads out on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail in Council Bluffs, making its way to Mineola. Drinks and tacos are the riders’ reward in Mineola at the Mineola Steakhouse, in addition to the scenic ride along the Loess Hills of western Iowa. Most people leave around 5:30 p.m. for the 20-mile round-trip ride, which can result in some night riding, if too much frivolity is enjoyed in Mineola. More details can be found at www.tacoride.com.
Handlebar Happy Hour, fourth Tuesday of the month
5 p.m., April 26
Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant and
1101 Harney St.
Handlebar Happy Hour is a monthly event sponsored by Omaha Bikes. The local organization chooses bike-friendly businesses for their meet-ups, where members can ride to and lock up with ease and enjoy the fellowship of other urban bikers. If you’re not ready for a 20-mile ride, check out the upcoming Handlebar Happy Hours to see if one is in your range. Next week, the group will meet at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, the perfect opportunity to try out some of those new downtown bike lanes.
Tuesday Night Ladies Ride
Tue, April 26, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Keystone Trail – Democracy Park
Several organizations sponsor ladies’ rides and classes. Let’s face it, serious biking is often a male domain, but we all know girls can be just as savvy on two wheels as the boys when they’re 10 years old. Perhaps it just takes a little practice to gain that confidence back. That’s not to say there aren’t some boss bike babes ruling the trails of Omaha. All skill levels are welcome for this ride, which starts at Democracy Park, then follows the Keystone Trail to Seymour Smith Park and back. A great option for those shy of riding in the street, this group outing is one of many sponsored by Bike Masters. Go to their website at bikemastersomaha.com for details on this ride and others.
Great Plains Bicycle Club’s Annual SPRING
FLING Metric Century Ride
9 a.m.–noon. Saturday, April 30
Louisville, Neb., and Eagle, Neb.
This annual ride allows you to enjoy a scenic stretch between Eagle and Louisville, Neb. The round-trip distance between the two towns is about 60 miles, but participants are welcome to adjust their rides to their own tastes, by turning around along the way, or catching a ride as need be back to their starting point. All ages are welcome, although those under 18 must ride with a parent or guardian. There is a registration fee for this ride, details can be found at greatplainsbikeclub.org.
Omaha Health & Wellness Expo Bike Ride
9 a.m.– noon., Sunday, May 1
Mancuso Convention Center, Omaha Civic
Auditorium, 17th & Capitol streets
Held in conjunction with the Omaha Health & Wellness Expo, this ride allows you to represent your school, group or just ride as an individual. Participants enjoy three route options, including the Carter Lake ride at nine miles, the Viking Park ride at 15 miles, and the Ft. Atkinson route of 43 miles. For more information, or to register your team, visit showofficeonline.com.
Psycowpath XC #3: Platte River Battle Royale
10 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday, May 7
Platte River State Park, South Bend, Neb.
Psycowpath is a fairly serious race that allows bikers to also enjoy the Platte River countryside. Many registration categories are available, ranging from experienced racers to children as young as 10 years old. A great chance to get a competitive racing experience, more details can be found at psycowpath.com/platte-river-battle-royale.html.
Mayor’s Ride – Bike Omaha Commuter
8:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m., Friday, May 13
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
The mayors of Omaha, Council Bluffs and Bellevue will kick off the 2011 Bicycle Commuter Challenge on Friday, May 13. After a media presentation at 8:30 a.m., the three mayors will leave the bridge at 9 a.m. to pedal to their respective jobs. Clearly, Mayor Suttle has it easy in this ride, but we give respect to Mayor Rita Sanders for her plan to ride to Bellevue. All local bike commuters are welcome to join them to kick off this year’s Bike Omaha Commuter Challenge, as well as celebrating National Bike Month.