The act of bicycling is a universally known means of transportation. However, biking serves different purposes for different people. Some cycle for competition, some for relaxation, and some to get to their job, to the store, or just about everywhere. Each day, cyclists and others who choose alternative means of transportation are forced to interact with each other. They must then come to an understanding of how to behave in order to ensure that the community moves safely and efficiently. Just like those who drive automobiles, cyclists need to have rules, guidelines, and infrastructure that ensure their safety - and that of others. Support from government, community, and local organizations are key in ensuring efficient integration of all forms of transportation.
The city of Omaha, Nebraska is a city that is progressively making changes to support the biking community. However, with a large and diverse population, it has been challenging to accommodate cyclists in every area of the city. Omaha Bikes describes itself on its website as a “community organization that promotes and advocates for improved transportation, utility, and recreational bicycling infrastructure, opportunities, and experiences for the people of Omaha, Nebraska and the surrounding area.” They believe that the Omaha city government is making strides in the right direction when it comes to promoting safety and accessibility for cyclists in the area. The organization recently applauded the Mayor for creating a committee to advise citizens about biking, walking, and other active living principles and how to safely and successfully incorporate them into their daily life.
Omaha Bikes recently posted a map of Omaha’s “bicycle friendly destinations” on their website. These destinations consist of companies composed of employees who bicycle that enjoy supporting others who do the same. The company has created "bicycle friendly destination" decals that are now being displayed around the community to show abutment for people getting around on bikes. Omaha Bikes stated that whether the businesses have "outdoor seating, tools and pumps to fix flats, discounts, or have just agreed not to laugh at helmet hair and Lycra, they are partnering with Omaha Bikes to get more folks out riding" and they love them for it.
Although this program is making large strides, the map itself is rather daunting. Most of the community support for bikes is coming from the inner city/ downtown area of Omaha. The suburban communities have almost no participants. Perhaps this is because few Suburban communities have lifestyle programming set up to promote bicycles as a primary means of transportation. According to Richard Lacayo and Kathie Klarreich, Suburban scholars and authors of America’s Obesity Crisis: Exercise: The Walking Cure, “44% of people questioned in Suburban communities said it was difficult to walk or bike to any destination from their home - any destination at all.” Elizabeth Zyberk, another scholar studying Suburban behavior, wrote the article The Rise of Sprawl Suburban and the Decline of Nation. The publication states that “Surplus wealth has enabled people to build wasteful communities and then compensate for their failings by buying private vehicles and driving out in search of what should be close to home.” Today, people can sit at a computer or get in a vehicle to take them to what they need, but one Omaha district is taking note of the progressive thinking in the urban areas around them, and that is the Dundee Happy Hollow district.
The Dundee Happy Hollow Historic District in Omaha, Nebraska has become very skilled at promoting safety, health, and wellness within their population. Here, seeing bikes around town is a regular occurrence. Citizens of the community value being "green" and have worked on projects together to better their neighborhood. Recently, a demolition project occurred at one of the homes in the area just north of Dodge Street. The demolition freed up green space that can now be utilized within the community. Coinciding with their green movement, the neighborhood boasts a large community garden and is home to many small, successful local businesses (including the bicycle shop Dundee Cycles and Provisions) that support the “bicycle friendly destinations” movement. Activities in the district consist of street events and concerts (such as Dundee Day), adventure races, and cycling events. With areas like Dundee serving as an example and providing support, the bikers within the city of Omaha have an exciting future to look forward to.
Do you feel that bikers are properly advocated in your community? Do you live in a community where biking is used as a primary method of transportation?
Credits: Images by Ashley Wojtalewicz. Data linked to sources.