In my experience, real change is not effected by complaints or hashtagged comments on social media. It happens through paying attention IRL (in real life), by keeping tabs on news media and community developments and by taking opportunities to provide input and speak with decision makers.
There is currently an opportunity to provide input on roads infrastructure in Nebraska. From the press release:
The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) has scheduled eight regional meetings to continue discussions on its expanded project prioritization process for capital improvement projects. These capital improvement projects are those projects that most impact our economy and allow us to grow Nebraska. Examples include the addition of new lanes, building new interchanges or viaducts, and improvements to the expressway system or federally designated high priority corridors.
The regional meetings are a follow up to those held in January where NDOR staff presented information on expanding the agency’s project prioritization process to better consider economic impacts and include more stakeholder input. At the upcoming regional meetings, NDOR staff will share preliminary results of the project prioritization process and gather feedback through facilitated group discussions.
- Beatrice July 13, 9-11 AM, Holiday Inn, 4005 N. 6th St.
- La Vista July 13, 3-5 PM, Embassy Suites, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
- Norfolk July 14, 9-11 AM, Lifelong Learning Center, 701 E Benjamin Ave
- Grand Island July 14, 3-5 PM, Bosselman Conf. Ctr, 700 E Stolley Park Rd.
- North Platte July 15, 9-11 AM, Quality Inn & Suites, 2102 S. Jeffers St.
- McCook July 15, 2-4 PM, Community Hospital, 1301 E. H St.
- Valentine July 18, 3-5 PM, Niobrara Lodge, 803 East Highway #20
- Gering July 19, 9-11 AM, Gering Civic Center, 1050 M St.
Local Wyobraska readers, note that last date!
Your voice as a cyclist can make a difference – especially since many of our decision makers are not bicyclists themselves and may not understand a cyclist’s needs.
I’ve got two examples from the past couple of years where bicycle-friendly infrastructure design changes were made because I took the time to (respectfully!) provide a bicyclist’s point of view to decision-makers who were willing to listen.
Bicycle parking in downtown Scottsbluff
When the Scottsbluff downtown revitalization project was in its earlier stages, plans called for bicycle racks to be placed behind businesses, off the alleyways. I objected to this, pointing out that bicycles are small vehicles that are more vulnerable to theft, and that putting bicycle parking in a less-traveled area would increase opportunities for theft. Bicyclists prefer to have their rides parked in a conspicuous location near the front of a business – what I call “rock-star parking” – and, if bike racks were placed in alleys, cyclists might not use them at all and instead continue to park their bikes against trees and sign poles along the well-traveled main street.
The first set of sculptural bicycle racks that were installed in mid-2015 (paid for through a fundraising effort from the NEXT Young Professionals group) were placed along the main travel corridor on Broadway. I was told the racks would not have been placed front-and-center like this without my comment.
Discontinuous rumble strips on Highway 71 over the Wildcat Hills
In November 2015, I drove though the Wildcat Hills on Highway 71 and noticed the nice, smooth new pavement hadn’t been rumble-stripped yet. I emailed Maryanne Jacobs, the project manager at the Nebraska Department of Roads, the Monday after Thanksgiving:
I had called you earlier this year to ask about the Highway 71 project in the Wildcat Hills, since I frequently ride my bike through there.
I just drove through that area this weekend, and I am sooo pleased to see all that nice, smooth shoulder pavement! I can’t wait to ride over the hills and to the newly-opened cafe/country store on the hilltop in Banner County when the weather is favorable!
I have a question still.I saw that the rumble strips have not yet been installed on the highway. Is it yet possible for Nebraska to emulate Wyoming and use a discontinuous rumble strip?When I rode on Wyoming highways this summer, I loved the fact that the rumble strips were often discontinuous, allowing just enough of a regular break such that a bicyclist on the shoulder could merge out into the traffic lane to avoid an obstacle (such as road debris or a broken-down or emergency vehicle parked on the shoulder) without crossing bone-jarring, spoke-loosening rumble strip. There was still plenty of noisemaker to alert drivers to out-of-lane drift. It would just be “RRR….RRR…RRR” instead of “RRRRRRRRR”.
Can the Highway 71 rumble strip along the outside shoulder be made discontinuous? Is this something the Department of Roads can do on all highway construction projects?
It’s such a small thing, but would make a huge difference to those of us who cycle on the state’s highways.
Two days later, I got this response:
I apologize for talking so long to get back to you. I have been checking with several of our design and safety engineers.
As far as I know, Nebraska has always used a continuous rumble strip.
However, in light of your concerns for cyclists, our standard plan will be modified to give the option for placing a 10’ gap of no rumble strip cuts between each 60’ of rumble strips. I am not sure what the surrounding states patterns are, but this is an option that should be included in future NDOR highway projects. Often, it seems to take much time and effort to change our rules, so I was delighted to see NDOR will try immediately to improve our facilities for our cyclists.
For this project, I have spoken with the contractor installing the rumble strips. We have already placed a mile or more of continuous strips on the south end of the project. They are to return tomorrow and continue installing them. We will meet in the morning and work with them to see if their machine has the capability to do this, as they have never put gaps in Nebraska’s rumble strips.
So, I don’t know if we are accommodating all your requests, but we will try on the Wildcat Hills to place gaps and your opinion can change future NDOR projects.
And just like that, Nebraska got a little better for bicyclists.
Bugman and I have already taken advantage of the gaps in the rumble strip three times this year: once to avoid a car on the shoulder, once to bypass a gravel bar on the shoulder, and once to pass another bicycle.
I can’t say how much I appreciate the Nebraska Department of Roads for enabling their engineers to respond to citizen concerns, and for their engineers for listening and taking action. This is a great example of how government should work.
If only I had thought to make the comment earlier in the design process! Which brings me to this:
Your words make a difference
Watch for opportunities to have conversations with local, state and national leaders about bicycling infrastructure. Right now, the Nebraska Department of Roads is looking for input. Make your voice heard!
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw