About 150 bicyclists joined the mayors of Bellevue and Omaha Monday night to officially open the new bicycle lanes on Fort Crook Road.
In a ceremony held in front of the Marathon Ventures headquarters, Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders told the gathering that the bicycle lanes are about alternative transportation and sharing the streets.
“It’s about transportation, commuting, and enjoyable rides to work, and rides to recreation,” she said. “We want to make sure that we share the road. If you’re the tractor on the road, or the bus, or the car, the semi or the bicycle, we share the road.”
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, who praised the bike lanes for providing a new connection between Bellevue and Omaha, said commuting to work by bicycle is becoming more common.
“This route will connect Bellevue to Omaha on 13th and on 24th Street and moves Omaha closer to a network of bike lanes that provides our communities with transportation choices,” she said. “The Fort Crook project is in line with many of our shared goals, enhanced mobility, health and safety, environment and connecting neighborhoods.”
Stothert said bike lanes also enhance economic development because modern companies increasingly want their employees to have the option of bicycling to work.
“Businesses and employers look at transportation and recreation when they make an investment in a city,” she said.
With the new transportation mode comes challenges, Bellevue Public Works Director Jeff Roberts said.
He said he has received positive and negative reaction about the bike lanes, though enthusiasm has generally outweighed criticism.
The rules, he said, are few, with the chief requirement being watchfulness on the part of motorists and bicyclists.
Roberts said the bike lanes are considered a multimodel option, so people may bicycle or walk. Helmets are not required, although they are recommended.
Bicycle traffic must travel in the same direction as vehicular traffic and must observe all traffic laws and signals, including obeying traffic lights. Roberts said the requirement to follow the direction of vehicular traffic is marked on the road at regular intervals.
People might assume that walking along such a busy thoroughfare would be prohibited, but Roberts said that is not the case.
“Walking is allowed,” he said. “I don’t know that it would be the wisest thing to do, but I see people walking on it already.”
He said bicycles equipped with small motors will be required to use Fort Crook Road if the horse power requires them to secure a license. Bicycles with motors that do not require a license will be allowed to use the bike lanes.
Motorists, too, will be called on to play a part in making sure that safety is maintained, Roberts said.
The reduction of vehicular traffic from six lanes to four is likely to improve driver awareness, he said, as more concentration will be needed and speeds will likely be slower.
“They’re going to have to pay more attention,” Roberts said. “Nobody really pays attention, you just go flying down Fort Crook, but now that it’s shrunk up it makes people more cautious.”
Roberts said the lanes are painted to guide motorists. As drivers approach an intersection unbroken white lines changes to white dashes, which are an instruction to drivers – and a warning to bicyclists – that cars may enter the lane in order to make a turn.
If bicyclists and motorists exercise special caution when crossing the dashed lines, things should work out, he said.
“I think it will be good,” Roberts said.