Road Diets in Lincoln
The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) recently testified at a City Council hearing on road diets for Lincoln.
We have expressed concern about consultant recommendations to eliminate traffic lanes on many of the streets leading into downtown. One project that received a lot of attention included eliminating two lanes of traffic on 13th Street, heading into and out of downtown. With the rapid growth happening in downtown and the Haymarket area, it does not make sense to make it even more challenging for vehicular traffic to access downtown. Plus, the city is considering even more road diets.
The city claims that the proposed road diet for 13th Street will make it safer for pedestrians, but the Manager of City Traffic Engineering told the Journal Star on August 26 that “Similar projects across the country have actually resulted in traffic volumes increasing.” How does increasing the amount of traffic make 13th Street safer? If a constant line of traffic forms on S. 13th Street, it will be extremely difficult and dangerous for pedestrians to cross traffic.
The City also claims that 13th street is a perfect candidate for a road diet because the current number of vehicles per day on 13th Street can handle fewer lanes, but a 2012 Michigan State University study found that road diets cause drastic traffic delays when a road exceeds just 10,000 cars per day. Sections of 13th Street already see more than 10,000 cars per day.
Traffic will be further slowed by the frequent stops made by the #13 StarTran bus on 13th Street. The #13 bus currently makes 8 stops on the stretch of 13th street that will be reconfigured. Not only will the constant stops made by the #13 bus impede the flow of traffic in the single lane available to vehicular traffic, it will also be dangerous for cyclists, as the buses will have to cross over the proposed bike lanes to reach bus stops.
We also asked the city to provide us data on the number of crashes along the existing two-plus-one south of South Street, but they only provided us crash data from Saratoga Street to Arapahoe Street, omitting the critical area from South Street to Saratoga Street where two lanes merge into a single lane. It is also unfair to compare these two stretches along 13th Street because Lincoln Mall to South Street is nearly a half-mile longer than the stretch from Saratoga Street to Arapahoe Street.
Road diets have been tried and failed across the country in cities large and small. In Gainesville, Phoenix, and Carolina Beach, government bodies were forced to ditch road diets and return to the old configuration after receiving an avalanche of complaints from residents. In Mar Vista, CA, the residents were so upset about a failed road diet that they have begun a petition to recall the city council member who backed the misguided project.
We want to make it clear that LIBA does not oppose new bike lanes. We believe the community should work together to find ways to add safe bike lanes, while preserving existing vehicle traffic lanes. To that end, LIBA is forming a committee of LIBA member cyclists to contribute to the broader community discussion on the Lincoln Bike Plan, which plans to add nearly 120 miles of on-street bike lanes over the next decade, including:
“Separated Bike Lanes” on G, R, 11th & 14th Streets • “Buffered Bike Lanes” on 13th, 16th, 17th, and 21st Streets • “Bike Boulevards” on B, F, L, R, 17th and Sumner Streets.
Again, we do not oppose new bike lanes or trails. We firmly support cycling as a great means of transportation, exercise, and recreation. But the 13th street project is not safe, and it’s not good for the community.
LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community. If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at (402) 466-3419. LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses. We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.
For more information on LIBA, visit Liba.org.