Olsson Associates

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Protected bike lane still on track

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Linda Van Hoosen, Communications

It’s been a long time coming. After two years of planning, discussing, and designing, the N Street Protected Bikeway in Lincoln, Nebraska, will become reality by the end of next year. Olsson Associates was brought into the project in the winter of 2012. However, the idea of a protected bike lane for downtown Lincoln came about in early 2012.

City officials say the protected bike lane is a critical link to the city’s large trail network. It will provide the east/west link across downtown Lincoln and connect downtown businesses, the Haymarket area, Pinnacle Bank Arena, and the University of Nebraska. The N Street Protected Bikeway will be a two-way bike lane that is, as the name indicates, “protected” with medians, planters, and on-street parking. It will stretch along the N Street corridor from 7th Street near Arena Drive to 23rd Street at Antelope Valley. It’s protected by a physical barrier that separates cyclists from motorized vehicles.

Timing is everything

In March of 2012, a Portland-based consultant unveiled a downtown master plan that included the nearly 2-mile protected bike lane. About four months later, the Lincoln City Council voted in favor of the plan that included the N Street Protected Bikeway.

In December 2012, the city selected the team of Alta Planning & Design and Olsson to develop a conceptual plan and complete final design for the protected bikeway.

“We’re very excited to provide our services to make this project a reality,” said Olsson Project Manager Justin Petersen. “It’s a good project for Lincoln and it’s definitely the first one of its kind here. It’s a coastal concept that has made its way to the Midwest.”

There were a few bumps on the path before the concept plan was approved. Those who opposed the project voiced concerns about losing on-street parking to the bike lane. One Lincoln business group also suggested that the city wait until the Pinnacle Bank Arena was operating so city engineers could see how traffic moved in the area.

Attracting bicyclists

Those in favor of the project, including Lincoln’s mayor, say the protected bike lane will not only attract more young professionals to downtown Lincoln, but it will also encourage families to bike downtown and visit businesses.

“The whole purpose of the bike lane is that it creates a comfort level for a different kind of rider on a downtown street,” Justin said. “It’s to get more people to feel comfortable riding their bikes to downtown businesses. There’s the type of bicycle riders who are going to be confident getting in traffic lanes. But there’s a large population, such as families, who might also want to visit downtown on bikes. This will now give them increased security getting into the downtown area.”

The total cost of the project is estimated at $3.4 million. The funding comes via private and public dollars. Part of the funding is in the form of a grant and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money. Last September, PeopleForBikes awarded a $10,000 grant to help pay for the bike lane. The Great Plains Trails Network and the Nebraska Trails Foundation have raised more than $260,000 of their $340,000 commitment to assist the city with the cost of the project. The project also received money from local watershed management funds, more than half a million dollars in TIF from new developments, and funding from other local sources.

Justin said construction is expected to begin this spring and will be completed by late fall.

Please click here to see the N Street Protected Bikeway map.

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