Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oh, the Media!

Some day in Omaha...

There's a lot of buzz about bikes in Omaha these days, and for better or worse, I've been a part of it. Between all the newspaper articles, radio spots, and now tv spots it's all over the place!  At times, it's been quite a challenge to keep my head on straight, particularly when crazy radio personalities are absolutely lying to their listeners. 

One such incident , on KFAB, really got me riled up!  Poor, ignorant Scott Voorhees; what a buffoon!  I was only able to listen to it for a moment or two before I had to call in and try to talk some sense into the fear-mongering idiot.  That's right, I called him an idiot.  Listen to him smashing apart Omaha's City Planning Department starting around the 9 minute mark and you'll see what I mean.  I think the point when I finally got on air was around the 28 minute mark and I realllllly had a hard time not calling him out on his blatant disregard for reality.  Oh well, kind of fun.  Sort of made me reminisce about my encounter with good ol' Tom Becka several months ago.  Blog post on that around the end of December if you feel like reading about that one.

Then, just this morning on KETV there was the morning "Chronicle" which featured the Transportation Master Plan and cycling in our city as the feature.  In case you missed it, here it is.  I really hated the fact that the segment starts out with Rob framing the conversation in a negative light by saying that cyclists will create an obstacle course on your daily commute.  As we all know, it's all in how the media portrays news and not just necessarily what that news really is.  The news, in my opinion, is this: cycling is taking off in Omaha!  Finally!  And it's turning into a polarizing subject.  Which sucks.

I've also been asked to do a guest blog for  I submitted a little write up and we'll see what they do with it.  I'd guess maybe nothing as I tend to be overly opinionated.  I think it would do better here:

"I am not Lance Armstrong.  So, to the gentleman who buzzed by me in his Hyundai yelling, “Get on the sidewalk, Lance” I’d like to make that clear.  I am Sarah Johnson and I live, work, and ride my bicycle in Omaha.  That’s right; I ride a bicycle in the streets of Omaha and so far, I’ve lived to tell about it.  
Right now, you’re probably deciding where you stand on this hot button issue: do you choose to share the road with other users (of all sorts) or do you prefer to harass them and make them feel unwelcome on “your” street?  I don’t like that this is such a polarizing issue these days but with the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) in the works, and about to go to City Council, everyone seems to have an opinion.  This is good…if you’re actually getting all of the facts, and not just emotions to form your opinion. Mine is this: we really can all get along; there is room for everyone.

Part of what I think people aren’t looking at, is the fact that this is a Transportation Master Plan.  Not a Bicycle Master Plan. Not an Automobile Master Plan.  But instead, something that takes both of those modes and more, into consideration and looks at how we can all coexist, safely.  I’m proud that Omaha is growing up as a City, but part of those growing pains requires evolving into a city that can support people moving about efficiently in a manner that they choose.  Right now, a lot of people would say that is in their personal vehicle.  If you look at really any other city where transportation choice has been implemented, you’ll see full buses instead of empty ones, smiling people on bicycles in bike lanes instead of cyclists fearing for their safety, and people of all ages walking down the street getting from point A to B. What you won’t see is a city without cars.  So don’t worry!  Part of having choice, is being able to choose to drive your car.  By yourself.  Don’t even carpool.  No one is forcing you.  

There seems to be an unfortunate amount of fear mongering going on around this issue: “The City is trying to take your car keys away and force you to ride your bike” is one ridiculous comment I heard this week coming from the mouth of a radio personality.  Granted, his job is to stir things up, but if we’re intelligent enough to see past this and imagine a slight change that involves new infrastructure to support choice in transportation, everyone will win.  There will be less congestion, not more because transportation is really about moving people, not just cars.

One way that you can get informed, have fun, and make a difference is coming right up!  Tuesday, May 1st from 5pm-dark there is a transportation celebration, and you should be there.  This Heyday on May Day takes place between 26th and 24th Streets on Harney where you’ll find hundreds of people who are interested in getting around our city.  This Mode Shift Omaha/City of Omaha co-sponsored event will include: food trucks, cycling groups, Trugs, music, a photo booth, group bike rides meeting around the city and arriving together at the Heyday, an alley cat bike race, and most importantly the City Planning Department will give a presentation about the TMP at 6:30pm.  This is an event unlike any Omaha has seen and we’re excited to imagine the possibilities together.  To show some of what is possible and in the plan for Harney Street, or Market to Midtown Connector, we’re shutting down the two north lanes of Harney and spray chalking in bike lanes complete with a tree lined separation from vehicle traffic. "

The sign is up already!
Between ModeShift Omaha and a lot of good information is getting spread around.  It may be biased (towards choices and safer cycling) but it's not full of lies, propaganda, and fear tactics.  Read up and we'll see you on Tuesday at the Heyday on May Day!!  

 Hope to see you on the road, riding safely and courteously, of course!



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