As advocates for safe and accessible walking and biking, we have seen the inadvertent negative impacts that legislation can have on the safety of Nebraska residents who depend on safe infrastructure for transportation, health and recreation.
Bike Walk Nebraska would like to express our support for LB 39, which would require disability impact statements for certain legislation.
We don’t need to look far to find a good example of how a disability impact statement could have prevented a problem that has yet to be solved. The Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act (LB 184) introduced in the 2019-2020 legislative session brought forth with the good intention to “expand coverage and deliver the benefits of emerging technologies in wireless communications, improve public safety, create jobs, and assist businesses and schools remain competitive in a global economy.”
"This is just one example of how safe mobility options for disabled Nebraskans can be unintentionally impacted by otherwise well meaning legislation."
The unintentional result of the language adopted created a situation where a new utility pole for small cell wireless equipment was installed in the middle of a sidewalk in Omaha. A significant amount of time was spent by the City of Omaha, state officials, the wireless carrier and state senator John Cavanaugh (in whose district this occurred) trying to untangle how this ridiculous mistake could have happened and who was responsible. We are not aware of any consensus that was found in trying to answer this question.
Ultimately, the situation resulted in the need for Senator Cavanaugh to introduce legislation (LB 139) this session that clarifies the statute:
(10)(a) An authority shall, prior to installation of any new or modified utility pole in a right-of-way, determine whether such installation:
(i) Complies with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 19 1990 and the federal regulations adopted in response to such act, as such act and regulations existed on January 1, 2023;
(ii) Does not obstruct or hinder usual travel or public safety in or on such right-of-way; and (iii) Does not obstruct the legal use of such right-of-way by any utility or impede the safe operation of such utility's system or provision of its service.
"We assure you that the amount of time and resources expended to develop a disability impact statement in 2019 for LB 184 would certainly have been far less than what was expended by city and state officials as a result of the pole."
This is just one example of how safe mobility options for disabled Nebraskans can be unintentionally impacted by otherwise well meaning legislation. The disability impact statement could have identified the loophole and provided an opportunity to amend the original language of LB 184, ultimately preventing the problem of the pole in the middle of the sidewalk in the first place.
I can assure you that the amount of time and resources expended to develop a disability impact statement in 2019 for LB 184 would certainly have been far less than what was expended by city and state officials as a result of the pole.
The 2023 legislative session in Nebraska kicked off on January 4th and over 750 bills were introduced.
We'll also be working with the Natural Resources Committee and Appropriations Committee to shape the funding for trail maintenance and are on the lookout for any legislation that could benefit or adversely impact biking and walking.