Welp. At least we're not 50th anymore? Holding down the fort at #49 in the new Bicycle Friendly State rankings published today by the League of American Bicyclists, Nebraska obviously has a very long way to go. (tl;dr you can help here)
Perhaps our western Nebraska friends can invite some Wyoming folks to the bar in Henry and give them some advice on how to dwell at the bottom of the list with grace and dignity. Ha.
What's that you say? There isn't even a bar left in Henry? I guess it will be a BYOB situation.
There is some good news here. Nebraska received its highest marks in the two areas where BWN has worked to make an impact: traffic laws/practices and policies/programs. That is gratifying. We are making a difference.
Nebraska scored very high for safety in this particular review - 5th nationally when looking at the number of fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters - but this is misleading. During a discussion about the bicycle friendly state ranking process at the recent National Bike Summit, I pointed out to the group that this particular statistic actually works against us when trying to work with our DOT to set goals related to improving safety for people who bike. It doesn't give us ground to stand on to ask for resources to be dedicated to creating a bicycle fatality emphasis in the state safety plan when we (thankfully) sometimes go a year without having a fatality. The near misses and non-fatal crashes of all level of severity get ignored when looking at safety through the lens of fatalities per 10,000 bicycle commuters. And of course, when your state is so unfriendly to bicycles, people are not exactly feeling encouraged to get out there in the first place. (See: chicken and egg, et.al.)
Following the last state report card, we worked with the Nebraska Department of Transportation to form an Active Transportation Committee and we started making some good steps forward. Unfortunately, COVID interrupted that momentum and we are working to jump start that effort. We need to see systemic change in Nebraska, starting with a formal complete streets policy for state roads within municipal boundaries.
Perhaps we've buried the lead here, but Bike Walk Nebraska cannot do this work without your help. Grants for specific projects have come our way, but these grants do not fund the routine day to day work it takes to advocate for change to the systems that will make it safer and more enjoyable to ride a bicycle in Nebraska. You can donate to the cause and/or become a member by visiting our website here.
Let's all take a deep breath and keep going. We have a lot of work to do. You can find more information, including how our peer states rank, by visiting the League of American Bicyclists announcement here.