“Happy bike corral day,” a customer shouted inside the Omaha Bicycle Co. on Tuesday.
Just outside the bike repair and coffee shop in Benson, a crew installed the city's first bike corral near Maple Street and 60th Avenue.
The corral, made up of several bike racks, is an on-street parking option for cyclists. It's part of local bike enthusiasts' efforts to make Benson more bike-friendly.
There are plans to install more bike racks near popular destinations in Benson, and soon the area will house a self-serve bike repair station for minor adjustments. Several area businesses even offer discounts to cyclists to promote biking.
Carlos Morales, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the city, called the bike corral a pilot program.
“Let's try it out, see how it works,” he said. “If it works and we can implement it citywide, we will.”
The corral houses 12 bikes comfortably and took the place of one parking stall in front of Sarah Johnson's Omaha Bicycle Co. The corral is marked with reflective tape to boost visibility. Two streets signs surrounding the corral designate the area as bike parking.
The city already owned the racks but was not using them. Morales estimated the project cost a couple thousand dollars. “It's relatively inexpensive for what we're trying to achieve,” he said.
Benson store owners support cyclists because they can help boost business, Johnson said. She added that people who bike are more likely than someone in a car to stop at a shop they notice in passing. To that end, several area businesses are offering incentives to encourage biking.
Jake's Cigars & Spirits rewards cyclists with $1 off tap beers and $3 New Belgium Shift tallboys. At Taita seafood restaurant, they'll knock $1 off a sushi roll. Premier Physical Therapy at 60th and Maple Streets offers bike parking and water bottle refills for clients. Jane's Health Market offers bike parking and gives cyclists 10 percent off any purchase.
Johnson said everyone who bikes to the stores opens up space for drivers. That allows businesses to serve more people. The bike corral, for example, theoretically frees up 12 parking spaces.
Bicycle parking options will continue to expand in Benson. The city hopes to install eight more bike racks by the end of the year in the neighborhood, which is considered a “high-demand” location, said Morales, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. There are currently 25 individual bike racks near 11 Benson businesses.
Occasionally, cyclists wheel their bikes into shops or chain them to benches or street signs when there isn't a bike rack nearby – a tactic Jacob Isom sometimes resorts to.
He frequently rides to Benson and said more bike parking is essential to making cyclists feel welcome.
“Most people that ride their bikes love them...You've got to protect your baby,” the 26-year-old said from inside Omaha Bicycle Co. where he stopped for a coffee.
You have to keep it in working order, too, said Kurt Goetzinger, a cyclist and president of the Benson Business Association. He approached the BBA board about funding a local Fixit station and received a unanimous yes.
The stand, scheduled to debut this month, will allow cyclists to adjust their brakes, change a flat tire or make other minor repairs.
Goetzinger, who has lived in Benson since the mid-70s, has noticed “a huge surge” in cycling in the last three to five years.
“We're starting to get back to that culture of using our feet to get us around,” he said.
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