The City of Omaha could have helped avoid controversy around removal of the Benson bike corral by simply reaching out to the community beforehand, some members of a mayor’s advisory committee said Thursday.
Mayor Jean Stothert’s Active Living Advisory Committee advises the mayor on such issues as healthy lifestyles, biking and pedestrian problems.
Thursday, the bike corral came under the committee’s purview, as the mayor sat in on the meeting.
The corral was the first and only one of its kind in Omaha. It took up a single parking spot outside the Omaha Bicycle Co. in Benson, but the shop went out of business. In December, the city removed the on-street bike rack without notice, angering local bicyclists.
Assistant Public Works Department Director Todd Pfitzer, who ordered the removal, equated the bike corral decision to creating a handicapped parking spot or a freight loading zone on a street or changing a food truck parking location.
Those come up in regular meetings of city officials on parking issues, Pfitzer said. “I don’t reach out to the community on any of those.”
But Ben Turner, a local bike advocate and an advisory committee member, said the city couldn’t just remove the bike corral and assume no one would care.
“It’s been there six years,” he said.
Andy Wessel, a committee member who works with the Douglas County Health Department, said he was surprised that the city didn’t run the removal past the committee. Wessel said the city would have done better by reaching out beforehand to the committee, the bicycling community and the Benson Business Improvement District.
Stothert defended the city not seeking input, saying, “A lot of issues come up with the city all the time.”
Stothert also chided cycling advocates who protested the corral’s removal, saying they should “do something productive” by bringing their concerns to the committee.
A handful of corral supporters did attend Thursday’s meeting out of concern over the issue. They weren’t allowed to speak .
Asked about that afterward, Stothert said it wasn’t her meeting to run and wasn’t a public meeting under open meetings laws.
Sarah Johnson, who owned the Benson bike shop, responded to The World-Herald: “I think that public meetings without time allotted for public input are hilarious.”
The committee’s chairman, Mark Stursma, said he asked that the issue be placed on the group’s meeting agenda. Stursma, who is the planning director for the City of Papillion, said the meeting was not the forum to debate who’s right and who’s wrong on the issue.
Before the meeting, Stothert also said the bike corral is not coming back. She told The World-Herald: “It’s not a matter of if we’re going to put it back in. We’re not going to put it back in. That’s the long and short of it.”
Johnson said the issue now is the way the city chooses to work against its citizens.
She said the city didn’t understand the symbolism behind the bike corral and its unique place in Omaha.
“We could be working together,” she said. “This does not need to be a fight.”
World-Herald staff writer Aaron Sanderford contributed to this report.
Photos: The Omaha World-Herald's best images of 2019
Canada geese fly over Flanagan Lake at sunset in Omaha, Nebraska.
Director and CEO of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Dennis Pate, speaks to the media about newly hatched gentoo penguin chicks before they enter their habitat in the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Creighton players huddle up prior to a college basketball game against Georgetown at the CHI Health Center.
Charles Relford waits to pick up his brother at 24th and Pratt Streets with his three dogs.
Two-year-old Hannah Bonnot of Denver, Colorado, stands in awe before “Mountain Outlaw” taken at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, on display at Tom Mangelsen’s “Life in the Wild” exhibition at the Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.
High School football players from Nebraska and Iowa who have been selected as the Omaha World-Herald's Super Six pose for a portrait at the boxing arena located at Camp Ashland in Ashland, Nebraska.
Bellevue West teammates, from left, CJ Lilienkamp and Devin Mills make snow angels as they celebrate their Class A state title win over Westside.
Craig Bachmann throws a training dummy for his dog, Bedlam, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, to retrieve at Standing Bear Lake in Omaha, Nebraska. Bachmann said he was doing some obedience work with Bedlam as well as some lining drills.
Seventh-grade students from Nathan Hale Middle School are reflected in a The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club a portrait by Rashid Johnson while touring 30 Americans, an exhibition from the Rubell Family Collection at the Joslyn Art Museum.
Water covers a road near Valley, Nebraska, on Friday, March 15.
Joe Zavadil, 14, of Omaha, leaps to a lower level of berm seating during the Class B girls state soccer championship game.
Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera signed autographs for fans prior to a Major League Baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at TD Ameritrade Park.
Jim Linafelter of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, and other Husker fans celebrate a third-down stop for Nebraska’s defense against Northern Illinois.
The Westside Warriors take the field through fog and a banner before a high school football game against Creighton Prep.
Tow truck drivers work on trying to get a semi truck out of a ditch after it turned over on Highway 20 in north central Nebraska during a blizzard.
Arizona State's Jack Judson checks University of Nebraska at Omaha's Chayse Primeau into the boards at Baxter Arena.
A bike is revealed in the mud below the 13th Street bridge in the Gene Leahy Mall after the water was pumped out of it during renovation work.
Omaha South’s Ukash Weliyo, right, gets a hug from his mother Halima Mohamed after the Packers defeated Omaha Creighton Prep during the Class A boys state soccer final game at Morrison Stadium.
Louisville’s Nick Bennett writes in the dirt before a game against Mississippi State in the College World Series.
Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum reacts after losing to Louisville in a walk-off during game 10 of the College World Series.
Juno, a dog belonging to professional dog trainer and hunting guide Aleah German, has a collar adorned with shotgun shell caps.
The moon rises over the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in the early morning hours.
A cat looks up at Jill Tafoya after she revived it in the back of an ambulance after the cat was rescued from a fire.
An allosaurus appears to be eyeing a tasty, 19-month-old morsel named Austin Haseltine as he is lifted from the shoulders of his grandpa, Greg Fasano, by his mother, Amy Haseltine, with his father, Jim Haseltine looking on.
Horses belonging to Faye Etherington of Fremont that were being boarded in Inglewood, Nebraska, are brought into Fremont through floodwater on Highway 77.
Millard West's Corbin Hawkins waits out a rain delay in the dugout.
Looking back at the floodwater below the Broad Street viaduct are from left, Calvin Schmidt, 6, Paul Schmidt, their dad and Avery Schmidt, 7, in Fremont, Nebraska.
Auburn’s Rankin Woley slid into the fence while catching a foul ball for an out during a College World Series game.
An angel statuary sits in a flooded yard in the Hanson Lakes area in Bellevue.
A farmer drives his combine to unload soybeans for transport near Ceresco, Nebraska.
The Millard South Majorettes practice their halftime routine.
Xiang Fang, right, and his son Ethan, 10, walk along the shoreline at Chalco Hills Recreation Area in Omaha, Nebraska.
Businesses on the southwest side of Hamburg, Iowa, were flooded from the waters of the Missouri River.
Kayla Thege, left, and Mark Batt hang out with their dog, Maia, during a Storm Chasers baseball game.