Rita Sanders has already heard from several Bellevue residents who are upset that bike lanes along Fort Crook Road will be gone soon.
The former mayor, who served from 2010 to 2018, said she was disappointed when she heard the bike lanes will be removed.
About 150 riders joined Sanders and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert in front of Marathon Ventures for a ceremonial first ride when the bike lanes debuted in July 2013.
They heralded the bike lanes as a forward-thinking way for all modes of transportation to share the road, but low ridership has led critics to note the bikes lanes were unnecessary.
“I don’t think we were ahead of ourselves,” Sanders said. “If you don’t build it they won’t come. I think if we want to stay ahead of economic development, economic development has to look to the future.”
Sanders pointed to the Phoenix area and the state of Hawaii as evidence bike lanes can be a successful mode of transportation.
There is a large biking community in the Bellevue area, Sanders said, many of whom bike to Offutt Air Force Base.
“There has to be a better solution,” she said. “It is all about sharing the road and right now the majority of those that travel on the road are cars, but we also have to take a look at alternate transportation as well.”
Sanders said she pushed for bike lanes because she was a board member for the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency at the time and there were federal dollars available.
The bike lanes cost $300,000, according to information provided by Bellevue City Administrator Jim Ristow, $250,000 of which came from the grant money, and reduced Fort Crook Road from six lanes of traffic to four lanes between Chandler Road and Capehart Road.
“If we didn’t grab the money and say let’s propose it for Bellevue, someone else would have and then I probably would’ve caught heck for not trying to take that money because we do have a large cycling community in Bellevue,” she said.
It will cost about $20,000 to remove the lanes, Ristow said.
While she was disappointed, Sanders said she has heard of a master plan that is in the works for Fort Crook Road that will include bike lanes. If the corridor is redeveloped, bike lanes are incorporated into those plans and if the road is overall more shareable and safer, she said, it could be good thing in the long run.
“I think it was important to participate in the future and to show that we’re forward thinking, and we certainly gave it a try,” Sanders said.