Transportation and Telecommunications

Grants for bike-sharing programs considered

The state would provide grants to nonprofit organizations that operate bike-sharing programs under a bill heard Feb. 5 by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

Sen. John Cavanaugh
Sen. John Cavanaugh

Under LB1250, introduced by Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh, the state Department of Economic Development would establish the grant program and award grants to nonprofits it deems eligible.

The bill states legislative intent to appropriate $250,000 in general funds to the department to establish the program.

Cavanaugh said expanding bike-sharing programs would help the state attract more young professionals.

“Younger people want to have active transit — they want to have other options,” he said. “This is an economic development tool, not just recreation and transportation.”

Benny Foltz testified in support of the bill on behalf of Roam Share, a nonprofit that operates or partners with bike-sharing programs in Lincoln, Omaha and Valentine. He said the programs have evolved from a fun activity to a valid form of public transportation.

Many rural Nebraska communities have expressed interest in installing bike-sharing stations, Foltz said, but additional funding is needed to expand the programs across the state.

Also in support was Julie Harris of Bike Walk Nebraska. She said bike-sharing programs benefit communities by offering a low-cost transportation option to those without regular access to a car, providing recreational opportunities for residents and visitors and alleviating parking congestion in busy areas.

Elizabeth Elliott, director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, also testified in support of LB1250. She said bike-sharing programs help commuters complete the first- or last-mile segments of their journey from a public transit station to their home or destination.

The economic benefits of bike-sharing programs “cannot be overstated,” Elliott added.

“As we strive to retain and attract talent, particularly among the vibrant and dynamic millennial demographic,” she said, “embracing bike share aligns seamlessly with the governor’s efforts to end the brain drain.”

Also in support was Austin Rowser, assistant director of public works for the city of Omaha. He said additional funding would help fill gaps in Omaha’s Heartland Bike Share network, connecting it to neighboring communities including Ralston and La Vista.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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