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Although it’s been available for use since December, the N Street Cycle Track officially opened on Saturday morning as part of Earth Day celebrations.

The protected bike path, which stretches from the Haymarket to the Antelope Valley trails, is the first of its kind in Nebraska, according to Lincoln’s Bicycle Advisory Committee chair Gary Bentrup. Marked by neon green paint, the section separates cyclists from vehicles by a concrete median; cyclists also have their own stoplight.

Bentrup said he has watched other cities like Minneapolis and Denver install protected bike lanes and knew that there were plenty of cyclists here who wanted a similar model. Specifically, families with younger children, he said, wanted a way to navigate the downtown area and get to places like the Lincoln Children’s Museum and the Haymarket safely.

Bentrup thinks because this new addition is so unique to the region, the path will act as a model for other nearby cities who are looking to transition into being more bicycle-friendly.

“I think other cities are going to see this and I know Des Moines is talking about doing something like this, and even Kansas City is,” he said. “I think they’re going to be looking to Lincoln and seeing how this goes.”

He also sees potential for adding more bike paths in Lincoln, but possibly different types than the one built on N Street. That path, Bentrup said, was fairly expensive due to the extensive landscaping that was done to add visual appeal. Take away the plants and it’s a much cheaper renovation.

“There’s a lot of variety of ways of doing protected bike lanes, and this one is pretty Cadillac,” he said.

So far, Bentrup has heard of a few occasions of drivers confusing the bike path for a turn lane; one incident caused $15,000 worth of damage to the median, and significant damage to the car. The city has put in “candlestick” pillars on the median to help prevent any further confusion.

Another flaw, Bentrup said, is the length of the bicycle stop lights, which are not the same as vehicle traffic signals.

Sensors beneath the concrete that detect cyclists were not installed properly causing lights to cycle from green to yellow to red too quickly. Solving this problem is still a work in progress.

Bentrup said Lincoln is moving toward being a more modern city with downtown growth and being more connected. The N Street Cycle Track accomplishes just that while promoting a more sustainable lifestyle.

“These features are really what growing cities are doing,” he said. “Creating a quality of life that millennials and tech companies and businesses can identify with and say that they like.”

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