We’ve all experienced it. You’re trying to cross the street, and a car stops right in your way. You thought you’d be able to cross in the relative comfort of a marked crosswalk, but instead, you’re forced further out into the intersection to make it around the vehicle. It’s a frustrating situation. It’s also illegal.
According to state law, people are not allowed to “stop, stand, or park a vehicle … on a crosswalk.”
Omaha’s municipal code says the same thing, almost word-for-word.
So, why are people blocking crosswalks? There are undoubtedly a number of reasons, but one stands out as surprising and easily preventable: the design of the intersection incentivizes people to stop their vehicles directly on the crosswalk by placing the sensor for the traffic signal there. If drivers want the light to change, they actually need to park on the crosswalk for the sensor to register that their vehicles are there.
If you want to know more about how the induction loop sensors work, you can find information here, but for our purposes it’s just helpful to know what they look like. If you see a cut in the pavement that looks like the diagram below, it’s most likely a sensor for a traffic signal.
Once you recognize them, you’ll see them everywhere. Unfortunately, in Omaha they are often in the middle of crosswalks.
Here’s an example of one at Happy Hollow and Leavenworth…
…and another at 40th and Cuming…
…and one more at 52nd and NW Radial.
This is a ridiculous and unsafe practice that defeats the purpose of marking a crosswalk. Let’s phase it out. We can do better.