We kicked off our Omaha Safe Crossings campaign this past June and have been piloting an intersection assessment tool that volunteers can use to record data over one hour at intersections in the Omaha area.
We’re grateful for the several people* who have used the tool to gather data, including at key intersections shown to be dangerous for people bicycling or walking in the past. Intersections where data has been gathered so far include: 18 & Vinton, 72 & Maple, 72 & Cass, 72 & Dodge, 76 & Western, Saddle Creek & Farnam, Raynor Parkway & Papio Trail, and Leavenworth & Happy Hollow.
Some key data points from the assessments include:
- People crossing the street often have to wait quite a while before they get a walk signal after pushing the button—more than two minutes at 72 & Maple; at other intersections where there were signals, about 30-60 seconds. Only one of the signals (at 72 & Dodge) was audible, posing a significant challenge for people crossing who are blind or visually-impaired. If an intersection did have a walk signal, it was working and all intersections had ADA ramps.
- Only two intersections had a painted line or stop bar indicating where cars should stop at the intersection and only two had clearly marked crosswalks. Two other intersections had faded crosswalks and the rest had no markings.
- Nearly 15,000 cars passed through these intersections during the hour-long count times. A lot of these cars made right turns, often illegally (at least 85 noted) and without stopping or turning right when signs indicate that it is not allowed (such as during 3-4 pm at Leavenworth & Happy Hollow). At least 73 cars stopped in crosswalks, many of the same people making a right turn. At some intersections, there were just too many of these offenses to count.
- At least 31 people driving cars also ran through red lights or through stop signs, one observed right outside an elementary school.
- At least 16 people driving cars failed to yield to people walking across the street.
- There were more than 200 people observed talking on the phone, texting, drinking or doing other tasks while driving. These and other forms of distracted driving were difficult to count because of the speed of cars going through the intersection and because of tinted windows.
- More than 250 people were walking and 25 were on bikes crossing at these intersections; foot traffic was heaviest at Saddle Creek & Farnam, 76 & Western, and 18 & Vinton. Three people on bikes went through a stop light or stop sign and 11 rode on the sidewalk (which is legal in the areas assessed but not necessarily very safe). No person on a bike failed to yield to a person walking. At least 24 people crossing on foot did so at mid-block (18 of these on Vinton where there is no cross signal nor crosswalk markings) and three people were observed crossing against the light.
Some other lessons learned from this process have been:
- It is really difficult to gather all of the data we’d like for these intersections. Counting cars alone is pretty challenging, let alone also keeping watch for the infractions and distractions that make things dangerous for people walking or biking.
- Those who have collected data also note that being present at the intersection in and of itself seems to have the effect of causing people to change their behavior (seemingly for the better).
Our next steps are to work on trying to improve the assessment tool to make counting and observations easier and more feasible and reliable, and also possibly try to reduce the time needed to do the counts. The awesome Jenn Kephart is going to be focusing on this campaign as part of her Master’s capstone project, so stay tuned for more updates soon.
In the meantime, we’d appreciate any additional data you can gather at an intersection of your choosing. Download the assessment form, and grab a pen/pencil (and a friend if you can) and observe an intersection near you or choose one from among the recommended intersections on the form. Thank you!
*Big thanks to Cindy, Clyde, Curtis, Ryan, and Timothy for doing intersection assessments!