City proposes ordinance to ban people from occupying medians

Posted at 6:47 PM, Sep 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-26 19:47:46-04

The city of Omaha has a plan to clear the medians at some of the city's busiest intersections.  

Today, Mayor Jean Stothert proposed a new ordinance that would ban people from standing on medians for all purposes - not just panhandling but for advertising, political speech and more.

The ordinance will be on the City Council agenda for a first reading October 3rd and would apply to medians that fit certain criteria - those within 200 feet of high traffic intersections, have posted speeds of 30 mph or higher, are narrow (less than 6 feet wide), or are raised.

Kevin Lindberg is among the many panhandlers who dot busy intersections across Omaha.

Now - a push from the city to clear the medians will put a stop to anyone standing in these intersections. 

"There's a lot of people doing it," said Lindberg.

The proposed ordinance would stop ALL people from occupying medians on some busy, high speed intersections.  

"I have seen adults. I've seen children. I've seen people soliciting for charities. I've seen people soliciting for high schools," said Mayor Jean Stothert.

It's modeled after a similar law in Colorado Springs and is in response to safety concerns. While the city of Omaha doesn't have specific data for pedestrians hit at medians within the city, they say a AAA study shows 74 percent of all pedestrian vehicle crashes happen at intersections.  

"I saw a woman not long ago standing in the median closer to my house, one of the medians and she had a small baby on a blanket to her in the median. And to me, that was a real safety risk right there," said Mayor Stothert.

Signs will mark the affected intersections and it doesn't apply to sidewalks or private property.  

"I'm not going to make no money standing on the corner. 95 percent of my money comes from the driver so you have to be on the driver side," said Lindberg.

Those who violate the ordinance face a fine. Lindberg says it's a risk, he's willing to take. 

"I take a risk everyday being homeless. It's hard enough being out here you know," said Lindber.

The ordinance will go through a process of three readings, and if approved, will go into effect 15 days after being passed.