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Safe Crossings: streets aren't safe in towns

Posted: 5:58 PM, Jun 01, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-01 23:08:29Z
An effort is underway to make crossing Omaha streets safer.
 
Volunteers with Mode Shift Omaha are getting ideas from the community to make intersections safer for pedestrians and bicycle riders.
 
Many pedestrians and bicyclists in the Benson, Dundee and Blackstone areas say many drivers are not looking out for them, and crossing the streets is dangerous.
 
Bicyclist Gene Ray says he's had more than a few close calls while riding in Benson.
 
"It is terrifying,” Ray said. “Sometimes there are days where I don't want to ride on the street, you get one or two trucks that brush by you so closely. You're scared for your life. I was going to keep a card in my wallet that says 'to the motorist that kills me.' I didn't want to press fate, but really I want them to explain to my family why I'm dead.”
 
Simon Lovell says he feels some of the same fears while on walks in Benson and Dundee.
 
"In that sense, it's a struggle,” Lovell said. “Pedestrians and cyclists are second class citizens to motorists." 
 
Omaha Bicycle Company owner and Mode Shift Omaha Vice Chair Sarah Johnson created the Safe Crossings Campaign to make neighborhoods safer.
 
"It is chaos,” Johnson said. “There's just a ton of high school kids running back and forth all the time, not using the cross walks, not using lights. Cars turn through that intersection kind of really chaotically as well. I saw a three car pileup and that was when I was like 'yeah, we really need to talk about this a little bit more." 
 
The Safe Crossings Campaign is gathering ideas about how streets, sidewalks and crosswalks can be safer.
 
Some of the ideas so far are brightening cross walks, installing pedestrian crossing lights and increasing bike lanes.
 
"To kind of dissect these different intersections that have high crash incidences, and then present them to the city and say, 'hey, we've noticed this, this and this, and maybe could you re-stripe this crosswalk, or this, this and this and maybe this button doesn't work,' that kind of thing,” Johnson said.
Safe Crossings is testing an intersection safety kit it will hand out to volunteers, who will watch intersections identified as dangerous and record issues.
 
Kits will be available by June 15.