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Curbing accidents: new ordinance prohibits panhandling on major roadways

Jun 02, 2017 10:11AM ● Published by Travis Barton

The West Valley City Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that prohibits auto-pedestrian exchanges of property within 10 feet of high-volume roadways. (Pixabay)

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com
 
In an effort to curtail accidents on major roadways in West Valley City, the city council voted to pass an ordinance prohibiting auto-pedestrian exchanges of money or goods within 10 feet of what the city deemed “high-volume roadways.”
 
Streets considered high volume by the city are 3300 and 3500 South, 2700 West, 5600 West and Redwood Road.
 
“The idea is to curb transactions and unpredictable car stops,” City Attorney Brandon Hill told the city council during its April 11 study meeting.
 
Hill said traffic accidents have increased 33 percent over the previous two years with 213 auto-pedestrian collisions occurring in the last three years.
 
“For pedestrians, that’s fatal territory,” Hill said.
 
Based on research done by the city and data collected by the police department, they found almost half the accidents transpire on the city’s high-volume streets.
 
Hill said they found this data is in accordance with UDOT data that suggests heavily trafficked areas have higher accident rates and more severe collisions.
 
He indicated that the primary causes for these accidents and collisions were the heavy traffic, cars frequently stopping and interaction between pedestrians and vehicles.
 
With the major roadways having speeds of 35 to 45 mph, and the severity of these collisions between vehicles or people being dangerous, the ordinance focused on these streets. Hill said if numbers begin to rise with other streets then they can adjust accordingly.
 
“We’re not treating this as a final point with this ordinance,” he said.  
 
Bangerter Highway was not included in the ordinance do to the limited number of entryways onto the street.
 
The ordinance doesn’t remove panhandler’s ability for free speech—holding a sign asking for help—but it focuses on the person’s conduct rather than their content.
 
“We don’t want people walking out into these streets, we don’t want cars making unexpected stops. We want to protect people and people’s freedom of speech, so the focus is on conduct,” Hill said.
 
Both panhandler and driver would be in violation if goods were exchanged, but Hill said people will first receive warnings until word spreads and people are informed.
 
The ordinance references Pembroke Pines, Fla. as an example where exchanges like these have contributed to auto-pedestrian collisions.
 
The focus, Mayor Ron Bigelow pointed out, was the streets and not the people. Transactions that might take place on sidewalks between two people would be legal.
 
“Because it does not have any safety impact on vehicles or pedestrians,” Bigelow confirmed.
 
Hill said it there would be no problem if someone driving decided to exit the road and then give someone money or food.
 
The city council vote was unanimous with no dissenting comments from the public.
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