Albuquerque city councilors propose median safety ordinance

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two Albuquerque city councilors — Brook Bassan and Issac Benton — are working on a new pedestrian safety ordinance permitting anyone from certain kinds of medians.

Ultimately, this will also end up restricting panhandling in some sort of way.

The city has gone down this road before. They specifically targeted panhandling in the past and then, when they were challenged in federal court about the constitutionality, they lost.

So here’s how it could become illegal to stand in medians for everyone:

“It is unlawful for any person to stand in any travel lane of a street, highway, or controlled access roadway or in any travel lane of the exit of entrance ramps thereto, or to otherwise enter a travel lane of a street, highway, or controlled access roadway or in any travel lane of the exit of entrance ramps thereto, except for the purpose of legally crossing … It is unlawful for any person to access, use, occupy, congregate or assemble on any median that is located on any roadway with a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and that does not possess a flat area of at least four feet (4’) in diameter,” according to the bill.

If you’re caught doing any of this, APD and the Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) can give warnings, or you can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined a $100 citation.

Mayor Tim Keller’s office gave KOB 4 the following statement:

 “Medians are constructed to manage traffic flow, and narrow medians on high-speed roads are simply not safe places for anyone to stand.  We have to protect pedestrians and drivers with common-sense regulations. The City carefully evaluated the Tenth Circuit opinion and sought to address the specific concerns identified by the Court.  Most significantly, the City limited the scope of the new ordinance. The ordinance only prohibits people from standing on dangerous medians that are four feet or narrower.  This change is designed to protect both pedestrians and the traveling public, while also allowing for protected speech.”

But as we know, there is a group that challenged the previous bill — the ACLU; they’re always looking for any sort of constitutional violation. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque and its original bill a few years ago, which is in turn how the federal court found it unconstitutional. 

Right now, ACLU is still looking over the bill and its entirety before commenting. They shared this statement:

“We are still analyzing the bill and the City’s actions for consistency with the Court’s order and how the city council votes.We are committed to making sure that people in our city do not suffer criminal legal consequences for taking part in life-sustaining activities that are protected by basic constitutional rights. “