LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A bi-partisan, proposed ordinance to enhance pedestrian and traffic safety in Louisville could also prevent panhandling.
The ordinance was introduced before Metro Council went on its summer break. It is sponsored by council members Blackwell, Kramer, Mulvihill and Parker.
“I want people to always be thinking safety when they’re driving and also when they’re walking,” said Pat Mulvihill, (D) Metro Council, District 10.
Mulvihill said before writing up the ordinance, members researched several similar ordinances in other cities and accident statistics across Kentucky and in Jefferson County. The proposal cites data from LMPD that there were 457 pedestrian-involved collisions last year in Louisville, which resulted in 21 fatalities. It also sites data from Metro Public Works that pedestrian fatalities account for 25% of all roadway fatalities in Jefferson County.
“We realized we’re having issues,” Mulvihill said. “We’ve had some fatalities, too many. One is too many.”
So the sponsors wrote up the ordinance in order to protect pedestrians and limit distractions for drivers. It prohibits anyone from crossing a street anywhere other than at a designated crosswalk. Jaywalking is prohibited already, but Mulvihill said putting the rules down in the ordinance solidifies it.
“It they weren’t spelled out before, they’re spelled out now clearly,” he said.
It also prohibits anyone from loitering in a median or approaching a car. And some council members hope that will have ripple effects by preventing panhandling.
“I think that’s incidental,” Mulvihill said about the impacts on panhandlers. “It’s not primarily why it was drafted, but it’s going to.”
Banning panhandling is a hot topic in the commonwealth. Two years ago, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that a Lexington law against panhandling was an unconstitutional violation of free speech. Last year, Metro Council repealed the city’s existing ban in order to be in compliance.
However, Metro Council President David James said enough is enough. Council members get complaints weekly regarding panhandling.
“It unnerves people, and it’s not good for our city,” he said. “Some visitors were talking to me and were asking what are you going to do about this panhandling. They go in front of our taxi.”
And he said that’s exactly what makes this a safety issue and therefore a fitting impact of the ordinance.
“When someone tells me that someone walked in front of their car, and they almost run over them, and they’re banging on their windows, that’s a safety issue,” James said.
The ordinance could face legal questions, but Mulvihill said he hopes it would be supported and upheld. James believes it has bi-partisan support among Metro Council members.
“And these sponsors have worked very hard with the County Attorney’s Office to make sure it passes the legal tests,” James said. “They have the right intention in mind, trying to keep everybody safe.”
There are exemptions built into the ordinance for police officers and rescue crews, anyone approaching a taxi or rideshare service, or any groups soliciting donations with a valid permit.
“We have real nonprofits that do really great work in our city, and we want them to be able to still do that,” James said. “And those are not the people we’re having problems with. The ones we have a problem with are creating a hazard for themselves and other drivers.”
The sponsors also worked with LMPD to make sure the ordinance would be enforceable. Mulvihill said the police department fully supports it. If it passes and someone is caught violating the rules, the person could face fines up to $250.
The ordinance will go to committee once council returns from break. The sponsors requested the Public Safety Committee consider the ordinance.
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