ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A controversial Albuquerque city ordinance that banned panhandling resulted in a lawsuit, and ended with a judge throwing it out, could get some updates. City Councilors Brook Bassan and Isaac Benton are introducing updates to that original pedestrian safety bill, cutting a lot of it out and trying to focus on keeping pedestrians and drivers safe. “We really want to make sure it’s about safety,” said Councilor Bassan.
The original bill banned pedestrians from having exchanges with drivers, leading to the ACLU filing a lawsuit saying it violated First Amendment rights. “I absolutely believe that people should be able to express their free speech, but I also think that people driving have a right to be safe when they’re driving to or from different locations and not have to worry if they’re going to hit somebody and kill them. And if people are a little bit more unbalanced, they need to be able to be safe too,” said Councilor Bassan.
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Packed with statistics, the bill cites New Mexico is among the worst in the nation for pedestrian fatalities, with nine deaths per 100,000 from 2009-2019. It also cited the 2020 death of Rachanda Myers, a mother of three who was hit and killed by a car sitting on a narrow median on Pan American Freeway.
“The priority is to make sure people are safer both to make sure people are safer standing on medians or sidewalks or if they’re driving,” said Councilor Bassan. The updated ordinance cuts out a lot of the original, including the part banning exchanges between drivers and pedestrians, and loosens up where pedestrians can be on sidewalks.
The new version says if people are on a sidewalk or median, it has to be at least four feet wide, on a street where the speed limit is under 30 miles per hour, and flat, having no greater than 8% grade.
“If those three things are met, then people can do what they want as it will probably be in an area that will allow for any kind of potential exchange or what not to occur in a more safe route,” said Councilor Bassan.
If pedestrians are on a median that doesn’t meet the bill’s requirements, there could be a $100 citation and a visit from the Albuquerque Community Safety Department. “We’re working to have some enforcement that’s fair and that allows for the opportunity for some change to happen,” said Councilor Bassan.
Only if it persists would APD be called in. The bill was introduced to the council on Monday night. In a statement, a spokesperson for Mayor Tim Keller’s office said:
“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 drivers and pedestrians with common sense rules like this. We are asking for Council’s support for this new legislation that our community wants to see enacted.”– a spokesperson for Mayor Tim Keller’s office