BERNALILLO COUNTY, NM (KRQE) — Bernalillo County Commissioners passed a law against people impeding or obstructing public roads, sidewalks, medians, or crosswalks. They are calling it a Pedestrian Safety Bill, but it also targets camps on sidewalks as well.

The Board of Commissioners voted four to one in favor of the ordinance.

“The intent of the ordinance is to reduce the likelihood of a pedestrian-caused crash or injury at an intersection by restricting activities on any median that is less than four feet in width. Anything less than that really doesn’t provide good shelter for somebody that has any activities in there,” said Bernalillo County Public Works Director Elias Archuleta.

The ordinance prevents anyone from blocking public rights of way, including camping. County officials stressed this bill is about pedestrians and not those experiencing homelessness, though this bill would stop anyone, including homeless people, from panhandling and camping.

However, the ordinance does protect people’s free speech rights as long as it doesn’t block pedestrians from using public areas. The director of public works said this will affect 44 intersections on Bernalillo County property, like Coors and Dennis Chavez, as well as Isleta and Rio Bravo. The county said 173 pedestrians were killed in Bernalillo County between 2016 and 2020.

Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Walt Benson explained homeless people are not the targets of this law, “This, again, this is not directed towards impinging on the rights of homeless people who already have it hard, bad enough. This is about reducing fatalities, dangerous accidents, property damage with vehicle damage, and making the roadways safer.”

Officials said 64% of fatalities happen on just 7% of roadways, so officials believe this ordinance will help curb that number.

A similar law was shot down in Albuquerque in 2019 after the ACLU sued, saying it violated free speech rights. That ordinance curbed panhandling under the banner of pedestrian safety.

News 13 reached out to the ACLU to see if this ordinance raised any red flags for them. We are waiting to hear back.