Signs for city's median-safety law posted at 12 intersections, 2 on WestsideIn accordance with City Council's recently passed median-safety ordinance, city crews have installed the first wave of signs saying "Unlawful to Occupy Median."
Among these is the narrow concrete strip along 31st Street, where panhandlers had become a regular part of the scenery in the past year and a half, following judges'
Another Westside location with an "Unlawful" sign now is Chestnut Street and Garden of the Gods Road, according to Colorado Springs Public Works Director Travis Easton.
In all, he said, signs have been put at 12 city intersections - on the medians that had been deemed the most dangerous for people to stand on.
The installation process began soon after council gave second-reading approval of the median-safety ordinance earlier this month. According to Easton and a Police Department spokesperson, the locating decisions involve Police and Traffic Engineering staff. Easton said "I'm sure" that more locations will get signs after the initial 12, but he has not yet been told when.
The law makes it illegal for anyone to linger on a median less than 4 feet wide on any streets with speed limits of 30 mph or more, as long as applicable signs are posted.
Violators face fines of up to $500. However, the ordinance stipulates no jail time.
To avert a backlash lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the City Attorney's Office wrote the law without specifying panhandlers - including this explanatory text: “Persons are occupying medians within the city that are not designed or suitable for pedestrian use [and] use of such medians on higher-volume and higher-speed roadways poses a safety hazard to the user and passing motor vehicles and can inhibit the free flow of traffic.”
Until fall 2015, the city had for years disallowed such median use in conjunction with numerous “aggressive-panhandling” laws meant to ensure safety and protect citizens from being unreasonably accosted by people seeking handouts. But some judges said that such laws unfairly targeted a class of people (panhandlers), forcing Colorado Springs to repeal them. Other cities have had to do the same.
Regarding the median-safety issue, Anne Turner of the City Attorney's Office has explained that in their rulings these judges did give government entities leeway to pass laws addressing safety concerns in a "content-neutral" way. And the new city law is geared for that, she said.
Here is the full list of places around town that Easton said the city has now installed “Illegal to Occupy Median” signs:
· Austin Bluffs Parkway at Academy Boulevard.
· Chestnut Street at Garden of the Gods Road.
· Platte Avenue at Murray Boulevard.
· Platte Avenue at Circle Drive.
· Colorado Avenue at 31st Street.
· Hancock Expressway at Academy Boulevard.
· Janitell Road at Circle Drive.
· Platte Avenue at Chelton Road.
· Portal Drive at Academy Boulevard.
· Airport Road at Academy Boulevard.
· Galley Road at Academy Boulevard.
· North Carefree Circle at Academy Boulevard.
Westside Pioneer article