The city of Lexington released a draft Thursday of a new ordinance that will address a surge in the number of people begging for money on Lexington streets.
The Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Ordinance would prohibit people from being in roadways and in medians. It also bans pedestrians from approaching cars on major roadways. It also strengthens the city’s jaywalking ordinance.
The ordinance will be discussed at Tuesday’s Urban County Council General Government and Social Services Committee meeting. In February, the state Supreme Court struck down a Lexington ordinance that prohibited panhandling on public streets and intersections. That decision said the city’s prohibition on begging on public streets ran afoul of the First Amendment, which protects free speech.
But the state Supreme Court gave Lexington some direction on how to craft an ordinance that did not violate the First Amendment. The city could restrict actions but not what people say, the decision said.
Lexington police and council members say since the panhandling ordinance was struck down in February, they have seen a surge in the number of people standing at intersections asking motorists and pedestrians for cash.
Councilman Kevin Stinnett, who placed the new ordinance in committee, said he hopes the ordinance will be voted on in committee Tuesday and reported to the full council at Tuesday’s council work session.
“It protects pedestrians that are at or near our roadways on major traffic arterials,” Stinnettt said. “It makes it illegal to be in the public roadways.”
The draft ordinance, which was released as part of the General Government and Social Services Committee agenda on Thursday, also tweaks the jaywalking ordinance.
The ordinance reads: “Pedestrians shall not cross a roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.” The current jaywalking ordinance is more lenient on when and where pedestrians can cross streets.
Those roads that are considered major roadways include most downtown streets and arterials such as Winchester, Tates Creek, Nicholasville, Harrodsburg, Versailles and Richmond roads and Newtown and Paris pikes.
The list includes approximately 75 different roads.
Stinnett said all state and federal roads with two or more lanes were automatically included in the list. Other streets made the list because of high traffic counts, he said.
Pedestrians who violate the ordinance would face fines, the amount of which varies depending on the type of citation.
The ordinance would take effect 60 days from its passage.
“That will give us time to educate the public before it takes effect,” Stinnett said.
The number of pedestrians struck by vehicles have started to creep up in recent years after several years of decline, according to Lexington Police data.
Ten pedestrians were killed by cars or trucks in 2016, which tied 2008 as the most deadly year for pedestrians in Lexington. Lexington Police data also says there have been 397 pedestrian-involved motor vehicle collisions since 2015. Of those, the vast majority -— 344 — resulted in injuries.
The Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Ordinance is one of many different initiatives the city is using to tackle the increase in panhandling. Earlier this week, Mayor Jim Gray announced a new jobs program for the homeless and panhandlers. The city will use a van to pick up panhandlers each morning and pay them $9 an hour for work on city beautification and other projects. The program begins the first of May.