HOT SPRINGS, Ark (KTHV) - The City of Hot Springs is trying to keep pedestrians from walking into the roads, but it's being challenged.
A new ordinance prohibits pedestrians from walking off the curb, into the road and interacting with a vehicle.
Hot Springs passed a similar ordinance last year that kept people from walking into the streets to solicit funds. The city repealed that ordinance and is now implementing this new one which makes it illegal for pedestrians to be on the street for any purpose.
"What we are concerned about is keeping the pedestrians within the rules of the road; to use crosswalks when available, to cross the street at intersections," said Hot Springs city attorney Brian Albright.
If a driver wishes to interact with someone on the side of the road, the ordinance instructs them to drive into a parking lot, out of the moving roadway.
"If the vehicle pulls into a parking lot [then] have all the interaction you want to have, but not in that lane of traffic," said Albright.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas (ACLU) is challenging this ordinance, believing it restricts panhandlers’ rights.
"We think it violates the constitution, the first amendment," said ACLU Arkansas Cooperating Attorney Bettina Brownstein. “Panhandling is a form of protected speech.”
According to Albright, the ordinance does not address solicitation or distribution of any sort, it simply states that, "No person, regardless of what their purpose is, can have physical interaction with the occupant of a vehicle when the vehicle is operating in the roadway."
This vagueness is why the ACLU deems the ordinance unconstitutional.
“I think that kind of rubric is used to get panhandlers off city streets," said Cooperating Attorney Brownstein.
People walking into traffic and the driver could be fined up to $500 for violating this ordinance. It goes into effect Monday, Jan. 8, but police will temporarily give warnings during an undefined adjustment period.
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