Ogden cracks down on roadside panhandling

Wednesday , July 30, 2014 - 5:40 PM

OGDEN —  It is now strictly illegal to do business in the streets of Ogden.

The Ogden City Council voted unanimously Tuesday on an ordinance that amends the city’s municipal code to prohibit certain activities related to pedestrians impeding or blocking traffic on busy roadways and driveway approaches.

Now, a whole slew of activities like loitering, demonstrating, picketing, distributing materials, gathering signatures, holding signs, or soliciting and receiving money is prohibited on roads with two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction and a speed limit of 35 mph or more.

The restrictions also include roadway shoulders and gutter areas, as well as driveways.

“The overriding policy concern is to say that a high traffic roadway is no place to do business — especially for pedestrians,” said Ogden City Attorney Gary Williams. "The idea is that all of those transactions should happen outside of the high traffic roadways.“

The law allows for the activities to occur on sidewalks on the busy streets, but only if vehicles involved in the transactions are legally parked, in a parking space or a shoulder area, because the new rule also makes it illegal for drivers or passengers of a motor vehicle to exchange money and other items with a pedestrian on the prohibited roadways.

"This isn’t just a prohibition against pedestrians,” Williams said. “This is also for drivers. Pull over, park and (conduct business) somewhere that isn’t a high traffic roadway. If a driver is legally parked, they won’t have a problem.”

The new law makes the infractions for both motorists and pedestrians a class C misdemeanor.

The city says the ordinance is modeled after the recently amended Utah statute, which came in the from of House Bill 101. The bill was signed into law in May and amended state code by limiting the scope of the prohibitions on soliciting and shifting focus to the traffic and public safety issues associated with solicitations by pedestrians.

Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson and council members Amy Wicks and Marcia White all recounted recent stories of seeing pedestrians almost hit by vehicles while participating in the activities that are now illegal on high traffic roads.

"We’ve heard many stories like those,“ Williams said, noting that there have been 139 auto-pedestrian accidents in Ogden during the last five years.

Public comments issued at the council meeting only voiced support for the new ordinance.

Ogden resident Kathy Merrill said she’s experienced several near misses herself while coming off of the freeway and heading into Ogden.

"I realize some of these people need money, but it’s putting their safety and our safety at risk,” she said. “They can dash out before you have a chance to do anything.”

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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