AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police are floating the idea of changing city ordinance to ban pedestrians from lingering on curbs or medians near high-speed roadways.
“You can get hurt on these corners very easily,” said Robert Smith. “It could be raining. Guys come up through here and slip.”
Smith stood along the Interstate 35 frontage road with a sign Thursday. He said he has an injury and can’t work. For now, he survives by panhandling. However, if Austin police are able to get a new policy passed, he might not be able to do that much longer.
“We’re not targeting panhandlers,” said Lt. Blake Johnson with the Austin Police Department. “We’re targeting people, who for whatever reason, who are are standing on the edge of high speed roadways.”
Johnson says the department is looking at how to reduce traffic deaths, as the rest of the city does the same under the Vision Zero initiative. Police found that out of the 29 deadly pedestrian crash last year, 90 percent of them involved someone who was crossing or walking in a prohibited area of the roadway.
“It’s not worth somebody’s life,” said Lt. Johnson. “It’s not worth a potential death or injury or anything, even a minor crash to happen, due to making a poor choice like that.”
Johnson recognized that a change in the rules could impact people who are homeless. He said if the city council decides to adopt the change, there would be an education campaign to prepare people before the new ordinance would take effect.
“Just hope. Pray to the good lord. That’s all you can do.”
Police are still working with different variations of the policy with the goal of presenting a plan to Austin City Council. It will likely be a few months before council takes up the issue, Lt. Johnson said.