Topeka’s new pedestrian safety law raises questions

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Topeka city council passed a law on Tuesday, banning people from distracting drivers at 23 busy intersections. The law was originally discussed to stop people from panhandling in the city, but now prevents anyone from distracting drivers. The law will go in effect on Monday. Panhandling is still allowed at any other intersection in the city.

Originally officials said they would put signs up to let people know about the ‘no distraction’ zone. Now City of Topeka spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said they are going to rely on social media and handing out postcards on Monday to let people know about the change instead.

City council woman Karen Hiller was the only member to vote no on the ordinance Tuesday night. She said she did that because the discussion that started more than a year ago was more focused on specifically panhandling.

“They ended up taking a really technical angle with it, which is fine but as far as something actually working being enforced if possible, making things better, I didn’t see it happening at all,” said Hiller.

Council member Brenden Jensen said they couldn’t ban panhandling because it would be unconstitutional.

“In researching it, there’s nothing you can do about panhandling essentially because it’s protected speech in the constitution,” said Jensen.

Firefighters often held a fundraiser on the side of the streets and they will also no longer be allowed to do that at the 23 intersections.

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