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Proposed ordinance would prohibit ‘nonexempt individuals’ from standing, sitting near busy Brevard roadways

Last updated on May 4, 2022


BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — An ordinance under consideration by the Brevard County Commission would establish fines and potential jail time for people who either “interfere” with traffic or “exchange any physical item.”

The proposed ordinance would modify Section 106-1 of the Brevard County code and create a new article: “Article V – Pedestrian Safety Ordinance.”

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If passed, the ordinance would apply to those “individuals standing, sitting or remaining within certain areas located along the on- and off-ramps of Interstate 95 and arterial and collector roads within Brevard County.”

The language of the ordinance stated that no one should be occupying the on- and off-ramps of I-95 and only exempted individuals should be permitted to “stand, sit or remain” in the areas around arterial and collector roads.

“Arterial roads” are defined as having “relatively continuous” and “relatively high traffic volume, long trip average length, high operating speed and high mobility importance.” Meanwhile, “collector roads” are defined similarly, but with “moderate” levels, instead of “high” levels of traffic volume and operating speed. A collector road also “collects and distributes traffic between local roads or arterial roads and services.”

Brevard County Sheriff’s Office attorney Laura Moody clarified that the impacted roads don’t need to be adjacent to I-95 to come under the purview of this ordinance.

“Anywhere within the unincorporated areas and the municipalities that (we) elect to enforce it,” Moody said. “If they (municipalities) have their own Safe Streets ordinance, obviously, they may be enforcing their own rules and certainly have the power to do that.”

The penalty for violating the ordinance would be a fine of up to $500 for a first-time offense. A second or subsequent offense could also mean another fine of up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in the Brevard County jail.

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Some who are concerned with the ordinance argue that it could make things more difficult for those experiencing homelessness and asking for money along roadways.

“Assuming at least a portion of these people are homeless, and they’re looking for income so they can find a home, then you are, in fact, taking away their income, and you’re giving them a criminal record, which is going to make it that much harder to find a home,” said Rob Cramp, the executive director of Rockledge-based Housing for Homeless.

Proposal indicates it’s designed to prevent ‘dangerous situations’
In presenting the rationale for the ordinance, the first three pages of the document are highlighted by statistics on pedestrian-related injuries and deaths on a federal, state and local level.

According to data cited from the Governors Highway Safety Association’s 2020 report, between 2010 and 2019, “the number of U.S. pedestrian fatalities increased by 46 percent… This increase in pedestrian deaths is even more concerning considering that all other traffic deaths increased by just 5 percent during this same period.”

The ordinance pointed to another part of the report that stated that Florida was third in the country when it came to the number of pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2020.

The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (Space Coast TPO) stated that within Brevard County, between 2016 and 2020, of the more than 51,000 crashes, 29.35% happened at intersections.

Kim Smith, the education and safety coordinator for Space Coast TPO, stated that the organization isn’t taking a position on the ordinance, but wanted to provide the Brevard County Commission with local data to help make an informed decision.

She said that another statistic from Signal Four Analytics that stated that “in the last five years, pedestrians were involved in 1.8 percent of all crashes in Brevard County, but constituted 36 percent of all crash fatalities for that period,” was troubling.

“When you’ve got one group of road users that are making up such a small percentage of your crashes, but a fairly large number of fatalities, you need to do whatever you can to provide for their safety,” Smith said.

The verbiage of the ordinance was drafted in collaboration between the attorneys representing both the Brevard County Commission and sheriff’s office. The ordinance states that given the available data, “pedestrians standing, sitting or remaining within these high-crash intersections of the County pose a threat to the safety and well-being of both pedestrians and vehicular traffic.”

The document argues that the ordinance exists to “serve the compelling government interest of public safety and to leave open ample alternative channels of displaying advertising; distributing goods and materials; and soliciting personal, business and charitable donations.” 

“The key thing that’s important, I think, for everybody to know is that this is not in any way intended to impede people’s ability to communicate or hold signs, demonstrate, any kind of First Amendment guarantees,” Moody said.

She said that people approaching vehicles begins to present a hazard that the ordinance is intended to prohibit. 

The verbiage noted that two main acts are prohibited under this ordinance:

Interfering with or impacting the safe and efficient movement of vehicular traffic within any lane of traffic, stopped at a traffic control device or at an intersection

Exchanging any physical item (including documents, money, pamphlets, narcotics, etc.)

There are a number of exemptions to the stated prohibited acts, such as permitted special events, activities between pedestrians on sidewalks and vehicles involved in a crash or otherwise temporarily inoperable.

Ordinance would have unintended consequences, homeless advocate says
While the stated reasoning for the ordinance is to promote public safety, especially for pedestrians, some who advocate on behalf of those experiencing homelessness worry about the potential impact from this move.

“The premise on which it is based, which is to reduce traffic accidents, is somewhat a false one since in order to exchange money or whatever it is, if we’re talking about panhandling, the car is stationary. So, where is the accident going to occur?” Cramp said.

Based on his read of the ordinance, Cramp said he worries that this decision could likely drive up homelessness by adding fines and potential jail time for violators. He also argued on Monday that there isn’t enough data to support the idea that people asking for money or food at intersections is connected to increased pedestrian deaths.

“Get some data, prove that it solves a problem other than irritating motorists and find out why are those people there,” Cramp said. “I mean, who volunteers to go and stand at a median, choking on fumes all day? It’s not the best way of earning a living, is it?”

Public can weigh in at tonight’s meeting
The ordinance will come up for a first reading and public hearing during the May 3 Brevard County Commission meeting, which starts at 5 p.m.

Commissioners will listen to the input of residents as they weigh whether or not to make any amendments to the proposed ordinance before it continues onto a second reading at the board’s next meeting.

This articlle first appeared on MyNews13.com

Michael Lynch
Author: Michael Lynch

Raised on the Space Coast, I want to keep North Brevard informed of what's happening. Send Tips / Story Ideas to TitusvilleMedia@gmail.com

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