COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Colorado Springs City Council gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance that prohibits standing or walking on narrow street medians.
The unanimous 9-0 vote comes three weeks after council gave initial approval to the plan.
Supporters of the ordinance said it improves safety by keeping people, pets and children out of high-traffic areas with steep or narrow medians that weren't designed for pedestrian use.
"It also protects drivers who may be startled by seeing a panhandler so close to them," said Kathleen Krager, the city's transportation planning manager.
Krager said she's concerned about the growing number of pedestrians injured or killed in accidents, and that it's just a matter of time before a panhandler, pet or child becomes a victim.
Mayor John Suthers suggested the idea for the ordinance late last year and worked with the council on a final version.
At least a dozen people from the homeless community expressed opposition to the ordinance in emotional testimony before the council. Police officers escorted one man out of the chamber after he voiced his opposition too loudly.
Opponents said the ordinance is the latest example of the city's effort to keep the homeless out of sight and out of the way, and also are unhappy to have no voice in the drafting of the ordinance.
"If I can't afford to go to McDonald's and buy a burger, I can't afford a $50 fine," said Raven, a homeless woman. "I would be great with this ordinance if you would make it reasonable and sensible."
The ordinance bans median panhandling along the busiest streets, on streets with a speed limit of 30 mph or higher and on medians with less than a diameter of 4 feet of flat space.
City officials said violators will not be arrested, only cited, and face a $50 fine and probation.
Eventually, the city will evaluate medians and place warning signs on medians where the ordinance will be enforced. Only violators on medians marked by signs will be cited, city officials said.
"This is not about limiting anyone's rights," Suthers said. "It's about safety."
It's unclear whether the ordinance will be challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has challenged similar ordinances in the past.