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Amarillo City Council passes ordinance establishing intersection safety zones

In response to recent statistics revealing an increase in pedestrian fatalities, Amarillo City Council recently passed Ordinance No. 8119, which focuses on proactively addressing pedestrian and motorist safety.

The ordinance establishes clear guidelines regarding pedestrian presence in roadway medians and safety zones. It prohibits pedestrians from occupying roadway medians of six feet or less and interfering with normal motor vehicle travel in designated roadway safety zones.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pedestrian fatalities have increased by 3.9% nationally, with Texas experiencing a 30% rise from 2018 to 2022. In the City of Amarillo alone, pedestrian fatalities have doubled since 2021, increasing from 6 pedestrian fatalities in 2021 to 12 in 2023.

The ordinance aligns with recommendations from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Transportation, emphasizing the importance of maintaining clear zones and minimum median widths for pedestrian safety. Moreover, the ordinance includes exemptions for emergency situations, authorized work in the right-of-way, and approved crossing routes, ensuring that essential pedestrian activities remain unimpeded.

Andrew Freeman, Deputy City Manager, stated, "Our priority is to protect the lives of both pedestrians and motorists. This ordinance is a crucial step towards achieving safer roadways in Amarillo."

"The safety of our community is paramount," stated Freeman. "By implementing these measures, we proactively address the escalating pedestrian fatality rates and foster a safer environment for all residents and visitors traveling through Amarillo."

This ordinance does not ban panhandling. Courts have ruled that panhandling is a right covered by the Constitution. However, this ordinance does prohibit anyone from loitering or occupying these spaces, which could include panhandlers, fundraisers and anyone else in these areas for the sole purpose of keeping citizens safe.

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