In Dallas, you can no longer loiter in a median. In a near-unanimous vote, the Dallas City Council passed an ordinance at its October 26 meeting that places a ban on standing in medians.
The ordinance prohibits standing and walking on medians measuring six feet or less in width, where no medians exist, or in areas designated as a "clear zone." This includes bike lanes, road shoulders, or other unobstructed areas bordering a roadway.
Medians have become hot spots for panhandlers seeking money from drivers who represent a captive market as they wait for traffic lights to change.
Panhandlers are particularly a problem near freeways such as the intersection of 635 and Ferguson Road, which regularly has panhandlers stationed on both sides, frequently hauling out pets to draw more pity. Why make your poor dog suffer? Oh yeah, it gets you more donations.
The freeway overpasses do create a refuge from the elements and are therefore also popular as a place for makeshift housing for homeless people.
The ordinance's goals include preventing pedestrian fatalities and discouraging panhandlers, gumming up traffic and creating conflict for drivers who feel guilt at the sight of someone begging for money - despite the fact that experts such as Wayne Walker, founder of Our Calling, a group that helps the homeless, advise against responding to panhandlers' pleas.
"The generosity is great, but we don't want to support someone staying on the street," Walker says in a statement. "We want to support them moving off the street."
The ordinance got only one dissenter, council member Adam Bazaldua, who summoned the tearjerking image of a mother trying to feed her child, which is perhaps the profile of the panhandler he has encountered, but does not resemble any of the ones generally seen on Ferguson at 635 or Oak Lawn and the Tollway or Park Lane at US-75.
Citations can lead to fines up to $500, and ignoring them can ultimately lead to an arrest warrant being issued. The ban will be reviewed by the City Council annually.