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Wheat Ridge drafting ordinances to deter panhandling, decrease pedestrian fatalities

Wheat Ridge Ordinances.jpg
Posted at 5:54 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 21:03:42-04

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — Each car that exits I-70 onto Kipling is another chance for someone, like Ken Johnson, to make a much needed buck.

"For me, I’m only $20 short for my room — that’s it. So I’m trying to get $20 from my room and be good," Johnson said.

Johnson says the area is crowded with others in a similar situation.

It’s that overcrowding, especially off the highway, that has some drivers concerned and the City of Wheat Ridge and it’s chief of police have taken notice.

"Of course keeping people out of traffic. That just screams there’s a future fatality or serious injury coming our way, and we’re trying to avoid that and be preventative," Chief of Police Chris Murtha said.

Within the last year, five pedestrians were killed in Wheat Ridge — more than double the city’s average. Plus, Murtha noted the alarming national trend in pedestrian crashes.

"Nationally, we have seen an uptick since 2015. From 1980 to 2015, pedestrian fatalities were going down dramatically, and then all of a sudden in 2015, they started to creep back up. We’re seeing that sort of mirrored here in our own little way in Wheat Ridge," Murtha said.

The city is currently drafting two ordinances to cut down on crashes. One would make it illegal to occupy a median. The second would prohibit panhandling on highways, including the on and off ramps.

"We want to see people being responsible, and sometimes we have to take steps to make sure everybody is responsible. This is a step in that direction," Murtha said.

As it stands, the ordinances could mean a fine or possible time in jail for anyone not following the laws.

No date has been set for when city council will make a final vote on the ordinances.