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City Council Passes Pedestrian Access Act

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Ordinance Intended to Ensure Clear Passage for Pedestrians on Sidewalks Downtown and in Old Colorado City

The Colorado Springs City Council today passed the Pedestrian Access Act, putting into place a new ordinance prohibiting sitting, kneeling, reclining or lying upon the surfaces of sidewalks, trails or other public rights-of-way during high traffic hours in limited areas of downtown and Old Colorado City. The ordinance is intended to promote public safety and economic vitality by ensuring that visitors have safe passage and by encouraging the orderly use of the right-of-way.  

Enforcement of the ordinance will start mid-April, following a 60-day “education period.” During this period, the Colorado Springs Police Department will not conduct any enforcement or issue verbal or written warnings. Rather, it will serve as an opportunity for stakeholders and citizens to be educated, ask questions and understand how the Act works. 

After the 60-day education period, anyone found in violation of the proposed ordinance will first receive a written warning from CSPD. Following that warning, which will be tracked in a CSPD digital database, the penalty for a first violation is probation and/or a fine of no more than $500; for subsequent violations, the penalty upon conviction is a fine of up to $500 and/or a jail term of not more than 90 days and/or probation. These tickets would be issued in a manner similar to a traffic stop.

The impacted areas of Downtown and Old Colorado City were selected due to their heavy concentrations of civic, commercial, historic, residential and recreational properties that attract a large number of people. During the hours the ordinance is in place, sitting, lying, kneeling or reclining on streets, sidewalks, and trails will be prohibited. The prohibition is in effect daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. During these hours, people may sit only on objects intended for sitting such as benches, seat walls, and vault vents with concrete bench tops. People may also sit, lie, kneel and recline in grassy areas of parks. The impacted areas are displayed on a map below.

The Pedestrian Access Act grew out of complaints from local business owners, residents and visitors who cited a growing number of people sitting and lying in the public right-of-way. The behavior impedes pathways, creating a safety hazard for both the pedestrian and the individual sitting in the right-of-way. In addition, use of the public right-of-way in a manner that is inconsistent with its intended purpose creates a perception of an unsafe environment that curtails visitation in these commercial districts. The “public right of way,” is defined as any publicly owned property intended or used for pedestrian, recreational or vehicular travel.

Councilmembers Keith King and Tom Strand, at the request of Mayor John Suthers, first proposed an earlier version of the ordinance at Council’s August 24, 2015 work session.

The Colorado Springs Police Department does not anticipate any significant additional costs for enforcement of this proposed ordinance, as enforcement would be a part of the regular law enforcement activities that police department personnel currently perform in downtown and Old Colorado City.

History:

In developing and refining the proposed ordinance, City staff and Councilmembers met with the Downtown Partnership and downtown merchants and residents; Old Colorado City Associates including representatives from the Organization of Westside Neighbors, Old Colorado City Foundation and the Old Colorado City Public Library; Colorado Springs and El Paso County Continuum of Care; and City of Colorado Springs Parks Board and friends group representatives.  Susan Edmondson, Executive Director of the Downtown Partnership, has submitted written testimony in support of the proposed ordinances as currently proposed.

Councilmembers Strand and King hosted four public meetings to receive input on the issue and on the proposed ordinance:  September 4, 2015 at City Auditorium; September 17, 2015 at the Westside Community Center; October 6, 2015 at City Hall; and January 21, 2015 at City Hall.  Feedback from the town halls was considered and incorporated into the revised draft ordinance.  In addition, Councilmember Strand met with members of the City’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) on October 21, 2015 to hear their concerns and review suggestions which could be incorporated into the proposal.

Map:

Downtown Commercial District MapOld Colorado City Commercial District Map