Bill Aims to Keep Pedestrians, Panhandlers Off Roadway Dividers

A proposed bill aims to clear out California's center medians, making intersections safer and pushing out panhandlers that pace the roadway dividers asking motorists for money.

SB 604 would change the California Vehicle Code, and affect residents like Silas Cochran, who works a La Jolla intersection several times a week.

With a handwritten sign and worn out shoes, he walks up and down the median hoping drivers will spare a few dollars.

"I don’t want to become a regular out here," Cochran said. "It's embarrassing,"

La Mesa Police Chief Ed Aceves calls the practice a dangerous problem, because it often calls for people to cross the street illegally or against the lights.

"It’s not necessarily specifically targeting people pan handling," Aceves said. "It’s about safety."

Law enforcement agents worked with State Senator Joel Anderson, of San Deigo, who authored the bill last month.

While homeless and civil rights activists figure to put up the biggest fight, Aceves emphasized that the proposed law is about safety.

"When you have pedestrians in the center median with signs, we have some doing magic tricks, it's distracting the drivers and taking their attention away from the roadway," Aceves said.

And for panhandlers like Cochran the sidewalk is bad business.

"I've stood over there, I've never made a dollar over there," he said.

In the center median, he's at the driver’s side window and not delaying traffic as drivers turn right on a red.

The bill could also impact firefighters who use the median for "boot drive" fundraisers, like those who took part in last week's "Fill the Boot for the Burn Institute" in San Diego.

"We'll probably strike a balance with this whole issue, we're very supportive of our fire department, we'll figure something out to make it work," Aceves said.

The bill is scheduled to be proposed in Sacramento on April 16. If approved, it could become law as soon as Jan. 1, 2014. 

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