Topeka City Council votes to ban panhandling at certain intersections

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Panhandling will soon be a thing of the past at certain spots around Topeka.

The Topeka City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to approve the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Ordinance. Karen Hiller cast the lone "no" vote.

The ordinance bans pedestrians from interacting with people in vehicles at 23 Topeka intersections. The proposal was the work of a special council committee, led by councilman Brendan Jensen.

"Can't stand on the side of the road and wave signs. You can't panhandle. You can't solicit donations because it's an already dangerous intersection. We're asking people to just focus on driving in those specific spots," Jensen explained.

Tuesday was Jensen's final meeting, as he opted not to seek re-election.

Council member Karen Hiller, who cast the lone “no”, along with few other members questioned why and how those specific intersections were chosen.

"Today there are reports of panhandling activity continuing at 37th and Topeka and outside of Panera on Wanamaker. Neither of those locations are included on the list,” she stated.

Jensen said the Metropolitan Transportation Safety Plan identified locations on the list as having the highest number of accidents from distracted driving.

Courts have ruled banning all panhandling violates the first amendment.

"All of these decisions have to be data driven. There has to be a compelling public safety reason."

Any driver or pedestrian caught violating the ordinance could face consequences.

"It's a 500 dollar fine or 30 days in jail,” Jensen added.

Jensen said the committee worked with the jail, Rescue Mission, and police and fire departments in creating the ordinance.

A list of the intersections can be found below:

  • S 5th Street and SW Topeka Boulevard
  • SW 12th Street and SW Jackson Street
  • SW 6th Avenue and Orchard Street
  • SW 8th Avenue and SW Topeka Boulevard
  • SW 10th 51 Avenue and SW Topeka Boulevard
  • SW Huntoon Street and SW Gage Boulevard
  • SW 21st Street and SW Fairlawn Road
  • SW 6th Avenue and SW Topeka Boulevard
  • SW 10th Avenue and SW Lane Street
  • SE 21st Street and SE Adams Street
  • SW 29th Street and SW Fairlawn Road
  • SW 21st Street and SW Gage Boulevard
  • SW 6th Avenue and SW Gage Boulevard
  • SW 21st Street and SW Wanamaker Road
  • SW 17th Street and SW Wanamaker Road
  • SW Huntoon Street and SW Fairlawn Road
  • SE 15th Street and SE Adams
  • SW 29th Street and SW Gage Boulevard
  • SW 29th Street and SW Topeka Boulevard
  • SW 21st Street and SW Washburn Avenue
  • SW 29th Street and SW Wanamaker Road
  • SW 21st Street and SW Topeka Boulevard
  • SW 17th Street and SW Westover Road and SW Oakley Street

Tuesday's meeting began with Mayor Michelle De La Isla recognizing Jensen along with other outgoing council members Sandra Clear and Jeff Coen for their service.

New council members will be sworn in Monday, Jan. 13.