116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — The Coralville City Council repealed its panhandling ordinance and replaced it with a pedestrian safety ordinance.
Earlier this year, the ACLU of Iowa urged Coralville and three other cities to repeal ordinances against panhandling, saying the measures violate free speech rights.
The organization sent letters to the cities of Coralville, Davenport, Dubuque and Bettendorf, saying their ordinances are both unconstitutional and ineffective.
At the time of the letter, Coralville had an ordinance, adopted in 2004, prohibiting “solicitation from persons in motor vehicles.”
This was the second round of letters the organization has sent out. The ACLU of Iowa in 2018 sent letters to Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Grimes, which repealed their panhandling ordinances.
The basis for the letters is a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down content-based regulations of free speech.
"Rather than criminalizing panhandling through these ordinances, cities can modify restrictions and infrastructure to optimize pedestrian and traffic safety while avoiding being prejudicial to those in poverty or limiting free speech,“ said Shefali Aurora, staff attorney for the ACLU of Iowa.
What’s happened since?
The Coralville City Council this week unanimously voted to repeal the existing ordinance and replace it with a pedestrian safety ordinance.
The ordinance prohibits pedestrians from standing, sitting or staying on medians in areas with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater, unless the median is paved and at least 10 feet wide. Pedestrians are also prohibited from standing on medians in business or school areas.
Pedestrians still can use those median to cross the street.
During the new ordinance’s first consideration June 28, City Attorney Kevin Olson said the ordinance is based on a similar one in Des Moines.
Pedestrians have a 2 percent chance of death when hit by a car traveling 20 miles per hour. That jumps to 40 percent when the car is traveling 30 miles per hour, according to a study Olson cited.
“This ordinance is intended to make sure that we do not have those type of accidents,” he said.
Individuals who are standing in the median will be informed it is against city code, Olson said. He added no citations had been issued for violating the panhandling ordinance that is now repealed.
The 29 medians and 11 roundabout islands where pedestrians are prohibited from standing are listed below.
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