Las Vegas Pedestrian Bridges Ordinance Faces Lawsuit from Civil Liberties Union

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit against Clark County late last Friday. The dispute is over a controversial new ordinance that bans people from stopping or standing too long on the Las Vegas Strip’s pedestrian bridges.

The new law has been in effect for one month. It made stopping on any of the 15 pedestrian walkways a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.

Campaigners from the ACLU say that not only does this infringe on First Amendment rights, but it also fails to include provisions for street performers and those with disabilities.

Those individuals represented in the lawsuit include Lisa McAllister, a Las Vegas resident and wheelchair user, and Brandon Summers, a street performing violinist of some 15 years experience in Sin City.

“Making criminals out of ordinary people that stop for just a few seconds on a publicly funded pedestrian bridge, which is where First Amendment rights — generally, individual rights — are strongest, is problematic,” said ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah.

Clark County has not commented on the case. A spokesperson, Jennifer Cooper, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the county is unable to comment on pending litigation.

Flow Zones

The new legislation was passed by unanimous vote among the Clark County Commission on January 2, 2024.

The decision came after a record 2023 for Nevada casinos, amid booming numbers of visitors to Sin City.

The rise in big-ticket sporting events in Las Vegas, from the F1 Grand Prix to the Super Bowl to various UFC events, has also increased foot traffic on the Las Vegas Strip, leading to congestion on the bridges.

“The bridges were not designed for pedestrians to stop, stand, or congregate,” Clark County Counsel Lisa Logsdon said when the rules were introduced.

“The pedestrian flow zone is similar to pedestrian zones located in other large cities, such as New York City.”

Officials had previously determined the ordinance to be necessary to slow the rise in foot traffic congestion and tackle the increasing number of crimes it says occur on the bridges.

One University of Nevada Las Vegas study found that the pedestrian bridges are the locations for 11% of all public disorder incidents on the Las Vegas Strip. That’s despite them only taking up 6% of the public land space.

Another study found that emergency callouts on the bridges have increased 29% from 2018 to 2022.

Selective Enforcement

Once introduced, the county had to quickly clarify that despite the language of the rules not excluding them specifically, police would not be targeting casual selfie takers or tourists who stop for a few seconds to enjoy the views.

“This is not interpreted to mean that tourists and locals cannot take photos along the Boulevard while on a pedestrian bridge, but rather, is intended to maintain the safe and continuous movement of pedestrians on the bridges to ensure pedestrian safety on the bridges,” Clark County said in a statement when the new ordinance was introduced.

It also maintains that First Amendment rights to assembly were not impacted. The county said performers or speakers could simply move onto the sidewalks below the bridges.

However, pedestrians and campaigners have questioned the application of the law when applied by the letter.

“The county has gone to great lengths to defend this terrible ordinance publicly, even issuing public statements mentioning selfie-takers won’t be targeted under the ordinance, even though they are encompassed by the ordinance’s language, creating a lack of clarity about what conduct is even prohibited by the ordinance,” Haseebullah said.

“Due process requires clarity about prohibited conduct and that laws are not selectively enforced.”

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