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ACLU sues over Las Vegas pedestrian ordinance, saying it's 'vague and unconstitutional'

Small groups of people, many carrying bags, walk across a pedestrian bridge on the Las Vegas Strip. It's a beautiful, sunny day. The bridge isn't overly crowded but it's still busy. Some hotels can be seen in the background through the glass panels on the walkway.
Yvette Fernandez
Pedestrians mill about on a bridge overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. Clark County instituted an ordinance in January to keep traffic moving on the walkways and to discourage people from stopping too long and getting in the way. The ACLU of Nevada sued over the new law.

A new ordinance that makes it unlawful to impede the flow of traffic on pedestrian bridges over the Las Vegas Strip took effect in January. Last week, the ACLU of Nevada filed legal documents saying the new ordinance is vague and unconstitutional.

A yellow sign that states "Pedestrian Flow Zone: No stopping, standing or activity causing another to stop." It is in both English and Spanish.
Yvette Fernandez
These are the signs telling passersby about the new Pedestrian Flow Zone ordinance on the walkways that span across the Las Vegas Strip.

The Pedestrian Flow Zone can trigger a $1,000 fine. A handful of signs posted above the elevators on the walkways say "No stopping, standing, or activity causing another to stop".

While the ordinance specifically says it is not intended to target “selfie-takers” or “street performers,” the ACLU said the law is not only vague, it also violates fundamental constitutional rights.

Tia Smith with the ACLU of Nevada said among other things, the ordinance does not specify how long is too long to stop.

“People are going to stop and tie their shoe. That’s criminal now," Smith said. "They’re going to stop to Google on their phone, figure out their next destination. That’s criminal now. It’s just a lot of really innocent activities, things people do on these pedestrian bridges. They’re going to be criminals under this ordinance."

Smith thinks the ordinance should be thrown out completely, saying police already have the tools in place to combat crimes such as assaults or theft.

The Clark County Commission said in enacting the ordinance that calls for police assistance rose by as much as 29% between 2018 and 2022 and that most incidents took place on pedestrian bridges. This was despite bridges representing less than 5% of the walking areas along the Las Vegas Strip.

If the ordinance is to remain, Smith thinks it must be more specific to protect people’s rights and prevent government overreach.

“It needs to be narrowly tailored," she said. "There needs to be ample opportunity for channels of communication and there needs to be a strong government interest they’re protecting. And so none of these are really here. You can’t say something that bans all stopping is narrowly tailored."

The Las Vegas Metro Police Department would not provide information on how many citations have been issued under the new Pedestrian Flow Zone Ordinance.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.