Albuquerque Hits a New Low With Cruel Response to Pedestrian Deaths

The Albuquerque City Council isn't interested in fixing intersections like this, where a driver killed a pedestrian last week. Photo: Google Maps
The Albuquerque City Council isn't interested in fixing intersections like this, where a driver killed a pedestrian last week. Photo: Google Maps

The lengths that lawmakers will go to avoid doing anything substantive for pedestrian safety would be comical, if the consequences weren’t so serious.

In New Mexico, drivers have killed 51 people walking so far this year. But rather than using its resources to rein in speeding, failure to yield, distracted driving, or other driver behaviors that maim and kill, Albuquerque City Council is using its resources to — get ready for this — harass people who panhandle on the side of the road.

City Council Member Trudy Jones sponsored legislation making it illegal to both beg for money from motorists and for motorists to interact with pedestrians. The bill is called the “Pedestrian Safety Ordinance,” and Jones claims it would “make our streets safer and curbs safer,” but it’s a transparent attempt to use traffic safety as a fig leaf to cover constitutional issues with panhandling bans. The council passed it unanimously.

In an embarrassing editorial this weekend, the Albuquerque Journal defended the legislation as a boon to public safety even though there’s absolutely zero evidence that it addresses the causes of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Meanwhile, last week, a driver struck and killed a pedestrian at the intersection shown above. If the City Council truly cared about protecting pedestrians, it would allocate resources to fix this kind of high-speed street design. By laying blame at the feet of the city’s most vulnerable people, council members are shirking their own responsibility to make streets safer,

Good grief. (Thanks to reader Khalil Spencer for bringing this to our attention.)

More recommended reading today: Writing at Medium, Darin Givens explains how the Braves’ new suburban stadium is totally out of reach for anyone who relies on transit. And BikePortland reports that the Senate GOP’s tax bill does away with a modest benefit for bike commuters while retaining the much larger and more destructive parking benefit.

54 thoughts on Albuquerque Hits a New Low With Cruel Response to Pedestrian Deaths

  1. I did wonder about that. Nor does the author want to acknowledge that panhandling does provide a traffic hazard.

  2. Perhaps you should consider removing your article, and avoid writing about a city you have no knowledge of. You do not understand our issues whatsoever.

  3. Based on when they’re reported in the news, most pedestrian deaths occur from people crossing in the middle of a street – not at a crosswalk. I watched a person get off a bus at a large busy intersection (Central and San Mateo) and just stroll across the street through the parked cars that were waiting for the light to turn green. Once it did people started honking and the guy just flipped everyone off and continued walking across the street. Apparently the crosswalk 100 feet away was too far for him to bother with.

  4. The vast majority of pedestrians killed in Albuquerque are ‘under the influence’ when they cross (or outright walk along in the middle of) a street.

  5. Albuquerque has a new transit program called ART which no one wanted. It is destroying the core area of this city. $110,000,000 down the drain which could have gone towards new and better paid cops. Mayor promised The Feds would pay for it so far nothing.

  6. Rape is an intentional act of dominant control. Are you suggesting that drivers intentionally run over people?

  7. ART is welcomed by some and disliked by others. We seem to disagree, but I admire those Albuquerque leaders who supported this. Although it’s come a long way and improved significantly in the past couple decades, public transit in Albuquerque can and should play a greater role in moving people about the sprawling metropolis. ART will help achieve this.

  8. As a former Albuquerque resident and someone who continues to have close ties to the Duke City, I appreciate the author’s article – regardless of where she is from. It’s important for media to point out concerning elements of legislation, and sometimes it is helpful to learn the perspective of an “outsider” – although undoubtedly many local residents are also concerned about banning such types of panhandling.

  9. The panhandling is ridiculous in this town. You cannot stop at an intersection without having to deal wiht them. I blame the fools that give them money it is super dangerous for drivers to hold up traffic just so they can enable these people. The homeless have taken over every park in this city is that ok? is that their right? i cannot even take my child to a park without being in fear of dirty needles not to mention that most of the parks are covered in litter from these people. I do not see anyone worrying about any of the damage they have done to this city, i am sick and tired of seeing them at every corner and i dont care if people run them down it will be one less person ruining this city.

  10. News flash folks – whether you are from Albuquerque, Cleveland, Los Angeles, or New York City, there are significant homeless populations that cannot find adequate shelter, water, and food. And while everyone has their anecdotes about why your homeless populations are “THE WORST!” (I’ve got a few), the truth is that you most likely have not been to every American city and met their homeless populations.

    And to be more blunt, being harassed by the homeless while you are driving 45 mph through these car oriented landscapes was very predictable. The exodus to move out of inner cities was in part started to avoid these types of folks, with the assumption that the poor & homeless couldn’t possibly come to these car oriented landscapes. “Cities are just cesspools that handle the homeless folks, while I get my pristine landscapes!”
    Well, you cannot run away from the fact that nobody has devoted the resources necessary to tackle US homelessness and to treat these folks like human beings. So now the homeless are desperate enough to beg in some of the worst conditions possible. They are left with no other option.

    So no: this law will be purely ineffective in addressing both it’s specified goal of improving pedestrian safety (as Angie highlights in the article) and its hidden goal of curbing homelessness and their interactions with the public. Until you actually address the roots of systematic poverty in the United States and/or provide the homeless with humane living conditions, this. will. never. end.

    Also, show me the stats. Anyone – if you claim that its because of drunken pedestrians, show me the primary cause of the crashes and point to the “intoxication” category. If you claim its homeless folks begging for money when someone sideswipes them, show me the stats. Because if you don’t, I’ve seen nationwide stats, and they don’t support your hypothesis. So unless your local is for some crazy reason that much different from the national average: back. up. your. statements. with. facts.

  11. Great article. If we build streetscapes that are utterly unpleasant for walking, such as in most of Albuquerque (I have visited many times), only the most desperate people will walk. We can do better

  12. The Albuquerque Journal or for that matter, the city council, had zero safety justification on which to base this ordinance. Safety was a poor fig leaf for what amounted to a nuisance ordinance. The panhandlers don’t dive for dollars on 45 mph stretches of midblock dragstrip. They stand on the medians of busy intersections (such as on Montano and Renaissance near the Costco) where traffic is stopped and they do so for obvious reasons–people can dig into their wallets and hand them a buck without doing so while moving. That’s what I see. I plan on ignoring this ordinance.

    This was an embarrassment. As a former member and Chair of the Los Alamos County Transportation Board for a dozen years and also a member of the Board of the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, I know this ordinance was pure bullshit as far as a safety perspective. It amounted to pissing on the graves of the pedestrians and bicyclists killed through bad urban design and a policy of Car is King and Vision Zero is a Joke.

    Thank you, Angie, for covering this.

  13. It’s hard enough being homeless. But as if that’s not enough we subject them to such animosity, even to the point of promoting violence. It could be you or I. Please stop the hate. To promote violence by automobile is especially dangerous in this day and age.

  14. Does that mean you don’t have to interact with cops outside of their patrol cars? They stop you, get out of their car to walk to your car… Oops, they’re now pedestrians, no interaction allowed?

  15. I drive in Albuquerque frequently and see homeless panhandlers every time I am there. They have never given me any crap. I figure if I’m uncomfortable with their mere presence, that’s on me. Get it?

  16. Yep. It looks cool. However, there are many pluses and minuses to the project, something which becomes more evident when you speak to merchants and residents of the area. The project is now far along and the time will soon arrive when we will begin to see the real outcomes. Give it a year or so of operation, then let’s discuss the value of ART.

  17. Their presence isn’t the issue the things (needs, trash, shopping carts makeshift homes on every under pass) they leave behind all around this town is the issue, get it?

  18. Being homeless is hard in this town? Being a productive member of society is hard getting up for a job each day is hard standing on a corner begging for handouts not hard.

  19. Well then. Maybe we should vote for candidates who want to reduce crime and homelessness, but not by targeting the homeless with laws which misstate their intent.

  20. I’ve worked from the time I was 14, only achieving middle class in my late forties. I can tell you it was not easy for a variety of reasons, many beyond my control. Who am I to judge the less fortunate when I have no clue what their experience is? A lot of folks on the street suffer mental illness, something which doesn’t lend itself to finding work. Dig around in your chest for some compassion. It makes for admirable living.

  21. I have volunteered at several of the shelters in this town however the people begging in the streets do not use the shelters and programs available because you can’t be on drugs and out panhandling all day they want to help you get jobs and change your life. I do not need to show compassion for drug addicts and criminals. I’ll let you do that

  22. Still. How do you paint all people not using the shelters as the same kind of person? Some have PTSD and can’t make themselves share space with strangers. They don’t even have to be on drugs to not use shelters.

  23. #1: Source?

    #2: It’s not illegal to walk while under the influence. It is, however, illegal (for instance) to speed, to kill (or even threaten to kill) a pedestrian who is crossing the street legally, etc. (Driving while drunk is illegal because a motor vehicle, if operated improperly, can easily kill or severely injure other people. Walking while is not.)

  24. I’d like to see data to back up that statement and until then, its merely opinion. That said, my read of my morning Abq Journal is that substance abuse is a major problem in the Duke City. Plenty of impaired drivers too. Add to that terrible street design from a Vision Zero perspective and you have a perfect storm.

  25. Yes, the bipolar schizophrenic man in his fifties who lost his mom at 17 is just lazy. He should really toughen up and stop sleeping in so late….

  26. Here’s the data (and map) of Pedestrian fatalities from 2016:
    Fatalities due to fault of driver: 5
    Fatalities due to “Pedestrian Error”: 16


    (replace “_” with “.” due to disqus spam filters)

  27. Source (as another user already requested) below.
    Here’s the data (and map) of Pedestrian fatalities from 2016:
    Fatalities due to fault of driver: 5
    Fatalities due to “Pedestrian Error”: 16


    (replace “_” with “.” due to disqus spam filters)

  28. I don’t agree. 9 miles of a bus lane on a street where there are already 2 buses won’t help. Extending bus operation times would be a better move, and less costly. That’s been my major issue with working in the city. Buses don’t run at the time I go to work, and they don’t run at the time I go home.

  29. You know she won’t. If she’s obtuse enough to link the map without going through it, she’ll hardly look through it now.

    Anyway, going through these fatalities was very difficult emotionally speaking, especially after reading the report of an 87 year old woman who was hit while crossing the street. Pedestrian error, of course. What else!

    Something I’ve noticed: even when the driver is inebriated (as in the case where a woman in a wheelchair was killed by a hit and run driver who was later arrested in his home) the police don’t often mark it as driver error.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that many of these pedestrian deaths happened when the pedestrians were crossing without a crosswalk. Which, to my mind, points to the lack of proper crossing infrastructure. And not to the alleged inebriation of the pedestrians. ABQ is a hard city to walk, and often there’s simply no legal paths in which to cross. Drivers need to be more careful.

  30. I’m not sure how you’re counting this. I just went through and can find 14 marked explicitly “pedestrian error.” Which includes the one pedestrian who was audacious enough to not yield to oncoming traffic after having been struck by another car.

    I can find 2 marked “no driver error” which includes people who just didn’t notice a person in the street. I can find 1 marked for driver inattention which describes a drunk driver killing a pedestrian. There is also “improper driving” which describes a drunk driver killing a pedestrian who is in a wheelchair. And there are 3 explicitly marked “driver error” for those hit and runs where no suspect was found.

  31. ART will deliver faster service along Central (due to its transit-only/dedicated lanes, signal priority at intersections, pre-ticketing, and level boarding) and faster service will help to grow ridership. With more public transit riders, demand for expanded operation times increases, along with increased fare revenue to help finance such service.

  32. You claimed that “The vast majority of pedestrians killed in Albuquerque are ‘under the influence'” – and I’m afraid your source does not back you up on that.

    My experience here in New York – a city whose residents mostly don’t own cars – is that the police are very quick to assign blame to the dead pedestrian, often based largely or solely on the testimony of the motorist himself, and that the pedestrian is often deemed fully to blame even when the motorist was undoubtedly driving in excess of the speed limit, turning without yielding to pedestrians, making an illegal turn, or otherwise breaking the law. So you’ll have to forgive me for assuming that all of the cases in which the pedestrian is blamed were actually the pedestrian’s fault at all let alone in full.

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