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A new ordinance aims to keep people from loitering on pedestrian bridges, but enforcement is unclear

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
/
KNPR
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. But many people, tourists and locals alike, are still confused about the new laws.

The new “Pedestrian Flow Zone” ordinance is intended to prevent a traffic jam on the Las Vegas Strip's pedestrian bridges. It’s all about ensuring safety by keeping foot traffic flowing.

Locals like Cami and Dee Jones think it's unnecessary.

“Nobody lingers that long any way. They're always going somewhere anyway,” they said.

While the bridges only represent a fraction of the walking areas along the Strip, the ordinance came about because calls for police assistance on those bridges increased by 29% between 2018 and 2022, according to the Clark County Commission. And disorderly conduct offenses increased by 23% — nearly 9,000 incidents or an average of more than 2,000 incidents each year.

But some visitors were unaware of the new ordinance, like David and Claudia Aguilar, who were visiting from Mexico.

“I don't know anything about it,” they said in Spanish.

Violating the ordinance can result in a $1,000 fine. Neither the Las Vegas Police Department nor the Clark County Commission would comment on the law, but provided the written ordinance, which went into effect this past January.

It specifically says it's “not meant to prevent people from taking pictures.” It’s meant to prevent people from stopping and standing on the bridges, but how long is too long?

Visitors such as Thomas Castillo from San Jose say there’s room for interpretation.

"Two minutes, three minutes, five minutes at the most," he said.

The Pedestrian Flow ordinance also appears to affect workers more than visitors, even though it specifically says it's not meant to “target street performers.”

Jesse Martinez has been playing music in the streets of Las Vegas for several years. He said he's been asked to move before, and he's been ticketed but the fine dropped in court. He has to moved to other locations but there's no better place for tips than on the Strip.

“We're not doing anything bad,” he said in Spanish. “Just playing music.”

And the law is confusing for workers like Kayla, who didn't want to give her last name. As a showgirl, she earns money taking pictures with tourists. She also wasn't clear on the details.

“There's supposed to be signs posted but there's not, so I don't really know if it's in effect or not," she said.

An empty pedestrian bridge, with an elevator at the end.
Yvette Fernandez
/
KUNR
Yellow signs designating the Pedestrian Flow Zone can be seen next to the elevators on the elevated bridges on the Las Vegas Strip. Most of these signs are not at eye level. They read "Pedestrian Flow Zone: No stopping, standing, or activity causing another to stop" in English and Spanish.

The yellow signs, which are currently only in English and Spanish, are posted about 8 feet high, above the elevators where few people can see them. The signs only mention that it is a "Pedestrian Flow Zone" and that there should be "no stopping, standing or activity causing another to stop." There is no mention of fines.

The ordinance also includes what's called “touch down” areas, which are about a 20-foot radius surrounding the stairs, escalators and elevators at the bottom of the pedestrian bridges. And that is where there's the most congestion as almost every business has pop-up activities during special events.

A densely packed crowd of people mill about on a sidewalk. It's so crowded that you can't see the sidewalk. An open doorway to a store is in the background, and the rail of an escalator can be seen in the foreground.
Yvette Fernandez
/
KNPR
A crowd of football fans jams the sidewalks near an escalator going up to a pedestrian bridge on the Strip. The Pedestrian Flow Zone ordinance is meant to keep pedestrians moving and discourage people from stopping traffic in these "touch down" areas — a 20-foot around radius around escalators and elevators leading to the bridges.

“I heard about it back in the U.K,” said Paul Deveney, a tourist from London. He said he's seen similar ordinances in other cities. “It's a bit like Venice, they do that in Venice as well. You can't stand around taking photos."

But what about this ordinance in Las Vegas?

"It's rubbish," he said. "This is Las Vegas, you can't stop people from moving and grooving. It's what people come here for.”

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.

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