APD launches crackdown

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 14, 2008

AHOSKIE – When will walking down a public street land a person in a court of law?

When they are using the center turn lane as their personal lane of travel.

With the blessing of the Ahoskie Town Council, the Ahoskie Police Department will immediately begin to issue citations to those who are using a public street/road as a sidewalk.

There was a discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting regarding a noted increase in the number of pedestrians using the center turn lane of streets for their “foot-powered” travel. Reports of that pedestrian traffic included children as well as adults pushing infants in baby carriages.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said his officers have only issued verbal warnings to those walking in the center turn lanes. On Tuesday, he was told by council members to enforce the full letter of the law, beginning immediately.

“This is totally an issue of safety,” Chief Fitzhugh told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in a later interview. “We’ve had some instances of where pedestrians were struck by passing vehicles and there was one incident a few years back where a pedestrian lost their life while standing in a center turn lane.”

The issue of pedestrians using a roadway as their lane of travel is tied into the fact that they are, in Fitzhugh’s words, “impeding traffic.”

“What the council did on Tuesday was to direct my department to being issuing citations to those walking or standing in the middle of any street or lane of travel,” Fitzhugh said.

Fitzhugh said the fines are determined by a judge.

He urged pedestrians to use the sidewalks. If there are no sidewalks, walking along the edge of a street is permissible, only if the pedestrians are not impeding traffic.

Chief Fitzhugh said the law also applies to “curbside” basketball goals and individuals playing basketball in the street.

“Basketball goals cannot be placed in a position that impedes traffic nor is it lawful for individuals to use a public street to participate in the sport of basketball,” Fitzhugh noted. “We encourage our citizens to enjoy the outdoors, but not in a way where it endangers their lives or causes a motorist to become involved in an accident because they are forced to suddenly change lanes to avoid striking someone using the street as a basketball court.”

He continued, “Again, this is a matter of safety. Find an area away from the street where it is safe to play.”

As part of the crackdown on street basketball, Fitzhugh said his officers will not only issue citations, but will also confiscate basketball goals in cases where no one claims ownership.

“By law, if no one claims to own that type of personal property, we can seize them as abandoned property,” Fitzhugh said. “By law, we can hold that property for a period of 180 days, thus giving the owner ample time to claim ownership.”

If such property is still unclaimed after 180 days, the Ahoskie Police Department, by law, can dispose of those items by sale pending the prior notification of such sale through a newspaper advertisement.