Las Vegas May Criminalize Stopping to View Strip from Pedestrian Bridges

Posted on: November 23, 2023, 11:13h. 

Last updated on: November 24, 2023, 11:34h.

Tourists who stop on one of the 15 pedestrian bridges spanning the Las Vegas tourist corridor could soon get cited with a misdemeanor. That’s if a new ordinance, introduced by the Clark County Commission last week, gets approved.

A pedestrian bridge spanning Sands Avenue.
Las Vegas tourists photograph the MSG Sphere from a pedestrian bridge spanning Sands Avenue. (Image: KVVU-TV)

The measure would establish “pedestrian flow zones” on the bridges — and within 20 feet of adjoining escalators, stairs, and stairs — that make it unlawful to “stop, stand, or engage in an activity that causes another person to stop or stand.”

“Clark County has a substantial government interest in providing safe pedestrian access on the Las Vegas Strip,” reads the ordinance. Clark County is the Strip’s governing body.

Private security officers yell at a man for stopping to watch the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix from a pedestrian bridge last Saturday. (Image: TikTok/@beianford)

Race Related?

The proposal’s timing makes it seem like a response to crowd behavior during last weekend’s inaugural F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, during which the bridges were clogged with pedestrians attempting to watch and video the race.

But the bridges’ impedance of traffic flow is not a new concern. It has vexed the county — the Strip’s governing body — for at least four years.

The ordinance cites an analysis by UNLV’s Department of Criminal Justice, which showed a 23% increase in calls for disorderly behavior on Las Vegas Boulevard from 2018 to 2022 — 11% of which occurred on bridges, despite their representing only 6% of the resort corridor’s total available sidewalk space.

The analysis also showed a 1,700% increase in calls for disorderly unhoused individuals on the bridges: from 56 in 2018 to 1,031 in 2022.

The bridges’ impedance of pedestrian traffic flow is ironic, considering that they were constructed in the ‘90s specifically to improve pedestrian traffic flow on the Strip intersections beneath them.

Though the ordinance does not mention the MSG Sphere, the pedestrian bridge nearest to it has been perpetually clogged with pedestrians, who stand still and wait for the perfect Sphere visual to photograph since the world’s largest external video screen was activated on July 4th.

Civil Rights Impedance?

A local official with the American Civil Liberties Union told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the ordinance violates the First Amendment’s right to assemble, which practically guarantees that its passage will trigger a legal showdown.

“There’s a right to engage in protected First Amendment activity, whether that’s protests, whether that’s street performances or street art, whether or not it ends up being someone who’s attempting to administer religious services,” Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the Nevada ACLU, told the newspaper. “Under this specific proposal, none of those activities would be permitted.”

The ordinance acknowledges its impact on First Amendment activity, but argues that “ample” space for free speech would still exist on sidewalks that are not part of  the proposed pedestrian flow zones.

A public hearing on the measure will be held during the next Clark County Commission meeting, being held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5.