Traffic congestion Downtown could get a whole lot more citation-y as the City Council considers a resolution to create no-cruising zones. The clampdown began when Mayor Martin Chavez signed the Cruising on Public Streets Ordinance in May, and since then the city has been researching Downtown traffic patterns (you may have noticed the little white boxes on Central, Gold and Copper a couple weeks ago). With this latest resolution sponsored by City Councilor Craig Loy, any motorist spotted passing the same traffic control point three times within a two-hour period during designated hours could be nailed with a citation, unless you live or work in the area.
While this may sound like an obvious solution to an annoying problem, some object.
City Councilor and mayoral candidate Eric Griego, who opposed the Cruising on Public Streets Ordinance, says Loy's resolution punishes kids for being young and having nothing to do. "I think the bill is misguided. I think it really turns young people into criminals for doing nothing more than driving in their car with their friends."
Griego, who represents the Downtown area, says cruisers that cause trouble need to be dealt with assertively, but he says changing the law is not the solution and providing alternative activities for young people is.
Councilor Loy, a retired APD captain representing the Northeast Heights, disagrees that cruisers are mostly young people. He acknowledges that "car culture" is a big part of the community, but says it's both kids and adults who are cruising. He also rejects the claim that kids don't have any better alternatives to cruising.
According to Loy, the city has tried to quell cruising through other avenues such as closing Central between Fifth Street and Second Street during weekend evenings, but he says it hasn't solved the problem.
Leonard Apodaca, co-owner of Atomic Cantina, located on Gold between Third Street and Fourth Street says the cruising he sees tends to be a nuisance on the weekends, citing fights and other problems. "When it takes [customers] 30 minutes to get through the cruising lane and park, that's when it can hurt businesses."
Loy's resolution was introduced Monday night and could mean the end of vehicular loitering. If passed by the Council, the law would allow APD to post signs that say "No-Cruising" in designated areas and then monitor the traffic flow for violators.
"The bottom line is that we've got to provide for public safety and at the same time avoid being a police state," says Loy. "It's a fine compromise and I'm willing to listen to anyone who can come up with a solution," adding: "I think Downtown is certainly going to be a test model."