The panhandler on the Silverdale median

The in basket: Kathy Stansberry of Bremerton has noticed the growing number of panhandlers who take up positions at the roadside or sidewalk at traffic signals, and asks about one in particular.

He was on the long raised center median on Bucklin Hill Road between Silverdale Way and Shore Drive one day in November, walking up to cars and peering inside. It didn’t seem safe for him and looked like he could cause drivers he distracted to run into one another, she thought.

She wondered if it was legal.

She also said she’s seen a couple of people, probably ready to seek money from drivers stopped at the signal on Kitsap Way at the end of the southbound off-ramp from Highway 3, waiting out of the weather under the overpass while another held his sign seeking donations at the off-ramp. She wondered if they were taking turns.

The out basket: The man on the median was doing something illegal, says Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office. One state law says “No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting employment or business from the occupant of any vehicle,” and another, intended mostly to require pedestrians  to walk against traffic, says, “Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk or otherwise move along and upon an adjacent roadway.”

Either carries a $56 fine, Scott said, though my guess is a deputy or police officer would more likely to just order the person onto the shoulder, where panhandling can legally be done.

“Those wishing to panhandle need to do so from outside of the traveled portion of the roadway, between the fog line and curb or on the shoulder of the roadway outside of the fog line,” Scott said.

“Now whether or not this applies to a large, grassy median that separates lanes of travel, such as is found up on Ridgetop Boulevard., is unclear,” he added. “However, it’s not recommended.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if, when more than one panhandler shows up at the same spot, they take turns. As a young street musician seeking money at a Portland area rest area told me in October, they know that even people willing to contribute to panhandlers don’t like to have to choose between them, so they recognize direct competition is not in their best interests..

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