Road signs are aimed at panhandlers, not shoppers

Outside the south Walmart parking lot there is a sign which reads, "Transfer of items between vehicles and pedestrians is prohibited. Medford Code 6.360 (6)." My wife says maybe we shouldn't be loading packages into the car. What in the world does that mean?

— Robert S., Medford

Fear not, Robert, you can still load up those Christmas presents in your family car. (And if you need sizes or preferences from the humble wretches here, just drop us a line at the Since You Asked Refuge for People Who Generally Get Coal in Their Stockings. We'd be happy to give you some wonderful ideas to make our Christmas merry.)

As for the sign you spotted, there are similar signs posted around the city of Medford, generally at traffic lights. The signs are not directed toward people who are putting stuff into or taking it out of their own cars, but rather to prevent curbside begging.

We're sure you've seen the folks carrying signs that say everything from "Out of work" to "Need help" or, our favorite, "Why lie? I need a beer."

After such roadside panhandling became a nuisance in the eyes of the city fathers, they passed the ordinance referenced on the sign. The ordinance, most recently amended in 2011, now includes the section (6) you mentioned, under the heading of "Unlawful transfer on vehicular portion of the right-of-way."

It goes on at length, but basically says that a pedestrian and a person inside a car cannot exchange any item while the vehicle is being operated on a city street. You can go to the city website ( and click on "Municipal Codes" in the right-hand column to find the full ordinance, or, even easier, Google "Medford Code 6.360 (6)" and it will come right up.

The law was passed to stop the roadside interactions between the askers and givers, but it had to be carefully worded to avoid violating freedom of speech protections, which do allow people to ask for money or help. So the law was written to prohibit people in cars from handing anything to "pedestrians" (code for panhandlers). It doesn't prohibit the speech, just the action of exchanging any item.

The violation carries a fine of $75.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to

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