Pointing to deadly crash, Montgomery Co. lawmakers want trash bins off sidewalks

Citing the death of a 17-year-old bicyclist over the summer, Montgomery County, Maryland, lawmakers are calling for a review of the county’s trash and recycling practices to make sure trash bins aren’t left blocking sidewalks.

“Just as leaving a trash or recycling bin on the road would be completely unacceptable, the same must be true for all parts of the public right of way, including sidewalks,” County Council member Andrew Friedson wrote in a letter to Adam Ortiz, the director of Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Council members Tom Hucker, Hans Riemer and Evan Glass also signed the Nov. 25 letter.

The letter cited the death of Jacob Cassell, who was cycling along Old Georgetown Road when he was hit by a car after falling into the road. The council members’ letter said Cassell, a rising junior at Winston Churchill High School, “swerved out of the way of a trash bin on the sidewalk of Old Georgetown Road” before falling into the road.

While Montgomery County police have not definitively said why Cassell fell into the road, a police spokeswoman said the investigation did find trash bins were partially blocking the sidewalk in the stretch where the crash took place.

The council members’ letter said Cassell’s death “has shown the critical importance of ensuring sidewalks in our county are free of dangerous obstructions.”

In an interview with WTOP, Friedson said he has consistently heard concerns from residents about trash and recycling bins blocking sidewalks in the county. He said sidewalks should be seen as “critical parts of our infrastructure.”

When sidewalks are blocked, “it’s a safety issue, it’s an accessibility issue, it’s a quality-of-life issue and it’s something that we want to address,” he added.

Friedson wants the Department of Environmental Protection to consider rewriting existing contracts with the companies that handle the county’s trash and recycling to include a requirement that they not be left on sidewalks after they’ve been emptied.

“My goal is that we can solve it without any serious changes to policy, that really it’s about an implementation question,” he said. “And we’ve gotten very responsive feedback from the Department of Environmental Protection. We think that they are going to seriously look into it, see what options are available, work with the contractors and hopefully get this sorted out.”

Separately, Friedson introduced a bill Tuesday related to pedestrian safety. It would limit sidewalk closures near construction sites.

“It’s the same overarching issue of the question of: Do we view sidewalks as key parts of our transportation infrastructure, and do we treat pedestrians with the same level of concern that we treat car traffic?” Friedson said. “And I think the answer should be: We ought to.”

He said the current regulations for when a sidewalk closes are not consistent or clear.

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