Montgomery County committees pass snow bill

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was killed while crossing University Boulevard -- mid-block, in the dark, in dark clothes, wearing a headset.

Blair Principal Phillip Gainous knew from the start that his new building at Colesville Road and University Boulevard was going to have a problem with kids darting across eight lanes of traffic. Already this year, there've been two non-fatal hits in addition to the senior who was killed.

"Most students believe, 'Why walk another 50 feet to the light when you can dart across?' " Gainous says. School guards on bicycles try to rein in students, but at dismissal the other day, more kids ran randomly through traffic than were in the crosswalks.

Not even tragedy slows the kids, Gainous says. "Less than 50 feet from where the authorities were measuring as part of their investigation into the last student who was hit, we had students darting across the road."

Wetmore takes one look outside Blair and sees the problem: "Look at where the students come out the door and where the crosswalk is. There's no relationship between the two. You want to make that crosswalk so safe and convenient that no one would even think of using anything else." Those who do go to the crosswalk face an interminable wait for a walk signal -- a powerful incentive to just dart across.

Wetmore's one-man show -- which airs in Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax and Arlington counties and the District, as well as about 50 other cities -- focuses on horrific intersections like Shady Grove Road and Route 355 in Rockville, dozens of lanes with no pedestrian signals and lots of left-turn lights to perplex anyone who dares to walk.

Amazingly, Wetmore remains hopeful that government can protect pedestrians: Build more sidewalks; change design standards with walkers in mind; ticket drivers who don't yield to pedestrians.

I hope he prevails, but I have to say, walking around with him drove me nuts. We stopped for every light, no matter how long the wait. Luckily, we were doing so for each other's benefit. Don't tell, but on his own, with a clear view and no oncoming traffic, even he crosses on red.

Montgomery County committees pass snow bill

by Theodore Kim
Gazette Staff Writer

March 30, 2001

Two Montgomery County Council committees Thursday approved a bill requiring all property owners to clear sidewalks of snow, setting the stage for its passage and capping a lengthy debate over the nuts-and-bolts of the legislation.

The Public Safety, and the Transportation and Environment committees acted on the bill during a joint meeting Thursday afternoon. The vote was 3-1.

A bare majority of the council members have said they will vote for or are prepared to vote for the bill, which would require all property owners, including single-family households, to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks and parking areas that border their property.

A notice would be issued for the first violation. Beyond that, a $50 fine would be imposed if the snow is not cleared within 24 hours. Also, failure to plow blocked handicapped parking spaces would carry a $100 penalty.

The law is being pushed by Councilmen Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, Isiah Leggett (D-At large) of Burtonsville and Steven A. Silverman (D-At large) of Silver Spring.

Several years ago, Montgomery lawmakers attempted to pass similar legislation, but the bill was defeated because of a lack of council support.

"This is an idea whose time has come," said Councilman Derick P. Berlage (D-At large) of Silver Spring.

Councilwoman Nancy H. Dacek (R-Dist. 2) of Darnestown, a member of the public safety committee, cast the lone vote against the bill, contending it would add significant costs to homeowners associations, and that enforcing the ordinance would be difficult. Moreover, the county itself would be hard-pressed to comply with the law around its many government facilities.

"This is not just a small community," Dacek said. "This is a large county. I can't see how this can be coordinated."

However, the bill's supporters argued that other jurisdictions -- including Howard and Prince George's counties, Rockville, Gaithersburg and the District of Columbia -- already have similar successful laws

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