Council Members Want Trash, Recycling Bins off Public Sidewalks

Council Members Want Trash, Recycling Bins off Public Sidewalks

Review requested after fatal bicycle crash in August

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District 1 Council Member Andrew Friedson and members of the council's Transportation and Environment Committee sent a letter expressing concern over trash bins left in public walkways.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Friedson

Some Montgomery County Council members want the county to review existing policies on leaving trash and recycling bins in public rights-of-way.

Their letter to the Department of Environmental Protection on Monday was motivated by the Bethesda teenager Jacob Cassell’s death in August after he was struck by a car while bicycling on Old Georgetown Road. At the time, Montgomery County police said Cassell died after swerving to avoid a trash bin on the sidewalk and falling into the path of an oncoming car.

However, Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a spokeswoman for the department, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that detectives have not definitively determined that Cassell died after swerving to avoid a trash can. She said investigators found that there were trash bins on that section of the road, causing a partial obstruction of the sidewalk.

District 1 Council Member Andrew Friedson requested that Director Adam Ortiz review existing policies at the Department of Environmental Protection, which handles waste collection for the county. In the letter, Friedson asked whether the county’s contracts with trash and recycling collectors could be amended to include a clause that bins not be placed in public rights-of-way — including sidewalks — after pick-up.

“We would never accept the idea that a contractor or resident would leave a recycling bin or trash can on a road,” Friedson said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Similarly, we shouldn’t allow that on a sidewalk. They should be viewed as critical parts of our transportation infrastructure.”

In a text message on Wednesday, Ortiz wrote that he received the letter and would review existing policies “to see if reforms should be made.”

“The county executive is convening an interdepartmental work group to look at safety concerns on our sidewalks,” he added.

The letter was also signed by Council Members Hans Riemer, Tom Hucker and Evan Glass, all members of the council’s Transportation and Environment Committee.

Pedestrian and cyclist-involved crashes have become a major concern for council members as they work to implement Vision Zero, a wide-ranging program of initiatives to significantly reduce or eliminate traffic-related deaths by 2030.

The issue has taken on new urgency in Montgomery County, where 11 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed crashes since the start of the year. Seventy more have been seriously injured, according to county data.

“We have three pedestrian or bike-involved collisions every two days and that’s just not a sustainable situation,” Friedson said. “That’s why we sent this letter. When we talk about county government, I think it’s the little things that often make the biggest impact. You can say this is a little thing, but it’s a little thing that had tragic consequences.”

The county keeps a public database of service requests for trash bins, which doesn’t indicate how many are reported in rights-of-way. Friedson said his office frequently fields complaints of trash or recycling cans left on sidewalks by residents and collectors.

Officials have had “dozens” of meetings to address safety concerns on Montgomery County roads, he added. Part of those efforts involve asking every county department to explore possible improvements.

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