Sunday, September 26, 2010

Separate but Equal?

(Police officers drove by this illegally-parked auto for hours with no response. The Police Station is just up the street from this location.)

If a Police Officer were to come upon a car parked across the street, blocking traffic so that cars had to drive-up onto the curb to pas,, what do you think would happen? The Officer would certainly ticket the car and call for a tow truck to get it out of the way and re-open the road for traffic. Even if no one called to complain, the Officer would see that there is a problem and act accordingly.

The road surface is only one part of urban neighborhood Rights-of-way. Sidewalks are also an important amenity on ROWs, and considering that a large portion of the population doesn't own or operate a motor vehicle, it should be equally important for sidewalks to remain as clear as the roads.Still, Montgomery County Police Officers seem reluctant - even resistant - to enforcing ROW laws as they effect pedestrians. Even if someone calls, Police officers will try not to ticket or tow individuals who are blocking sidewalks in violation of the law.

The priority is on vehicle traffic, that is plain to see. By contrast, pedestrians get little consideration, and even less enforcement. Twenty percent of adult Americans don't own or operate a car. With hundreds of pedestrian collisions and dozens of fatalities each year in Montgomery County, how can so little attention be paid to dangerous situations on sidewalks? An entire group of people that includes children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and lower income people are not being protected by law enforcement as they utilize County ROWs. In other words, your right to safety on the ROW is determined by your ability to own and operate a car. If you can drive you will receive protection, if you can't you're on your own.

Pedestrians receive second-class treatment in so many ways in Montgomery County. Ownership of a motor vehicle seems to be a prerequisite to inclusion and respect here. Equal access is not extended to non-drivers. Laws to protect pedestrians carry a lower-priority for Police and Permitting Services, among others. The death toll will never get better until this practice is abolished forever.
(Meanwhile, people with wheelchairs, stollers, or guide dogs have to negotiate both a big hole in the ground and a car parked across the sidewalk....)

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