Former officer clarifies rules of the roadside


July 09, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I JUST finished reading your column on road solicitors, and wanted to point out that I used to work as a police officer in Howard County and used to enforce the solicitor laws," said Bill Perigo of Marriottsville.

He clarified some of the rules regarding roadside solicitations: "If you are soliciting or peddling along a road, then you can only do so on a county-maintained road, but you cannot step out onto the pavement. `Standing in roadway to solicit ride, business, etc.,' is a ticketable offense under Maryland law," he said.

Unfortunately, I've seen these well-meaning volunteers scampering between cars, well away from medians and shoulders, including while the cars are beginning to move after the light has turned green.

In light of such repeated irresponsible and, yes, dangerous behavior, I'm still advocating that Howard County ban such roadside solicitations completely. I've also seen flower vendors moving between cars, especially at Dobbin Road at Route 175.

Furthermore, according to Perigo, the State Highway Administration does not allow soliciting along state-maintained roads, ruling out such solicitation - charitable or otherwise - along Interstate 95, Route 174, U.S. 29 or U.S. 1, among others. Chances are, if the road has a number, not a name, charitable solicitations are prohibited. But that doesn't mean such solicitations can't occur along the roads that intersect state-maintained roads.

Perigo noted, "You also cannot walk or park a vehicle along a controlled access highway, such as U.S. 29 or Route 175, which is another ticketable offense."

But Perigo also said, "Although these laws seem confusing, there are many successful and safe people doing business alongside our roadways."

As a fan of several local farmers who sell their fresh produce along the road, I agree. But there's a difference between a car parked well off the road selling produce and people bouncing around cars at busy intersections trying to solicit loose change for sometimes dubious causes.

S.J. Forth offers insight into the perspectives of bicyclists and car drivers. She identifies herself as an "avid cyclist in Howard County," having cycled for more than 20 years and averaging 200 miles a week. She said she has had several close calls with cars, including an instance in which a teen reached out of a car and tried to grab her shirt, which is inexcusable.

"I follow the rules of the road. Howard County is not a cyclist- or walker-friendly county at all. There is no safe place to walk, or [paths] connecting one neighborhood to another. This makes it very difficult for walkers, cyclists or roller-bladers," she said. "If you were to visit Northern Virginia suburbs, you would be impressed to see how all the communities, shopping centers, neighborhoods are connected by paths or sidewalks. With all the money in Howard County, I would think some kind of network of paths and sidewalks could be constructed. This would certainly encourage exercise. Kids could walk over to another neighborhood to meet friends safely. Seniors could walk to the new senior center or library or stores. Even the paths in the Columbia area don't go anywhere."

Forth also abhors careless bicyclists, and refers to a racing team that rides in a pack in and around Ellicott City.

"They ride two to three abreast, blocking traffic. This is not the correct way to ride - it should be single file," she said.

She thinks they give "good cyclists" a bad name, and make drivers angry toward other bicyclists. "I am sure everyone who rides with this team is aware of what they are doing. I myself want to run them over when I get stuck behind them. So, team captain, get your act together and set a good example for the rest of us who want to ride safely in Howard County!"

MARC keeps running

If Amtrak's financial worries made you worry about your future commutes on MARC, the good news is that you can continue to purchase monthly tickets. Amtrak's financial problems will not affect MARC train service under a preliminary agreement between Amtrak and White House officials. That's a relief.

For those who don't know, MARC service is operated by Amtrak under contract with the Maryland Transit Administration. More than 21,000 passenger trips are made daily on the three MARC lines - so if MARC were to shut down, you would have longer commutes.

Construction ahead

As if traffic isn't slow enough on Route 32, look for construction and lane closures on Route 32 north, from Old Frederick Road to Route 99 this month and possibly early next month.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or send faxes to 410-715-2816.

A Correction

Tiana Coll of Woodbine read last week's column, which mentioned construction this month on Route 32 north, between Old Frederick Road and Route 99. She wondered, "Aren't Old Frederick Road and Route 99 one and the same?" The lane closure is actually between Route 144/Frederick Road and Route 99/Old Frederick Road. A typographical error on the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART) Web site ( d_closures.asp) translated into a big error in this column, for which I apologize.

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