City Desk

Not Shoveling Your Sidewalk Can Kill

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Hey, asshole.

Yeah—talking to you, guy who didn't shovel his sidewalk after 35 inches of snow.

Asa Fukuhara, a 32-year-old Agriculture Department engineer, died yesterday in Prince George's County after he was likely forced to walk in the street because snow blocked his path.

Think about that next time you decide Mother Nature to take care of your walk-clearing duties, please.

Perhaps the admonition here is overdramatic. The stretch of sidewalk in question was next to a well-traveled thoroughfare; the rundown occurred on Branch Avenue just outside the D.C. line, not far from the Branch Avenue Metro station that was Fukuhara's destination.

Sgt. Michelle Reedy of the Prince George's County Police says the collision occurred on a stretch of road where the sidewalk ends and becomes what she describes as a "well-worn footpath." There is some dispute, she says, whether the state or country or someone else would have been responsible for clearing the path.

But at the end of the day, the lesson's clear: not upholding the urban compact and clearing a path for your neighbors can have consequences.

Now this message isn't mainly meant for Joe Homeowner, it's also meant for businesses and governmental bodies who are responsible for vast stretches of sidewalk that never see a shovel. If you don't do you part, lives are in danger. And specifically for you governments out there: Spending all your resources to clear streets without lifting a finger for pedestrians is a mistake.

The hit-and-run driver is still at large.

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  • Dave

    I really can't comprehend why a business wouldn't shovel its sidewalks immediately after a snowstorm. Aside from making it look like an asshole, an unshoveled sidewalk prevents customers from entering your establishment. Wtf are these people thinking?

  • Elia

    This is tragic, and I agree that businesses should have made shoveling their sidewalks a priority. However, as for Joe/Jane Homeowner, some people here in Arlington County shoveled their sidewalks several times, only to have them piled with huge mounds of snow by the snow plows.

  • Kim Chi Ha

    I think the driver is the asshole in this case.

  • Samantha

    Can the property owner be sued? Negligent homicide and reckless endangerment shouls apply . He did not have to die .The city is at fault as well and Fenty should be made to personally dig out all of the shouvled walks that his idiots piled high and blocked with snow and ice.Better still, Dumd it allat his house and yard on 17th st NW !

  • Hard to Stomach

    FYI Samantha how is Fenty responsible for a hit-and-run in Prince George's County?

    Anthony Williams and Fenty are only responsible for pricing folks out of DC and making PG County become Ward 9 for Peanut and Pookie surrounded by DS-13's residing in planned communities with no sidewalks who make themselves feel better by constantly reminding us that "Ebony magazine said PG County is the richest black county in the nation."

  • Glenn Alan

    On Saturday, Feb 13, I watched city workers shoveling the sidewalk outside the Starbucks on 18th and Columbia in Adams Morgan. I don't think this is a good use of city funds. Why can't Starbucks shovel their own walks.

  • Mike DeBonis

    Sure they were city guys, Glenn Alan? Might have been workers from the Ad-Mo BID, which businesses pay for.

  • D.C. Russell

    It is hard to be absolutely certain exactly where this happened, but the entire route from the victim's home to the Metro entrance is follows a MD state highway along National Park Service land.

    So, the asshole responsible for not clearing the walk is either part of the National Park Service, or part of the Maryland Highway Administration.

    Or, if you believe in the Truman view of where the buck stops, the asshole is Barack Obama and/or Martion O'Malley.

    Either way, a government agency was at fault, not a business or individual.

  • Eileen

    The driver killed the man, but the government made it more likely -- by not shoveling the sidewalk and/or by dumping snow from the plows onto the sideways. So drivers were able to go about their usual ways, while pedestrians struggle to do what human beings are meant to do -- wlak on our own two feet. This isn't just a mistake; it's an injustice.

  • DCBird

    Shoveling responsibility aside (SOMEONE should have shoveled it, that's for sure) it seems like the underlying problem is the absence of sidewalks...

    "Sgt. Michelle Reedy of the Prince George's County Police says the collision occurred on a stretch of road where the sidewalk ends and becomes what she describes as a "well-worn footpath."

    It's absurd that walking isn't better accommodated with sufficient sidewalks so close to a Metro stop.

  • Eileen

    DCBird -- I think the "well-worn footpath" she was referring to was probably the unshoveled portion of the sidewalk there, which actually does run the whole length of Branch Ave to the Metro (check google streetview between his complex (3001 Branch) and the Metro (3101 Branch)). Commenters on the WPost site who live in the same complex have said that the complex shoveled its share of the sidewalk, but whoever owns the next portion of it did not -- I would guess that people walking to the Metro were making do, trying to stick to the sidewalk area and trampling down the snow -- and by Friday that kind of path, particularly at 6 AM, would have been a sheet of ice (that's what those sidewalks are like where I live), so the police are speculating (probably correctly) that he had to take to the street when he reached it. All that said, when I looked at that area on google, I could easily see the perils there that pedestrians face -- some reports have included some mild implicit criticism of Mr. Fukuhara for walking with, rather than against, traffic, but it would have been at least as dangerous for him to try to cross Branch Ave and then cross back -- there is no sidewalk on the other side, the intersections along that route are more complex and unmarked, and there are no ped signals at the Metro station intersection. MD clearly designed that stretch of road to force pedestrians to walk on the side of the street where he was walking, and then they probably dumped the snow plowed from Branch Ave onto the sidewalk he was trying to walk.

  • IMGoph

    naylor road station there, mike. i've always been confused why this station isn't called branch ave., seeing as how it's the more major road there. of course, then that brings up why in the hell the end of the line is called branch ave.

    anyway, people who don't clear sidewalks suck, and municipalities who don't put sidewalks along streets suck even more.

  • Bernstein

    The driver is the asshole here and no one else.

    You can infer how well he was driving by the fact that he drove off after committing manslaughter.