Sidewalk Mailbox #4: If You Shovel It, They Will Come?

[Walking to school on the "sidewalk", or mountain climbing?]
All too occasionally on this insignificant sidewalk blog, I receive letters from  readers with questions about important matters of the day, issues that range the entire gamut all the way from sidewalk history, to sidewalk graffiti, to types of sidewalk materials!

Needless to say, I find these queries tremendously exciting. Feedback of any kind always makes me giddy.

At the same time, I’m inevitably disappointed with my responses to these kinds of questions, for the simple reason that, to tell the truth, I don’t know very much about sidewalks! Sure, I can blather on about the joys of walking or random curiosities, and thanks to my very expensive education, I can use words with many syllables. But I know next to nothing about actual sidewalks. You might say, I lack concrete knowledge.

That said, I got a letter the other day from a frustrated citizen of a second-ring Twin Cities’ suburb [Hint: it’s in Ramsey County] who expressed frustration about the lack of shoveled sidewalks in his neighborhood.

Here’s a version what the reader wrote to his local civic code enforcer, with all nouns removed to protect the innocent: [Extra fun game: insert your local nouns and create a Madlibs sidewalk complaint!]

I am very concerned about the lack of snow removal on the part of property owners along [street name], specifically between [street name] and [name of local elementary school]. [Name of city] removes "significant snowfall" along this corridor which we greatly appreciate. It's the nuisance snow which property owners neglect to clear in a timely manner. This snow becomes compacted and glazed over with ice becoming extremely treacherous. In my opinion they are in violation of [number of city code].
My wife has walked our kids to school over the past few days and there are sections of glare ice where they had to walk like "penguins" for lack of a better description. This section is heavily used by the [name of elementary school] walk line as well.

I'm not one to nit-pick, but when this happens time and again it's ridiculous. A majority of home owners do their part which we're very grateful for, but it's the following owners which create problems time and again.

In response, the code enforcer wrote that “citizens are not required to remove snow from the sidewalk” and that “we recommend it, but its not required.” Needless to say, this didn’t please my correspondent!

Even on the best of Twin Cities’ sidewalks, winter maintenance is no easy task. For people with mobility issues – especially the young, the elderly, and the disabled – getting around in the wintertime can be a huge challenge!

[A person in a wheelchair choosing to go the wrong way on the street instead of onto the sidewalk in Minneapolis' SE Como neighborhood.]

But the issue is compounded many times over in the suburbs, which often lack sidewalks altogether. Or if they do have them, they’re almost completely pointless because they lack accessible, nearby destinations. We have an almost impossible task ahead of us lot of work to do if we want to make our suburban neighborhoods walkable, but it would seem to me that requiring snow shoveling could be some “low hanging fruit.” (As added benefits, people would get much needed exercise, boost the snow shovel supplying parts our economy, and maybe even meet their neighbors over a good round of kvetching.)

All this is to say that I turn to you, brave readers. What, if any, are the rules for shoveling sidewalks in the suburbs? Does anyone enforce them? Would it matter if they did? Is there any hope for the wintry suburban pedestrian?

Maybe the only solutions are to either learn to enjoy walking like a penguin, or else to move to Minneapolis, where they only recently enacted a new sidewalk snow shoveling law with teeth.


Matt said...

A second ring suburb, eh? Well I guess it couldn't be St. Paul since that's a first ring suburb! Ba dm chk!

Unknown said...

I've worked on projects for a number of suburbs where the city policy is that property owners don't have to clear any of their own sidewalks - the city is responsible for clearing them all. Generally, these communities are often very reluctant to construct any new sidewalks because they don't want to increase their maintenance responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

Few people consider the benefits versus costs of sidewalks. I suspect a lot more health damage and loss of time occurs than any possible benefit by clearing them after every snow.