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Let’s Talk About The Advantages of Municipal Sidewalk Snow Removal… Again!

There are two types of homeowners, when it comes to shoveling snow – those who do it, and those who don’t. Unfortunately, those who don’t clear their sidewalks ruin it for those who actually take the time to be respectful to the rest of the community. After all, if the majority of the sidewalks are cleared on a single block, and, say, five homeowners have done nothing about clearing the walkways, then the block is still considered a walking hazard.

Yesterday, I had a meeting over on the West Side, so I began my walk a good ten minutes early, due to predictable and problematic snow-filled sidewalks. It turns out that uncleared sidewalks are not even the whole of the problem, when walking about the city… the curbcuts are just as bad, consisting of small mountains of snow that have been made worse thanks to the snowplows, which pile up mounds of ice-laden slush.

Between the homeowners that can’t get their act together to shovel, and the curbcuts that are (many times) under a foot of ice and snow, walking to and fro can be quite troublesome. Me? I’m proficient at hopping over the snowy buildups, but think about someone who is elderly, or in a wheelchair? Yikes! It might as well be akin to climbing Mount Everest.

A curbcut at the corner of Richmond and Connecticut – the sidewalks on this corner are almost as congested with snow

What is one to do?Actually, Rochester has managed to figure it out, with municipal sidewalk snow removal (see here). The homeowner is responsible for clearing a light snowfall, but the City steps in when the snow accumulates to 4″+. The City plows 878 miles of sidewalks! In order to pay for the sidewalk clearing, the City tacks on an embellishment fee on homeowners’ property tax bills that are based on the front footage of a property. Now, this seems like a worthy tax bill that I would gladly pay, knowing that I can freely walk about the city without worrying about all of the snow and hazards that abound. 

What’s really interesting is that we, as Buffalonians, take for granted that the sidewalks will be a mess during the winter months. We’re so accustomed to it, that we don’t even stop to think about the “What ifs?”. It’s unacceptable. This is a poor quality of life issue that we should no longer have to deal with. Personally, I was sick of it a long time ago. Now, knowing that our neighbor city has come up with a solid solution, makes me wonder what the heck is going on with Buffalo? We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The wheel is rolling in Rochester.

Not only would municipal snow removal alleviate the headaches that we face on a regular basis, it would also increase the city’s workforce. Just think about unemployed workers who would jump at a chance to be employed seasonally. What is the downside? Yes, it’s an added expense that some people are not going to want to pay, but at the same time, there should never be a time that someone can’t walk about freely in their own city, regardless of where one lives.

Lead image: Rachacha, who coincidentally hails from Rochester (a city with municipal sidewalk snow removal), does his self-imposed snow clearing duty on Buffalo’s West Side.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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