Do you ever stop to wonder why a lot of people walk down the middle of streets after a heavy snowfall? Mainly because the sidewalks are treacherous. Think about it. It’s been snowing all day, and most people are at work. That means that most sidewalks have not been shoveled. I just got back from walking my dog around the block, and two homeowners had shoveled their walks. Most of the people who were also walking, were taking advantage of the plowed streets. Makes sense, doesn’t it? The problem is, that a lot of homeowners will never shovel their sidewalks, and the City will never issue the violators tickets. To make matters worse, people rarely clear the walkways at the corners. The intersections continue to pile up with snow every time a snowplow passes by. Depending on the weather conditions, the residential sidewalks might stay ice-covered, or even choppy-snow covered, until the spring thaw. You never know.
So far this year, we’ve been pretty lucky – there has been less snow than normal. But the snow is finally here, and we can pretty much bet that walking up and down neighborhood blocks will be tough from here on out. Now, it would be one thing if the City started to issue tickets to homeowners that don’t take care about shoveling their sidewalks… and that’s kind of funny, because the City loves making money so many other ways. Why not ticket for unkempt sidewalks? Apparently that’s a moot point, which means that we must come up with other ways to maintain navigable sidewalks. In previous years I have called for municipal sidewalk clearing, similar to Rochester (City comes to the rescue when there is more than four inches). And Toronto. Some cities take care of their commercial corridors. Others maintain residential neighborhoods. Buffalo? Zip.
This is a quality of life issue. Think about the people who are a little older, who will remain barricaded in their homes, until the sidewalks are cleared. Many older residents in my neighborhood don’t have cars, and depend on being able to walk to Price Rite. Good luck with that. So what’s the answer? How do other cities do it, when we don’t hear a peep out of Buffalo?
A good start is to read this CityLab article, that talks about the importance of residents being able to get around. The article discusses quality of life issues, the various cities that are willing to take care of their residents, how they did it, why they did it, and how other cities can do it.
Falling snow hurts no one, unless it’s a visibility issue while driving. Snowfall is beautiful. Snow accumulation is an entirely different issue, especially when it comes to maintaining sidewalks (both residential and commercial). If Buffalo’s sidewalks were cleared as efficiently as its streets, it would be a major win for residents, and for shop owners. Buffalo doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel here, all it has to do is to see what other four season cities are doing to make their winters as enjoyable and freewheeling as possible.