Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow Clearance

You wouldn't expect your neighbor to clear the snow on the street in front of his house, so why would you depend on him to clear the sidewalk in front of it?

In the United States, automobiles get first priority on our streets.  That should be no surprise if you've grown up here.  Unfortunately this can lead to some pretty miserable consequences for pedestrians, especially when it comes to snow clearance.  Cities and towns are required to plow public roads, but not sidewalks.  Citing high costs, municipalities place the responsibility of snow removal from sidewalks on the business and home owners.  In some cities and states, they property owners are not required to shovel or plow at all.

Because I missed the 4:50pm train from Boston North Station, I had to take the 5:20pm train that does not stop at Brandeis/Roberts.  As a consequence, I had to walk 1.7 miles from the station in downtown Waltham.  I took this picture at the most well-lit portion of the walk (under the bright lights of a 99 Restaurant parking lot, not the municipal street lights).

I promise there's a sidewalk here.  See how well the street is cleared?  At least six plows passed me, scraping the pavement as they zoomed by, but only three business owners and three homeowners were in the process of shoveling the sidewalk.  All of the pedestrians had to trudge through the slush, both soaking their shoes and risking their safety. 

I propose either: 1) taxpayers allocate the necessary funds to have the city/town plow the sidewalks or; 2) municipalities re-prioritize snow removal based on the amount of environmental damage done by each method of transport: bicycle lanes and sidewalks first, bus and streetcar lanes second, and automobile-only lanes last.  

In an automobile-dominated nation, someone has to speak for the pedestrians.

1 comment:

  1. While I understand your position and certainly sympathize, as a bicyclist myself. I need to respectfully disagree. You have to understand there is more to this picture. The street you are walking along (South St) functions as a major thoroughfare, and for public safety needs to be well plowed and sanded. Just one block behind you, and one block over (on Prospect St.), you will find a fire station, which is first due at Brandeis, where you are a student. One block ahead of you is a hospital, with an Urgent Care center, and pediatric inpatient units. South St is the access road from Waltham to Newton Wellesley Hospital, a mere 3 miles away, and provides access to Routes 90 and 95/128, which connect Waltham to Boston.

    The evening of Feb 15th it snowed overnight, and the Department of Public Works of Waltham prioritizes keeping South Street clear. After they have ensured the safe passage of vehicles on major roads, they move to smaller roads, and clearing crosswalks. Do you truly expect for the business that you are walking past (99 restaurant) to clear their walk at 5-something AM? Would you like to see homeowners start shoveling at 4:30, just in case you miss your train, and have to walk past their house that early morning?
    I think you have to understand the world doesnt exist just for you... there are other animals on this planet, and other interests then just yours. It's a wide world out there, take a look someday!