It has been so long since it snowed in Santa Fe that many people did not bother to clear off snowy sidewalks and driveways, creating difficult walking conditions.

To be clear, the responsibility of clearing snow off sidewalks belongs to the property owner. That means individuals need to shovel snow sooner, not later. Swift action prevents injury and reduces liability — property owners, after all, can be held responsible for injuries if they failed to clear the walks adequately.

This snowfall — perhaps because it came during a long weekend — had sidewalks on Marcy Street in front of the downtown library and City Hall itself difficult to walk along on Monday. The sidewalks were so icy pedestrians took to the road to avoid falling. The city and other governmental agencies should set the example, not create more dangerous conditions.

Two years ago, we also wrote about the perennial problem of icy and snowy sidewalks. After those snowstorms, many businesses along Cerrillos Road and St. Michael’s Drive did not sweep the sidewalks and state government offices had snowy walks as well. Little has changed.

At the time, we called for a public awareness campaign to educate property owners about their responsibilities. Owners of homes and business don’t just have to clean snow — they also must fix broken sidewalks and ensure bushes don’t block paths. Some residential neighborhoods have sidewalks so crowded with vegetation people have to take to the streets. Snowy sidewalks also make safe passage difficult. Some communities, recognizing that going it alone is hardly the best method, have formed coalitions to clear snow.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., residents formed a cooperative called SnowBuddy, which has raised money, bought insurance and uses tractors driven by volunteers to remove sidewalk snow. The Ann Arbor model is about more than snow removal, however. Residents there believe sidewalks are transportation corridors and, as such, should be a responsibility of government, not individuals.

Back in 2015, one of the project organizers, Paul Tinkerhass had this to say: “We want to make an example of what a neighborhood looks like through the winter if its walks are all kept clear. But equally important, we want to encourage our city officials to consider taking this task from us, since they are the rightful administrators of the transportation corridors.”

The experiment is still going strong, with SnowBuddy volunteers keeping residents informed about their work via social media. What’s more, the group has successfully persuaded the Ann Arbor City Council to reconsider its sidewalk snow removal policies. It is considering a range of solutions — from bringing in city workers to clear sidewalks on major transit corridors to having the city clear residential walks, too.

What the Michigan initiative does is remind everyone sidewalks are part of a broader transportation system and keeping them safe and clear is essential to a multi-modal transportation system. It also relieves pressure on the elderly or infirm, individuals who can’t clear their own walks and might not be able to afford to have it done.

Temperatures are expected to heat up in the next few days, so most remaining snow should be gone soon. It’s still important to sweep any remaining moisture off to prevent ice forming. Treat the sidewalks with ice melt or sand. Especially where water is running off a building and streaming out on the sidewalk or street, dangerous ice patches are likely. Like so many things, preventing ice from forming is much easier than having to pick it away.

Weather forecasters have predicted a dry winter — so the recent snow was a wonderful way to start the year. We would welcome more snow. But when that snow comes, be ready to clear the walks.

(9) comments

Veronica Moya

I live on Osage Avenue and after getting up early to clear my sidewalk, the city snowplow came along and piled the street salted ice & snow back onto the sidewalk.

I called the constitute department and the employee told me to wait until the snowplow go by and then for me to clear my sidewalk....SMH!!!!

Jean Hinlicky

It appears that the city itself isn't doing its job. I tried to walk on Camiono Cabra yesterday (Monday) and was forced into the busy street since Atalaya Alementary school (with beautifully cleared parking lot) had not TOUCHED the long sidewalk in front of it. Same with the adejacent Rio Grande, a private school.

John Garcia

We live on Osage Avenue, Casa Algeria, City of Santa Fe. As more and more properties become rentals... less and less sidewalks are shoveled after snowfall.

Same interest is taken by landlords regarding property care in general. It is an attitude of resisting to be kind to your neighbor. Shoveling sidewalks is one way of showing love for you neighbor!

Casa Alegria is a sweet neighborhood....lets keep up our property.

LeRoy Sanchez

Casa Alegre

Mark Specter

Dumb policy to begin with that never has and never will work. The city needs to be responsible for sidewalk maintenance. This isnt Ann Arbor, we don't get enough snow for people to band together to buy plows. The average age of Santa Fe makes shoveling of sidewalks an obvious nonstarter.

Charlotte Rowe

Sad that such a lazy mentality exists. The law is the law and is no different from almost any other city anywhere. Perhaps property owners should apprise themselves of the policy before deciding to purchase property. If you don't like it, Mark, then work to get it changed (good luck ha ha) but don't whine about it as it is.

Mark Specter

I'm sorry, where is there whining? I shovel the sidewalk in front of my house, it's no big chore. But most don't and in a city with so many seniors, why does such a policy make sense. It's not like almost any city elsewhere, that's just not true. So, I am proposing a change for good reason. It appears you, ma'am, are the whiner.

LeRoy Sanchez


Michael Kiley

I strongly agree. Wait and let it melt doesn't cut it. Years ago (1993)

before the Peaks luxury hotel in Telluride was sold in a tax debt sale auction on the steps of the courthouse, my wife, who worked there, slipped on ice on the employee sidewalk and injured her back. Because the owner decided to stop clearing snow to cut losses. The fact is, snow shoveling is good cardio exercise, right up there with swimming and rock climbing. Now, get up early and get your workout.

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