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.