Just in case you somehow missed it, Kalamazoo went through a pretty big snowstorm this past weekend!
Over the course of two days, November 18 and 19, some areas of West Michigan got close to 30 inches of snow while the Kalamazoo area saw about 24 inches. That's a lot of snow to deal with at once and I know those in charge of clearing the roads were working overtime to try and keep up.
However, as I was driving around town, I noticed a large number of pedestrians were having to choose between wading through snow that was up to their shin/knee or walking on the road where they risked being hit by a car. It made me ask the question: who's in charge of clearing the "public" sidewalks after a big storm? The city? Private property owners? Here's what I found.
First and foremost, there is an ordinance requiring property owners to shovel the sidewalks in front of their businesses. According to Kalamazoocity.org,
City ordinance requires that all property owners clear their sidewalks of snow and ice within 48 hours of accumulation on the sidewalk (City ordinance 33-18).
There's a $50 fine for first-time offenders. But what about sidewalks in front of parks? Sidewalks in front of empty lots? I thought, for sure, the city would have some sort of service that clears at least some of the sidewalks but, I was wrong. A quick phone call to the city confirmed that the responsibility is entirely in the property owner's hands.
Who is This Impacting?
Anyone who wants or needs to walk around the city. As I mentioned earlier, people were either walking in the middle of an entire lane of traffic or having to kick their feet through a foot or more of snow.
Bus stops, as well, were almost completely inaccessible as far as I could tell. How about those who use wheelchairs? What are they supposed to do? Push their way through 12 to 24 inches of snow?
And even after it melts, if there's lingering ice that still presents a hazard for those who have to use the sidewalks.
Ignoring sidewalks after a snowstorm affects so many of our community members.
What Can I Do?
Well, if you're a property owner, especially on routes with heavy foot traffic, clear your sidewalks.
You can also report uncleared sidewalks either online or by phone after 48 hours have passed. Find information on both here. Although, it's unclear how quickly the city will enforce a fine.
As well, depending on the city, property owners could be considered liable for injuries caused by uncleared sidewalks. Something to keep in mind for both property owners and those walking along the sidewalks.
In the meantime, if you're in a place where you have no choice but to walk to your destination, be careful! And stay warm.