Last winter, I wrote a post Winter Hazards: Clear Sidewalks Make Good Neighbors to complain about a house next to a preschool and on the way to an elementary school whose owners don’t shovel their walk. I guess the owners never received a citation from the City of Evanston, and this winter is a rerun of the hazardous conditions of the last few years, but now I know why. A neighbor who called the city to complain was informed there is no legal requirement to clear the sidewalk unless there are four inches of snow. Thus, these people never receive a ticket.
I’m appalled that there is no consequence for failure to shovel snow. These photos were taken on January 22, when there was a 3.5-inch snowfall, followed by a bit of melting and then freezing. Not only is the sidewalk frozen, but it is also uneven and extremely treacherous. To be safe, people were walking in the street. Lake Street is pretty highly trafficked, so that’s not very safe either. We are talking about parents carrying babies, toddlers, school kids, and older folk like me. It is a disaster waiting to happen, and this home owner has not shoveled year after year.
The last time I wrote about this problem, I received comments from folks who explained they were unable to clear the snow because had to work or were single parents or elderly. They felt it was unreasonable to expect them to shovel after a snowstorm. While I sympathize, it is still the homeowner’s obligation to do this to make it safe for neighbors and mail carriers to walk in front of their homes. They need to hire a service or find a teen willing to help out. It’s part of the obligation of being a good neighbor.
While I am on the topic of unsafe conditions, I was surprised to learn that Wilmette cleared alleys. In Evanston, this has always been the homeowners’’ obligation. I do understand the city’s budgetary constraints, but perhaps there is a way to clear just the part of the alley that connects portions of sidewalks when clearing snow from the streets. Instead, piles of snow are deposited at the end of alleys, creating dangerous ice mountains for pedestrians using the sidewalks.
Having a “rule” that people need to clear their walks but no way to enforce it legally by issuing a ticket and forcing people to pay fines is ridiculous. It is more like a suggestion than an actual expectation. Evanston is pretty strict about enforcing its parking rules and people receive citations the minute their meter runs out or if they have failed to move their cars for street cleaning, leaf removal, or snow emergencies. If we want more people to walk places and fewer people to drive, let’s make it safe to do so.
In the meantime, please be careful out there.