Greater Greater Washington

Sidewalk snow clearing Hall of Shame

Around the city and region, a lot of sidewalks are clear, and a lot aren't. Where they aren't, in many cases the snow is now packed down into a sheet of ice, making walking very treacherous.

I asked readers to send in photos and reports of the problem areas along their commutes. Steve Mothershead, who walks along Martin Luther King Avenue, SE to the Anacostia Metro in the mornings, says most of the sidewalks are not clear:


Photos by Steve Mothershead.

He wrote:

Most of the sidewalks have not been touched, except for the one next to the school. Most of the churches have not touched the sidewalks in front of their properties, and of course the sidewalks in front of the abandoned buildings that the city seems to refuse to do anything with haven't been addressed. This is a highly traveled section of sidewalk and I saw many children on their way to school having trouble walking. Some people were even opting to walk on busy MLK.
Jason Broehm and Robin Swirling both reported problems in Columbia Heights, with the large plaza at 14th and Park, and nearby at 14th and Newton:


Photos by Jason Broehm (top) and Robin Swirling (bottom).

Randall Myers reports Freedom Plaza a sheet of ice as of last night. That one is the Park Service's responsibility.


Photo by Randall Myers.

In Dupont Circle, the bridge for Q Street to the Metro (the DC government's responsibility) has a decent cleared path, but as you can see from the fact that more snow is packed down on either side, it's not wide enough for times of heavier foot traffic.

If you needed a reason to like Argentina more than Botswana, the Argentine embassy cleared their corner of Q and New Hampshire, while the Embassy of Botswana did not. (The Botswanans do have much more sidewalk on 3 sides, though.)

Also in Dupont, Joe Manfre writes,

I don't have a picture, but that Scientology building at the corner of 16th and P has been really bad about clearing the walk on the long, long side of their building along P Street (as opposed to the short frontage along 16th).
There are plenty of homeowners who haven't cleared sidewalks either, but the biggest problem is large institutions. They have more sidewalk, and unlike with an individual homeowner who might be 75 with back problems, foreign governments, the District government, the National Park Service, and large corporate apartment buildings ought to be able to fulfill this civic duty.
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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Who do we notify to get DC to notify institutions (and homeowners) about their responsibility?

by GP Steve on Jan 23, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

Today I walked 3 blocks out of my way to help a blind woman to her bus stop. She couldn't take her normal route because it was too icy, and the new path was too unfamiliar for her to go it alone.

Residents: you may not realize how many of us rely on your sidewalk to be clear. Please, please provide your less able neighbors safe passage!

by yup yup on Jan 23, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

What is the official GGW position on melting agents? Traditional rock salt is damaging to the walking surfaces (not to mention the pads of poor doggies' little feet). Furthermore, some homeowners and institutions seem to consider carpeting surfaces with any melting agent to be an alternative to shoveling. To me, that's just laziness. Salt before a snow, shovel after.

by Jack on Jan 23, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

With so many enterprising lawyers in DC, it's amazing that no one who's fallen down and hurt themselves due to an institution's lack of sidewalk clearing has sued . Some of these institutions have plenty of money to settle a personal injury lawsuit.

by Falls Church on Jan 23, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

I'd guess DC's contributory negligence laws are part of the reason. The fact that you chose to walk over a snow/ice filled stretch of walkway makes you at least 1% at fault.

by none on Jan 23, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

I doubt Botswana gets much snow unlike its southern neighbors. Argentina definitely gets snow though so maybe they are just more with the winter weather preparations.

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 1:02 pm • linkreport

Since moving to Alaska, I've come to appreciate a good cleared sidewalk. The Municipality of Anchorage (the Muni) does a pretty good job, but then the state road crews plow snow indiscriminately onto Muni cleared sidewalks. I'd take sidewalks like these any day :)

(As an aside, SEND US YOUR SNOW!) We're around 40 degrees here, and can't go XC skiing, we want your snow!)

by @SamuelMoore on Jan 23, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

I thought the Scientologists are all about getting to "clear."

by ar on Jan 23, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

I think Scientologists are more concerned about other things that come down to visit us from the skies.

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

@BTA: I remember well that after the snow-pocalypse (or was it snow-maggedon?) Haiti had managed to shovel its sidewalk (days after the horrible earthquake too!) yet St. Alban's had not. Tiny poor third world country managed it; rich school with boarding students to do the work didn't. So I'm not sure exposure to snow has anything to do it with. Clearly Botswana and St. Albans (and Saudi Arabia that year) arejust jerks. :)

by RDHD on Jan 23, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

As of this morning at 6:30, the CVS at 14th and Irving definitely deserves to be on this list.

by dcd on Jan 23, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

@ Jack: Caustic snow melting agents can be justified only to melt treacherous sheets of thin ice on sidewalks. In any case, they do not work at the temperatures we are having.

by Fearing Dystopia on Jan 23, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

The entire sidewalk around the Payne Elementary playground/field (Hill East) has not yet been cleared. Kids coming to school today were walking in the street because it was easier.

by jyindc on Jan 23, 2014 1:40 pm • linkreport

David --- this is a great public service you are doing here. Love the idea of a "Hall of Shame"! Yes, we do need to get out and clear the sidewalks --- and if we don't want to do it ourselves, I think there are a whole LOT of people who would be willing to do it for some much needed cash.

by Tina Slater on Jan 23, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

I second the CVS comment all of 14th was a mess yesterday afternoon and this morning. No excuses there. Also my neighbors on either sides are stupid heads. Just because I shoveled a little past the property line on either side doesn't mean you dont have to do the rest.

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 1:46 pm • linkreport

Monday night, several neighbors on my block in Kingman Park were out shoveling the entire sidewalk, clearing off porches and cars. There are several elderly people on my block, and I was pretty inspired by the willingness of everyone on the block to chip in and make sure every house and every car was cleared.

The developers fixing up the houses around 19th and Gales didn't touch the sidewalks, unfortunately.

by Dave Murphy on Jan 23, 2014 1:46 pm • linkreport

Could somebody explain to me why it's so difficult to walk on snow and ice? What makes the terrain so much more difficult to traverse than the steps in a metro station, a wet floor at Whole foods, an unimproved lot [filled with bricks, gravel, and concrete bits] that walkers use as shortcuts, to the cobblestones in Georgetown. The answer is called boots, they are an amazing piece of technology that require NO SHOVELING & NO SALT AT ALL.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 1:47 pm • linkreport

I've never heard of nor seen anyone put salt down before a snowfall. Salt is for melting ice; the bit of water that trickles onto the shoveled sidewalk from melting snow adjacent before sundown, which then freezes to ice. Thats what salt is for. You shouldn't need very much if you shovel the snow. I think snow would be a lot harder to shovel if you salt first anyway because its easier to shovel dry and fluffy. Wet/compacted/snow mixed w/water is much harder to shovel then fluffy dry snow.

E.g. on the OH turnpike the salt trucks follow the plows, not the reverse.

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

Sometimes you need to put down some salt though I do it conservatively. I shoveled Tuesday night ~ 9pm and again Wednesday at about noon. People had trampled a good bit that fell down in that period. I shoveled what I could but some was solidly compacted into ice on the sidewalk in a few places.

Bill, some elderly people or disabled people have trouble walking as it is. Additionally it would be impassable for strollers or most anything on wheels. Even an able bodied person can trip and fall, I've done it quite a few times since we tend to hover around freezing, rain/wet snow can become sheer ice easily enough. The better question is what is a good rationale for NOT SHOVELING?

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

BTA you just need to recognize that you need more BOOTStraps. Hoist yourself up, up over the sheets of ice in front of Bill's house by them!

by MLD on Jan 23, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer:
Could somebody explain to me why it's so difficult to walk on snow and ice?
It's called the coefficient of friction.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_friction#Coefficient_of_friction

There's a reason they use ice on skating rinks as opposed to, you know, concrete.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 23, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

in one CDC study 74% of injury causing falls were from falls due to slipping on ice.
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00039812.htm

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

Matt Johnson, FTW.

by dcd on Jan 23, 2014 2:01 pm • linkreport

@BTA

The rationale might be it would "train" folks to purchase necessary items needed to traverse along their journey. But yes, shoveling is ridiculous easy and probably takes one shovel and a single homeowner 5-10 minutes depending on sidewalk length.

Some folks can't walk at all, maybe the government should require that all sidewalks be converted to the moving sidewalks seen at airports and be sure and make the belts heated and out of recycled tires because some folks don't like buying shoes, and you wouldn't want to be held liable for their life choices now would you.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 2:01 pm • linkreport

...anyway, it shouldn't take much brain power to envision what a walking experience on less than optimal surfaces is like for someone less able then oneself... it only requires imagination and empathy.

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

@Tina

I agree. I put down salt before a snow and came out the next day and the snow was just as hard to shovel and the salt, for some reason, lost its effectiveness. I agree that salt only works after snow has been cleared or on thin sheets of ice no thicker than half an inch. Shovel first, then salt. I have also noticed that if you salt in the sun, it works supper fast even when temps are well below freezing.

by adelphi_sky on Jan 23, 2014 2:06 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

What a load of hooey Mr. Johnson, there is increased danger whenever you leave your bed. Now assuming there is a scenario where the sidewalks resemble a freshly zambonied ice rink I still think these mini cleats would do just fine Stabilicers Lite Duty Serious Traction Cleat

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

Some folks can't walk at all, maybe the government should require that all sidewalks be converted to the moving sidewalks seen at airports

yes because there's nothing in between "wear some good boots, granny!" and moving heated sidewalks....

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer:
Now assuming there is a scenario where the sidewalks resemble a freshly zambonied ice rink I still think these mini cleats would do just fine
So you do agree that an icy sidewalk is more slippery than a non-icy sidewalk?

by Matt Johnson on Jan 23, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

I'd like to give a shout out to PEPCO for clearing the sidewalks (from edge to edge!) around their substation at 11th/12th & O Sts. NW! I was thoroughly impressed on my walk home last night.

by David T. on Jan 23, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

Love how Bill's cleats come in pink.

by JDC on Jan 23, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

So you do agree that an icy sidewalk is more slippery than a non-icy sidewalk?

Just as a wet road is more slippery than a dry one, just as using a rickety ladder is more dangerous than a new one, just as walking on Minnesota Ave at 3am is more dangerous than a cul-de-sac in Fairfax. What do all of these have in common?; they all require more situational awareness, to where your legs, hands, skills, brain, require a little more focus sprinkled with some basic technologies. This is what is lacking in this "shaming" post[Sidewalk snow clearing Hall of Shame].

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 2:20 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer:
So you agree that ice is more slippery than a wet sidewalk, which is more slippery than a dry sidewalk.

Do you agree that having hazardous sidewalk makes it more likely that someone will be injured trying to use it?

by Matt Johnson on Jan 23, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

...basic technologies...
I agree. Basic technologies such as; (1)a shovel and (2)appropriate clothing for being outdoors while shoveling

The action requires a combination of a sense of personal responsibility, a sense of civic duty, and a sense of empathy for others less spry or less outfitted w/ cleats than oneself.

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 2:28 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

Do you agree that having hazardous sidewalk makes it more likely that someone will be injured trying to use it?

Yes, but I don't think babying society will lead to the outcome you desire.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 2:28 pm • linkreport

Requiring shoveling, to prevent ice, in order to spare people the need to own and wear cleats, is babying only to the ideologically blinkered, IMO.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 23, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer:
So you do agree that icy sidewalks are hazardous and are more likely to cause injuries.

Would it therefore follow that if an icy sidewalk is more treacherous than a clear sidewalk, which you stipulated earlier, that clearing the sidewalk of ice and snow would reduce the liklihood of injury on any given segment of sidewalk?

by Matt Johnson on Jan 23, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

"The action requires a combination of a sense of personal responsibility, a sense of civic duty, and a sense of empathy"

Are these not just other words for COLLECTIVISM, which chains the STRONG?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 23, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

yes, expecting people to shovel their walks is tantamount to "babying" them. Damn babies shoveling snow...so annoying. Public nuisance.

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 2:34 pm • linkreport

@Tina

I rent but there is no sidewalk out front, regardless I shoveled the pathway to the our multi unit building front door at approximately 5:45am Wednesday morning, in addition I helped clean cars off with shovel and brush furthermore I bought half and half, eggs, and spinach when I went to ALDI grocer later that morning to the elderly woman across the street. Of course she had NO INTEREST in leaving her house to walk anywhere to begin with! But you can try and shame me Tina, but I'd wager I do more for my neighborhood cohesion than you would choose to believe.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

...hmmm. Kind of defensive. Given all that you still expect your elderly neighbor to don cleats and rough it when going out instead of expecting other more capable people to shovel their walks?

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

Bill,

Is it more efficient for society to require everyone to buy cleats/boots or for each household to buy a shovel and clear the sidewalk. I would argue, for the sake of efficiency, it is better to require shoveling because it is more cost-effective from the community's point of view.

While I respect and value the importance of personal responsibility, sometimes it needs to take a back seat to more practical considerations.

by sk on Jan 23, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer:
Given that you did not object to my earlier statement, I'll assume that you do stipulate that...

"having hazardous sidewalk makes it more likely that someone will be injured trying to use it."

Therefore, will you then stipulate that it is in the public interest for sidewalks to be cleared of snow and ice?

by Matt Johnson on Jan 23, 2014 2:47 pm • linkreport

What a load of hooey Mr. Johnson

I'm not sure how to respond to a protest that the laws of physics are "a load of hooey."

by dcd on Jan 23, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

Get to the point Mr. Johnson, the slippery slope will never end. There will always be risk in all your actions, your only hope is taking personal responsibility. Maybe we should focus all government research on artificial surrogates, have you ever seen the film "Surrogates[2009]" "Surrogates" - Official Trailer [HQ]

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

sk

Given that most folks will shovel anyway, but one person who does not creates a safety problem for anyone not wearing cleats (conventional boots can still be tricky on ice) the utility argument is clear.

But utility does not overcome the right of the property owner, of the strong. It is immoral to make them "sacrifice" for the weak, the lazy -such sacrifice leads inevitably to Stalinism.

by ShouldareadLordoftheRings on Jan 23, 2014 2:54 pm • linkreport

@sk -I think shoveling one's walk is an action of personal responsibility. Expecting that action does not negate or mitigate, and is not mutually exclusive to the sense of personal responsibility in the individual performing the action.

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

"There will always be risk in all your actions, your only hope is taking personal responsibility. "

Thats right. The risk in walking on ice is part of what makes us strong, and refines us as a species. It doesnt really matter how easy it is too shovel, or if someone wearing boots can still slip. We dont want people focused on providing a cleared path - because that means linking up several different cleared sections. And that is collectivism, and that leads to the end. A cleared sidewalk means tyranny. First they will make us clear the sidewalks, then they will open the rat cages on our faces.

by ShouldareadLordoftheRings on Jan 23, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

...There will always be risk in all your actions

Yes and there is no distinction in level of risk from one activity to the other...Its all risky! Risk is risk with no variation!

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 2:58 pm • linkreport

Unless these complaints are being forwarded to the proper persons/organization or people are going out and shoveling based on them, this isn't much of a service.

by selxic on Jan 23, 2014 2:58 pm • linkreport

Saying that we shouldn't allow our sidewalks to turn into ice-covered hills is really the ultimate slippery slope argument.

I thank those here who have seen it for what it is, and for knowing that you can't win that argument by relying solely on the rule of the laws of physics.

by Gray on Jan 23, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Collective Progressives

You win, I will submit to carefully crafted directives from my overloads. Unit "7849832748399" awaiting response.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer:
Very well.

You stipulate that walking is risky no matter what conditions are present.

However, you agree that icy sidewalks are more treacherous than dry sidewalks.

Therefore, you agree that risk is dependent on conditions, and that in the case of ice, icy sidewalks are inherently more risky.

You agree that people are more likely to fall on icy sidewalks and injure themselves.

You agree (through lack of objection) that clear sidewalks are therefore less slippery and less treacherous than icy sidwalks.

Therefore, clearing sidwalks is in the public interest because it reduces the inherent risk.

You say that every action has a risk and that the only answer is personal responsibility.

But your earlier stipulations disagree with that. Because no matter what level of personal responsibility used by a pedestrian, they are less likely to be injured if the risk is less.

Under the laws of the District of Columbia, it is the resposibility of the property owner to clear the sidewalk in front of his or her property.

Therefore, the course which involves the most personal responsibility favors clearing sidewalks. This also reduces (but does not obviate) the need for wearing appropriate footwear.

So, while there is risk in going out after a snowstorm, having clear sidewalks *reduces* that risk to a level more commensurate with dry conditions.

Therefore, encouraging property owners to follow the law (a) reduces risk to pedestrians, (b) is in the public interest, and (c) most importantly encourages people to take up their personal responsibility.

quod erat demonstrandum

by Matt Johnson on Jan 23, 2014 3:08 pm • linkreport

I never realized shoveling and plowing was such a progressive cause /sarcasm.

by BTA on Jan 23, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

I just posted this in response to another article, but this is a better place: It's great that DC understands the value of sidewalks and pushes to keep them free of snow - but I don't understand why this is a responsibility of property owners. They don't own the sidewalk, and many, of course, rent their properties and are therefore likely not able to travel to them in a storm. Why don't we just pay taxes to have the city maintain the sidewalks, just as we do for streets? Why make this a moral issue of civic responsibility?

by Arnold on Jan 23, 2014 3:11 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson, isn't anything "in the public interest" detrimental to "personal responsibility"? As in "why should anyone be expected to shovel snow when all the Oma's and Opa's can just friggin' wear cleats"? Oma & Opa need to take some personal responsibility! Being kind to them by clearing the snow babies them! Toughen up Oma and Opa!

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

Now assuming there is a scenario where the sidewalks resemble a freshly zambonied ice rink I still think these mini cleats would do just fine Stabilicers Lite Duty Serious Traction Cleat

In a place like Anchorage AK, there's an expectation that everyone installs studs in their shoes in the Fall and then you remove them in the Spring. In DC, it's far more cost effective and efficient to require everyone to shovel their sidewalk rather than require everyone to purchase and then put in/take out studs in their shoes.

Furthermore, studs aren't going to work for almost any kind of work appropriate professional attire shoe.

If you prefer limiting yourself to studded shoe styles and installing/uninstalling studs rather then having to de-ice your sidewalk, Anchorage is the city for you. If you prefer de-icing your sidewalk to doing those other things, then DC (and most other cities) are for you. Not every city has to be the same. Having a choice among variety is a good thing.

Bill -- as a stud-wearing libertarian, you would love Alaska. Not sure what DC's appeal is for you.

by Falls Church on Jan 23, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

First, it's shoveling the sidewalk. Next, it's the Gulag Archipelago with your neighbor Mr. Solzhenitsyn.

by CyclistinAlexandria on Jan 23, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

@Arnold

I agree with the idea in concept, but I think we run into an implementation issue. A snow plow can plow a block in a minute or two. Clearing the sidewalks of both sides of a block could take hours for a person.

Now this may not be insurmountable. Two approaches come to mind. One is some sort of robotic clearing machine (not sure if such a thing exists) that can efficiently clear sidewalks. An alternative is some way to do payments for individuals who shovel a segment of sidewalk. This could be homeless or task workers who want to do the work. However you have to make sure they have sufficient equipment. What about the liability of the workers? How can we insure the work is done? From a pure financial perspective I think it would be great to have my taxes go up by a few dollars to never have to be responsible for sidewalk clearing for the handful of times it snows, but it is challenging to have a team to accomplish the task citywide. I'm open to approaches to accomplish.

by GP Steve on Jan 23, 2014 3:35 pm • linkreport

@GPSteve - some sort of robotic clearing machine (not sure if such a thing exists) that can efficiently clear sidewalks.

Yes. There are two types I know of:
snow blowers

http://www.toro.com/en-us/Homeowner/Snow-Blowers/pages/default.aspx

and small tractors w/ plows on the front
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6vdzzhyL8U

An alternative is some way to do payments for individuals who shovel a segment of sidewalk.

Cash is a method of payment that is nearly universally accepted. Teenagers that live in your home or in the homes of neighbors are a good source of labor for this task. So are industrious people going door to door asking, "can I shovel your walk for 10 bucks?"

by Tina on Jan 23, 2014 4:12 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

So at what point does society draw the grey line? For instance my rental doesn't have a sidewalk out front, should Montgomery County require some of the front yard be eaten up by a sidewalk, and should said sidewalk be constructed and maintained by the homeowner?I'm sorry I take every thing here and try to jam it into my philosophy. But land use/regulation of land owners is VERY important, it dictates rate of innovation, distribution of wealth, and how humans interact.
And this might very well be me just lashing out at the litigious society we belong in. The ice cleats were merely a suggestion, as somebody who was raised in the tundra, my sketchers do just fine whether the ice is glass, whether there is 18 inches of snow, or whether there is hail, I just try to be more careful. The best advice is to just be a good neighbor and shovel what you can, but realize that circumstances arise wherein the government or private property owner can't always solve your ambulatory problems. And bravo on a carefully worded response, it reminds me of textbook cases last seen in pre-law logic coursework, I hope you are tutoring high school students.

Not sure what DC's appeal is for you.
At the time, limited job's outside the DC area. A guy has to eat right... I'd rate this area a 9 out of 10, by comparison Portland, OR was a 12 out of 10, FL was a 3 out of 10, Virginia was a 7 out of 10, and TX was a 5 out of 10.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 4:33 pm • linkreport

@Tina

I think he meant intelligent manless devices, like a roomba to a carpet,

he is a remote control one,
ROBOPLOW

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 23, 2014 4:40 pm • linkreport

I love how the church at 10/11 & V (Christian Tabernacle) salts only the part of the sidewalk that their congregation uses... not the part that leads up to Metro.

by guest on Jan 23, 2014 5:20 pm • linkreport

With so many enterprising lawyers in DC, it's amazing that no one who's fallen down and hurt themselves due to an institution's lack of sidewalk clearing has sued . Some of these institutions have plenty of money to settle a personal injury lawsuit.

The law is clear in DC that failing to clear sidewalks does not create private liability.

Indeed, clearing sidewalks may subject one to liability if one increases the danger. I'm sure an enterprising lawyer could turn any effort to clear a walk into an increased danger.

by ah on Jan 23, 2014 6:02 pm • linkreport

Enterprising lawyers are only enablers. Let's not absolve the client for his or her "entrepreneurial" ways.

by Non LTR on Jan 23, 2014 6:39 pm • linkreport

How about not calling anyone out until the DC Government clears all land owned by them from parks, to sidewalks on all sides of their buildings, bridges, parking lots.

I bet I could find a DC government snowed covered sidewalk if I walked around the DC Armory, DC General, or along any of the bridges, or over/under passes in the city.

Some places should get more attention than others including schools, government buildings, fire stations, police stations, sidewalks and in all directions leading to metrostations public & privately owned, shopping centers/malls, grocery stores, bridges etc.

by kk on Jan 23, 2014 8:32 pm • linkreport

In Massachusetts, it's the responsibility of the owner or resident to clear the sidewalk. If you rent, the lessor must provide all tools needed to clear the sidewalk. Sidewalks in Boston and environs are always cleared rapidly. And they get a LOT more snow than we do most years.

It benefits everyone. The brick sidewalks are bit of nuisance to shovel, but new shovel annually and all's well.

by dcseain on Jan 23, 2014 9:26 pm • linkreport

@ Tina: In fact, many DOTs (including Ohio, my home state, as well) use rock salt and other melting agents both as a pre-treatment prior to a storm and de-icer afterwards. They can be used the same way for residential pedestrian surfaces. Regardless, the point is, at the volumes of snow we're getting, whether before or after a snowfall, a melting agent used alone is no substitute for good old-fashioned shoveling (or plowing). Many homeowners don't seem to understand this.

by Jack on Jan 23, 2014 9:58 pm • linkreport

The most obnoxious offender I've seen in the Gold's Gym in Van Ness. They've managed to put their sign out there every day since the storm, but haven't shoveled.

And it's not like the employees are too weak to shovel...

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 23, 2014 10:29 pm • linkreport

@Neil Flanagan: actually, "show muscles" are extremely delicate and aren't suitable for manual labor.

by Mike on Jan 24, 2014 8:51 am • linkreport

GP Steve: I agree with the idea in concept, but I think we run into an implementation issue. A snow plow can plow a block in a minute or two. Clearing the sidewalks of both sides of a block could take hours for a person.

- What Tina said: snowblowers. It might be as fast to clear sidewalks with snowblowers as streets with plows.

by Arnold on Jan 24, 2014 9:19 am • linkreport

@Arnold

I just did a quick search and seen snowblowers at around or a little over 1mph. There are apparently about 1,392 miles of roads in DC maintained by DC. Let's say both sides of the street and assume a 10 hour person shift. That's 140 people. Now assume that for a variety of reasons (transportation time, slowdowns from uneven sidewalks, etc) let's double that. So that's 280 people and snow blowers. That doesn't sound terrible for the whole city.

by GP Steve on Jan 24, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

@GP Steve

I think you missed doubling that somewhere in there. 1400 miles times two sides of the street is 2800 miles of sidewalk.

300 or even 500 people is a lot to muster for one day...

by MLD on Jan 24, 2014 10:08 am • linkreport

@MLD

You're right, I had adjusted it to have that in some versions but missed it in the final version. I agree, that's a lot of people for one day. It's unfortunate but true. Until more reliable robotic solutions are available I'm not sure what the citywide solution is (outside of people shoveling their own walks).

by GP Steve on Jan 24, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

The building at 2800 Connecticut Avenue NW (corner of Connecticut & Garfield) definitely belongs on the list. As of 11:30 this morning, they still haven't shoveled. I just tried calling 311, which just transferred me to DCRA, which, in turn, informed me that an inspector would visit the property "in 5 to 10 business days." To that, I said, "so if the snow melts within five business days, they're off the hook?" and was told, "That's right." Does anyone know a better way to get DC to enforce its supposed eight-hour rule?

by Jimmy on Jan 24, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Jimmy

The rule as it stands is basically unenforceable.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

When did this blog turn into Prince of Petworth?

by Andrew on Jan 24, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer: sidewalks must be cleared because IT'S THE LAW:
http://www.metrodcinjurylawyerblog.com/2014/01/03/shovel-shovel-snow-clearing-laws-dc-maryland-virginia/

Note,that includes Mont Cnty. If you don't like it,then you should work to get the law changed,instead of complaining about a grass roots effort to get people into compliance with the law.

by dynaryder on Jan 24, 2014 7:19 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Former DC on Jan 25, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

Thanks GP Steve for doing the math! 300-500 people doesn't seem like that huge a number, and I think you could reduce it various ways - only do one side of each street; only include residential areas; etc. Anyway, interesting analysis.

by Arnold on Jan 25, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

When did this blog turn into Prince of Petworth?
Some of the content has slipped, but it has always been a bit of an echo chamber (especially in the comments). Of course it has gotten worse since most readers don't bother to comment in part because some have been "dissuaded" from commenting.

by selxic on Jan 25, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

Re: Snowblower Army

Gas powered blowers (electric would be impractical for going around the city) are incredibly loud and dirty (both particulate and GHGs). Another potential issue is the logistics of getting hundreds of people and thousands of pounds of equipment/supplies to all parts of the city on a day that the roads are difficult to traverse.

That said, 300-500 people government employees wouldn't be terribly difficult to muster on a day that the government and schools are closed due to snow. You could probably create a system where a few volunteer government employees for every area were identified who would be paid overtime to blow the snow on assigned streets on days the government and/or schools are closed. They would be issued a blower, spare parts, and safety gear to keep at their home (not sure where they would store the gas) and receive some basic safety and maintenance training. Residents would keep them accountable by sending in time stamped pics of uncleared sidewalks. Managers would supervise and troubleshoot operations from a control center and during the "offseason", issue, re-issue, and keep track of all the government furnished equipment (although, invariably, equipment would get lost or stolen).

That said, it doesn't snow enough around here to be worth the effort and cost to set something like this up.

by Falls Church on Jan 25, 2014 8:13 pm • linkreport

DC is working on mustering people to help those who can't shovel their own walks, this from a recent breakfast links:

http://serve.dc.gov/service/dc-citizen-snow-team

I signed up.

by MLD on Jan 27, 2014 8:34 am • linkreport

I am with the Church of Scientology at 16th and P St and our Estates guy went out and shoveled during the storm as well as when the snow stopped - he shoveled three times all told. So next time it might be good to get a photo saying there's a problem.
Meanwhile we are having a blood drive today (Monday) from 2-8pm so anyone can stop by and give blood and enjoy the totally clean and free sidewalk for themselves.

by Sylvia Stanard on Jan 27, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

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