DC is going to get hit hard by a storm, starting Sunday night and continuing all day Monday. Given it’s still winter, that’s great – it’s pretty snow!
What isn’t great? DC residents’ collective ineptitude at clearing their sidewalks. As a person who is limited to getting around on crutches, I implore the people of DC:
SHOVEL YOUR SIDEWALKS! TREAT THEM WITH ICE MELT! AND CLEAR THE ENTIRE WIDTH OF THE WALK!
Seriously, it’s as if DC people think that snow magically clears itself (hint: if it’s cold for days after a storm, it doesn’t!), or that doing the bare minimum of “clearing” – i.e. sort of shoveling/pushing aside a 10-inch-wide “path” – is acceptable. These people are just plain rude, and are also in violation of DC law (see below). For folks on crutches (like me), using canes, reliant on walkers, or riding in wheelchairs, these “goat paths” are often completely impassible.
So, DC: it’s time to cowboy up and shovel your walks!
As a person who grew up in snow country (20 years in Utah, 10 in New England), here are the basic rules when it comes to shoveling:
- Before the snow falls, treat the sidewalk with halite, rock salt, or a pet-friendly ice melter. Note that rain transitioning to snow calls for this to happen once the snow appears -otherwise, the salt dissolves.
- Shovel the complete width of the sidewalk, from lawn/planter box/retaining wall/foundation of house to the curb/tree box.
- If you live on a corner, it is your responsibility to keep the ADA curb cuts clean, including a path to where the street is clear.
- Clear all paths to the house, including stairs, and clean the full width.
- In trying to place shoveled snow, do not block storm drains. This can cause flooding of your house or icing of the sidewalk when melting starts. Likewise, if you see these dams, break ’em up with your shovel.
- If you have neighbors who are elderly, infirm, or mobility challenged, please pay it forward and clear their sidewalks.
- If there are vacant properties or absentee property owners, be nice and clear the walks, but contact the property owner and remind them they are legally responsible to keep their walks and curb cuts clear.
- A note about DC law: legally, all sidewalks must be cleared and fully passable within 8 daylight hours of the cessation of snowfall. That said, it’s totally OK to shovel anytime, day or night.
- If you live in a tony neighborhood and offload the shoveling to your gardener or landscaping service, note that they could be snowbound and unable to get to you in a timely manner. Shit happens. So be brave (and responsible) and shovel your own walks – it’s the neighborly thing to do (and if I see you are home and haven’t shoveled, I’ll come knocking… if I can get to your front door, that is).
Being limited to walking with crutches these days, it amazes me how many in DC (especially in Dupont, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, West End, and Logan Circle) do a bare minimum of cleaning, if any. The “goat paths” are really slick, and get even more icy after multiple days of freeze/thaw cycles. This is especially the case for sidewalks on the south side of east-west running streets.
Again, people of DC: please think of those of us for whom snow and ice are a dangerous challenge to everyday mobility. We are your neighbors, friends, and colleagues.
P.S. – a note to DDOT and DCDPW: please properly plow the bike lanes and cycletracks as you plow the car lanes. There are a lot of four-season, everyday cyclists in this town who would appreciate the respect from your offices.