Even if the city isn’t ready, we can be. Need to be soon, perhaps. There’ve been flurries, and there’s real snow in the forecast this weekend.
So ready for that first big dump. Ready to shovel out not only our stoops and driveways but the public sidewalks in front of and alongside our homes and business. We can get out there early even, not for any recognition or reward but because kids walk to school on those sidewalks, because older folks need to reach bus stops, and because others are hurrying to work or to the store or to other destinations — weather shmeather.
A safe place to hoof it benefits all of us. And a snow- or ice-covered sidewalk is not that safe place. Slips and falls can lead to pain and emergency-room visits and pricey doctor bills. And forcing pedestrians out into plowed streets is even less safe. There, passing cars, their windshields unscraped, their drivers sometimes struggling to see around snowbanks and down narrowed driving lanes, pose their own dangers.
So we shovel. For our neighbors and for our community, because that's the kind of place where we want to live.
Most of us shovel, anyway.
The problem of neglected walkways roars into Duluth like a nor'easter every winter — and will again this winter, no doubt. Granted, some folks are physically unable to shovel and deserve a helping hand. But most who don't shovel are simply being lazy. And rude.
Removing snow from public sidewalks isn't only neighborly and a matter of public safety, it’s the law in Duluth. Has been since 1935 when an ordinance was passed requiring sidewalk snow removal within 24 hours. The ordinance has never had real teeth — and shouldn't need them. Rather than threatening fines or penalties, the city has always opted to work cooperatively with residents. As partners.
And the city right now is working on leading by example. City staffers acknowledged at a meeting of elected city councilors last month that they have a ways to go. Duluth's snow emergency system is broken, they said, according to a story in the News Tribune, and it won’t be repaired this year.
But at least it’s being repaired. A two-year plan is in place so snow emergencies can be declared, meaning cars would need to be moved so plowing could be done more quickly and efficiently on Dululuth’s most heavily traveled streets. Much of Duluth’s 120 miles of snow emergency routes aren’t even marked with signs right now. Some 2,800 new signs are needed, Jim Benning, Duluth’s director of public works and utilities, said in the story.
“We know we have a problem,” Benning said.
While the city works to fix it, the rest of us can do our part, like the vast majority of us always have. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because we need to be watching out for each other, especially with another winter fast approaching.