Our View: Shovel walks for all the right reasons
We never did it because we were hoping to win some silly certificate or some other sort of recognition or even because the city annually reminded us to, this year's nudge coming long before the winds turned truly icy, the skies went awash with st...
We never did it because we were hoping to win some silly certificate or some other sort of recognition or even because the city annually reminded us to, this year’s nudge coming long before the winds turned truly icy, the skies went awash with steely gray and the calendar switched from late autumn to early December.
We shovel the public sidewalks that are in front of and alongside our homes and businesses because kids are walking to school, because older folks need to get to the bus stop and because others are hurrying to work, to the store and to other destinations, no matter what the weather is like. And they need - nay, they deserve - a safe place to hoof it.
A snow- and ice-covered sidewalk isn’t that safe place. Slips and falls can lead to pain and emergency-room visits and pricey doctor bills. And forcing pedestrians out into the plowed street is even less safe. There, the unscraped windshields of passing cars, snowbank-
narrowed driving lanes, inattentive motorists and more pose their own dangers.
So we shovel. For our neighbors who walk, whether because they have no other choice or because they want to. 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. Granted, some folks are physically unable to shovel and deserve a helping hand. But most who don’t shovel simply are being lazy. And rude.
In the mid-2000s the city handed out certificates of appreciation to “snow angels” as a way of encouraging shoveling and giving recognition to those who were faithful about it and went above and beyond in how they helped others. A grass-roots group called Duluth Digs: Winter Mobility for All came next to take up the task of raising awareness of the challenges in getting around when we aren’t all doing our part. It awarded what it called “golden shovels.”
Removing snow from public sidewalks isn’t only neighborly and a matter of safety. In Duluth, it’s the law. An ordinance requiring sidewalk snow removal within 24 hours of a snowfall has been on the books since 1935. That’s more than eight decades. The ordinance has never had real teeth - and shouldn’t need them. Rather than threatening fines or penalties, the city prefers working cooperatively with residents. As partners.
“Duluthians have proven to be compassionate and demonstrate kindness when it comes to helping others,” the city said in a statement on Nov. 23. “As city crews are out plowing 500 miles of roads and clearing 100 miles of sidewalks, residents can help by following some simple do’s and don’ts to ensure safety for everyone.”
Among them, do keep a safe distance between your vehicle and snowplows, remembering always to stay alert and to drive slowly and cautiously.
Don’t plow snow into the street. This is a violation and will result in a fine.
And do remember alternate-side parking to ensure there’s enough room for snowplows to get through. The schedule is in your utility bill or online at duluthmn.gov/parking/on-street-parking/.
Such common courtesies and neighborliness are the right things to do. We know that. We’ve long known that. They’ve gotten us through generations of rough winters. And they’ll get us through this one that’s just beginning.
When will I get plowed?
The city of Duluth follows a tiered system for sidewalk and street clearing during snowfalls, the city said in a statement last month. For information about the system or to report snow issues or concerns, go to the city’s Winter Watch website at duluthmn.gov/winterwatch. Or call (218) 730-5100 to leave a message about a snow-related issue.