Greater City Providence

Hating to say, “I told you so”

walkinpvd-iconEAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. | A woman and two of her children, walking in the street because of the piles of snow on the sidewalk, were injured when they were struck by a car Saturday on Pawtucket Avenue.

The driver, a 23-year-old Pawtucket woman who was not identified, was cited for a driving-while-texting violation, a Municipal Court infraction.

Meanwhile, in Pawtucket:

Struck pedestrian still in hospital:

It is unknown at this time if the Pawtucket incident had anything to do with the condition of the sidewalks.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Perhaps the cities will wake up and realize its their responsibility to make sure sidewalks are clear. If that means fining people, so be it.

    I think the ordinance should be that the person gets a reasonable fine ($30-50). If the snow has not been removed within 24-48 hours after receiving the ticket, the city sends public works to shovel and charges the property owner a much larger amount for doing it for them, something along the lines of $150-250.

  • Channel 10 reports that in response to the incident in East Providence, Mayor Rogers wants the fines for not shoveling increased. Does anyone know if citations are ever issued in East Providence for not shoveling to begin with?

  • I think it all starts with the plow operators. There’s got to be a way to move snow around NOT onto the sidewalk. Is it that complicated? A published protocol and communications effort might go a long way toward solving the worst aspect of this problem. Get those dense piles out of the way and shoveling becomes an easier sell.

    Also, if we’re going to have more frequent large snow events, we should invest in and distribute snow removal machines around the city. Snow-throwers and bobcats should be at work for many days after major events.

  • I’m not sure where you think they can move the snow to, unless the city has a pay loader and dump truck team everywhere to actually remove the snow and put it somewhere else (the bay?).

    My street gets it on the sidewalk and there’s plenty of room for that 36″ path without having to dig through the heavier plowed snow. The only place that affects anyone on my street is when digging out our driveways.

    The problem is with the people who have small parking lots on our street or, worse, a more major street like Chalkstone. They seem to think it’s ok to push a huge mound of snow to either side, blocking their sidewalk.

    I have been reporting neighbors (mostly multi-family homes) and businesses in my area who failed to properly remove snow. I don’t have faith in the city to do anything about it, but I’ve done my due diligence in making sure the city knows about them.

  • After I spent much effort on Friday clearing the sidewalk on my block, the snowplow operator for the house two doors down dumped all the snow from the parking lot onto the sidewalk…

  • I have to admit it is also frustrating that for the 7 years I have lived in my house, not once have my immediate neighbors continued my clearance of the sidewalks. I live on a corner lot and have about 200 linear feet of sidewalk to clear, and my neighbors with 30 just don’t even bother, so eventually I start to wonder.

    Also, as the only cleared sidewalk around, people walk their dogs and don’t pick up after them, another deterrent. Nothing like picking up other people’s dog’s poop out of the snow.

    In short, people suck.

  • Part of our problem is we don’t do snow removal, we plow and leave the snow in place. We’re not really a snow belt city, some winters we don’t get all that much snow, so we’ve never invested in robust snow removal equipment and when we have three 10+ inch storms in a row, with little to no melting in between, we’re totally screwed.

    In Portland, ME for example, they have giant snow blowers that shoot the snow into dump trucks, which is then taken out to a field to melt. Other snow belt cities remove snow and have melting facilities to deal with it. We have no giant snow blowers so removing snow is a much larger task both in equipment and man hours.

    But the snow has to be removed, large parts of the city are just non-functional for anyone without a car (a lot of the people who voted for Angel). Even with our system of just moving snow, we are in the weeds on budget. I don’t know if the Governor had declared an Emergency if that would have triggered getting some Fed money to help the municipalities, or if Jack and Sheldon can get us some money. But even if we don’t remove the snow and clear the sidewalks, even if we just plow per usual, the storm that is on the horizon for this week is going to kill us financially.

    We also have the not removing problem at the private level. Parking lot owners refuse to pay extra to have snow removed, plowing companies offer that service, but obviously there is an extra charge. So the lot owners just pile the snow in non-revenue areas, i.e. the sidewalks. It is bad enough that they are refusing to pay the cost to remove the snow, if they don’t want to pay for removal, they should store the snow on their property and lose the revenue from the spaces taken, not use city property to save themselves a buck.

    It is one thing for a citizen to not ever bother shoveling, it is a whole other level of annoyance that parking lot owners are piling their snow on our sidewalks to save themselves a buck.

  • I’ve reported several people here on my block just off Elmgrove for out, leaving Mt. Kilamanjaro sized hills on the sidewalk, and NOTHING has been done. I imagine you need to enforce the actual laws on the books before you raise fines….

  • It occurs to me that the reason there was all that flack about the recycle bins and the trash cans on trash nights was because the city pays one rate for trash tipping fees and pays less (or is credited by the hauler that has the contract) for what they take away as recycling (as that is a commodity that can be resold as opposed to trash which has to be buried in a giant mound) So it is cheaper for the city to push recycling because more recycling equals less trash.

    And until this sidewalk snow plowing business actually starts to cost the city money, it won’t be a priority because eventually it will melt and most people except Jef will forget about snow until the next storm. 🙁 And that just isn’t acceptable.

    I do not know how to make it cost the city money. State mandate? Class action lawsuit?

  • I hate to say it, but someone getting killed or seriously injured by a car because they were forced to walk in the street. They sue the city. What is the city to do? Does the city actually go to court and say “Well, it’s really the responsibility of the property owners on that street because we have this ordinance in place” when the ordinance is not enforced? If an ordinance has not been enforced in so many years (ever?), can it really hold any ground in court?

    I realize this is not likely to happen, but if some rich East Sider is the victim (or better yet, a councilman), I can see it happening. It’s sad, but true.

    I want to know why it is that the city of Concord, NH can have sidewalks cleared with 3 feet of snow on the ground on even the absolute least likely of streets to have pedestrians, but a densely populated city like Providence has so many problems like this.

    This is where I’m talking about:,-71.570091&spn=0.025258,0.048194&t=h&z=15&msid=214874204643271493412.00049aa355f4363e5752d

  • It is not that useful to compare us to actual snow cities, though. I think Jef made this point.

    I used to go to Quebec City a lot in the winter. There would be literally 4-5 feet of snow in people’s yards but the sidewalks would be clean. You know why? Because they have 4-5 feet of snow in their yard year in and year out and they know how to deal with it. They have equipment to deal with it. They don’t have the attitude of “well it will melt.” The last may be the biggest problem. This is only the second time in 8 years we have had more than one 10″ event IIRC. It is really only the second or third time since I bought my house that I can recall significant snow on top of significant snow without a melt in between.

    But I’m not sure what the real solution is in terms of the city. There are enough problems that dealing with a typically one or two weeks per year event is probably not the best use of limited resources. The only way it will happen is to change the attitude of the people.

    Two groups of people I think we should do something about are the parking lot owners and the absentee landlords. Too many of both groups only pay to have car areas cleared. Many renters have it in their leases that they are responsible for snow removal, but unless the city punishes the owners, they have no incentive to enforce those clauses of the lease. You guys have obviously covered the parking lot problems.

    I would also suggest that for non-disabled homeowners, you lose the homestead exemption on your taxes (although there is talk of this phasing out anyway, no?) if you are chronically negligent. If you aren’t willing to contribute to the community in even this relatively painless way then you shouldn’t be given a bonus for being part of it. But since peer pressure is obviously not going to work around here, you need something really strong. But it would take ten years to get something like that into law I bet.

  • Just as I suspected, story in today’s ProJo:

    The city [East Providence] doesn’t enforce its current $10 fine, but officials do issue notices, Coutu said. Now, officials are talking about “putting more teeth” in the ordinance, which requires residents to shovel their walks within the first four hours of daylight after a storm.

    What the hell good are teeth in an unenforced ordinance?

  • I’m sure people would listen if the ordinance was enforced. I like the idea of losing your homestead exemption as a repeat offender.

  • ProJo reports that the city will finally start moving some snow to the North Burial Ground, rather than just pushing it from the street to the sidewalk. The ProJo report is very auto centric, people can’t get out of parked cars, cars can’t make turns, lanes are narrowed, but I hope the city has pedestrians in mind as well.

  • It’s actually kind of nice that the streets have been narrowed. People can’t fly up and down them anymore. The only thing that is made more dangerous are the intersections. It’s very difficult to see to turn in many places. But I actually love the narrower streets. Maybe it’ll teach people that 20 is plenty. 🙂

Providence, RI
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Humidity: 63%
Pressure: 30.17"Hg
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