Greater City Providence

Obviously, someone is trying to make me angry

As I was walking home I was pretty amazed that some sidewalks were actually dry, amazing! I ran into some problems in the LaSalle Square area and at the Atwells Bridge, where there was no way to get from the sidewalk into the street to cross the street.

Those challenges were mostly forgotten as I was quickly making my way all the way across Federal Hill on Atwells sidewalks clear of snow. Then I came upon this mess.

Obviously, this was shoveled, and for the first time this season, amazing. Until some snowplow came along and pushed all the snow back into the area that had been cleared.

While the Mayor admonishes us not to shovel snow from sidewalks into the street…

Pls remember to clear your sidewalks. I know there is a lot of snow, but make every effort to not put snow you remove back into the roadway.less than a minute ago via web

…we have snowplows all over the city pushing snow back onto the sidewalks. If there were a 3 foot pile of snow across the Atwells roadway, how many people do you think would be fired? Snow from the road pushed onto the sidewalk, not such a big deal it would seem.

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.


  • It’s getting to the point where I have no place left to put the shoveled snow.

    And the same happened to me, I shoveled a way to get to the street and the plows buried it again.

  • My driveway was plowed in twice this morning while I shoveled, so I was thinking about this during my work.

    Plowing in driveways and crosswalks is a tough problem. The city has many missions (like getting the streets clear as quickly as possible with a finite number of plows) that conflict with others (keep the pedestrian ways accessible).

  • Perhaps someone who actually operates a plow will tell me why this can not be. Watching someone plow a parking lot, I noticed that he could switch the position of the blade, so snow could spill to the left, right, or be mostly pushed straight ahead. I wondered why plow drivers are not instructed when approaching a crosswalk to turn the plow straight and resume dumping snow along the curb after passing it. To pile all the extra snow from an intersection directly at the corners atop the crosswalks is not an inevitability but a choice to save a few seconds of time.

    A blanket prohibition on putting snow back in the roadway is just more dumb traffic-uber-alles thinking. When the sun is shining and the temperature is near freezing, or anytime the temperature is above freezing, tossing snow into the street in quantities that cars can easily run over is an excellent way to get rid of it. It mashes down and melts.

  • I saw some signs of snow removal on Atwells this morning. ProJo has a pic of snow removal operations on Thayer Street this morning.

    On Atwells, there were signs of snow that had been moved around. Some snow had been piled up in Garibaldi Park.

    This giant pile of snow at Bond and Atwells had been breached so the sidewalk now passes through:

    Snow - January 27, 2011

    A plow of somesort had obviously been working on the sidewalk at Garibaldi Park, but it was still not walkable.

    Nothing (aside from the breach in the snowbank at Bond Street) really did anything to help pedestrians, but I am hoping that it is first steps, and more will be done later.

  • Andrew said:

    A blanket prohibition on putting snow back in the roadway is just more dumb traffic-uber-alles thinking. When the sun is shining and the temperature is near freezing, or anytime the temperature is above freezing, tossing snow into the street in quantities that cars can easily run over is an excellent way to get rid of it. It mashes down and melts.

    That is exactly what NYC Sanitation would do in Midtown. Obviously, in Midtown there is no place to put snow, so at rush hour, when conditions were right, sanitation workers would go out and throw snow into the street for the traffic to mash down and melt. Even if the temps are flirting with 32 or just under, the snow will melt under the pressure of traffic.

  • Misery loves company? Greater Greater Washington is seeing the same problem with bridges and plows pushing snow onto the corners:

    Many corners also still had piled-up snow. DDOT officials previously said they were planning to train plow drivers to avoid pushing snow into the corners and blocking the curb ramps.

  • And a reader sent us a photo of the sidewalk on the Orms Street overpass this morning via Twitter:

    @gcpvd Most of Smith Hill sidewalks look great, as long as you don’t care about the bridges (Orms this AM) than a minute ago via TweetDeck

  • He clearly slipped on ice in the parking lot, which clearly supports my claim that we should divert resources from street clearing to sidewalk clearing, robbers fall on icy streets.

    I would say it was the bullet that was the ultimate solution.

  • It’s a pipe dream of mine… what if the governments priorities were changed. Suppose for a moment that how they started with treating and clearing was based on the least common denominator and then worked their way up. Everyone walks, so why not start with those areas used by absolutely everyone. Then focus on public transit… make sure the bus lines, train stations, etc. are clear of snow and available. Then focus on the rest of the roads. I know… crazy thinking… but it would be an interesting experiment. What do you suppose would happen to ridership on RIPTA if this were the model?

  • Tonight at rush hour there was bumper-to-bumper traffic in all directions and near gridlock on Exchange Street and Memorial Blvd. Sidewalks are beautifully cleared of snow at the train station, BC/BS and the Waterplace apartments and even next to the parking lot on the north side of the Union Station buildings along Exchange Street. The west side of the Exchange Street Bridge over Waterplace Park completely untouched by a shovel.

    A woman struggles with a rolling luggage piece trying to avoid cars that are ignoring the lights and competing at a crawl to get through the intersection as she maneuvers across Memorial Blvd towards the station. When she gets to the corner where the bridge starts, exasperated she has to collapse the luggage handle then lifts the bag and attempts to find foot impressions in the snow to go over the bridge.

    Rather than waiting for her to pass, I walk in the street with cars moving at my back no more than a couple feet from me.

    I assume that the Exchange Street Bridge belongs to the State, but City owns the park below, as well as, the street right-of-way. Once again who’s responsible for removing snow from the bridge’s sidewalks|the City, State, or someone else?

  • Like as not, unless you want the economy to collapse even more, cars need to be able to get in and out of the city. Shutting down the roads to prove a point is not going to do anything but foment dissension.

    I get as frustrated as anyone walking, and I realize what the problems are. But if we are going to use our snowbound neighbors of the north as examples of how sidewalks should be cleared, we should also take a moment to note that their roads are clear as well. And their storm drains. And their handicapped access. And their parking lots.

  • Saturday night Cranston Street west of the Armory was pretty bad. Cars actually had to repeatedly stop to allow opposite moving traffic to pass. The narrowed street width should have made conditions safer for pedestrians, but didn’t. Only about half the sidewalks were cleared. Generally empty lots, foreclosed buildings, and shopping center style buildings with parking along the street had not cleared the sidewalks. The result was that pedestrians were forced to walk in the roadway competing with the cars. The situation’s obviously dangerous.

    Around midnight Sunday, Seventh Avenue in Manhattan was closed to traffic below 18th Street. The scene was of oversized backhoes dumping snow into large dump trucks to cart away. They were clearing all the snow that had been plowed to the side in the parking lanes and on sidewalk edges. On Thursday night in the small city of Newburyport, MA, which had far more accumulation than Providence or Manhattan, was doing the same routine with backhoes and dump trucks.

    Has anyone witnessed this more aggressive approach to snow removal anywhere in Providence?

  • It happened on Thayer last week. They removed some snow (supposedly, according to ProJo). I know the buses were routed around Thayer for a while because they couldn’t fit between cars parked on both sides of the street (which is why the city needs to ban parking on one side of the street when there’s snow).

  • I saw a convoy of trucks filled with snow on Atwells Friday night coming from points west. There was some snow removed from Atwells at Garibaldi Park, but it was not done well enough to re-open the sidewalk there and it is now one of the few remaining sections of Atwells where the sidewalk is impassable forcing pedestrians into the street.

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