From Mayor Elorza:
I want to reach out as yet another snow storm arrives in Providence this evening. Six to fourteen inches of snow is expected by tomorrow.
Here are steps we are taking to prepare for the storm:
- A citywide parking ban begins at 2:00 a.m. tomorrow, Sunday, February 15 and will remain in effect until further notice. We urge everyone to comply with the parking ban, so crews can plow our streets. Cars parked on the street once the parking ban is in effect will be ticketed and towed.
- We also ask residents and businesses to shovel their sidewalks so people can safely get around our city. This is an important public safety concern. The City has begun giving fines to those who still have not cleared snow from the sidewalk in front of their home or business.
- Trash and recycling collection will continue on a holiday schedule, with a one day delay.
This winter has brought historic snow to Providence and we have been working around the clock to make every road passable and widen our busiest corridors. We’ve moved truckloads of snow to empty parcels throughout the city and we will continue to clear the snow long after the storm passes.
There is no challenge we cannot overcome when we come together as a community. So to everyone who lives, works and does business in Providence – thank you.
Thank you for your patience and perseverance as we continue to make it through this historic winter, and thank you for all you do for Providence.
The renewed vigor regarding sidewalks – that was me. Couple years back I got really pissed about the fact that Knight St. was horrendous. So I worked with Councilman Bryan Principe and lo and behold not only is the statute being enforced but there are enhanced penalties for ignoring it too.
So, in the last snow/sidewalks comment thread, I asked why it was right and appropriate for the city to abandon its own responsibilities to public property and force private citizens to do what is rightly and should always be DPW’s job.
Someone suggested that having the city do its own job would just be too damn expensive, and I pointed out that the absolute worst case scenario was a yearly expenditure of $3m. Realistically, I believe that we could do this for far less than $3m. I believe that as the city is spending nearly $2m to clean its roadways to bare pavement, it ought to at least spend an equivalent amount of money on cleaning its sidewalks.
But in the ensuing conversation over the $3m number, nobody ever answered the question I asked. So, I’ll ask it again.
Why? Why, despite the fact that nobody expects property owners to sweep the sidewalks, despite the fact that nobody expects property owners to shovel the street clear, despite the fact that property owners are in fact forbidden from enacting repairs if the sidewalk becomes damaged somehow, despite the fact that it’s a huge controversy whenever property owners decide to or try to assert ownership over some part of the sidewalk (see: sidewalk seating for restaurants), despite the fact that in literally every other regard except for this one specific narrow instance everybody agrees that it is the city’s public sidewalk and doesn’t belong to the property owner…
Why is it only with snow shoveling that all of that is disregarded? Why is it only in the hours and days after snowfall that it becomes the property owner’s sidewalk? Why is it that people insist on advocating for harsher “enforcement” of an unjust law, on holding “anger” towards people who fail to clear sidewalks because the only explanation seems to be that they are bad people who deserve to be punished, why is it that nobody is howling in anger at the city, whose damn job it is to keep the sidewalks clear in the first place?
Why are we even having this conversation? Why is it that this is seen as the “normal way of things?” Why is it that nobody seems to want to assign the blame where the blame belongs – to the city, for abdicating its duties?
I agree with Ryan that it should be the cities responsibility to clear sidewalks. I was away on vacation for a week during the early February snowfall and I had no one to shovel for me while I was away. I’m not from Rhode Island and I have no family in this city. All my family resides in California. And I don’t think it’s my responsibility to shell out money to pay someone to do it. I live on Smith street, so there aren’t many places to shovel the snow to. I can barely get my car out of my driveway because of all the snow. And it looks like both my neighbors the ones to the left and the ones to the right piled up snow on my side while I was away. And when the tow trucks come through they also pile on more snow toward the sidewalks. What happens now when your neighbors and the snow trucks are piling snow in front of your property to clear their sidewalk and the city streets?
It really is a lot of work to keep the sidewalks clear. I live on a corner lot on Smith Street. The city continuously plows snow onto the Smith sidewalk. Shoveling has become a nearly full-time job this winter. To make matters worse, the business of a State Senator plows their snow into the road and has not shoved their sidewalks even once this winter. My wife has to walk to work down Smith and I’m fearful for her life each and every time. It is disheartening to do all of that work and have a State Rep willfully ignore his duties. I spend my time shooting skunk eyes over there as much as I do shoveling.
I think it is approriate to name the State Senator!
I had thought on state highways (such as Route 44, Smith St) it might be appropriate for RIDOT, responsible for the roadways, to also be responsible for the sidewalks. It would incentivize the plow operators to at least try to be sensitive to what they do to the sidewalks. As it is, they are not (yet) even responsible for the overpasses such as Smith St over I-95 even though as the owners of I-95 they are the closest thing to the property owner. It is now the resposnibility of the municipality but that is not working. Perhaps the bills in the legislature H5349, S329, will give RIDOT that resposibility, at least a first step.
By the way, the President of the Ripta Riders Alliance Don Rhodes was interviewed on Smith St on Channel 10 with visuals of blocked bus stops and sidewalks, another good example of calling attention to ths issue.
Totally appropriate to call out the State Rep if they’re not obeying the law. There’s nothing wrong, unethical, or even slanderous or libelous about that.
As for maintenance of sidewalks, is it not the duty of the property owners abutting a sidewalk to clear fallen leaves from the sidewalk and to cut the grass of the grass strip (if one exists)? I thought that was required by city ordinance. And if I’m correct, then it wouldn’t seem like requiring the removal of snow to be any different.
Yes, it would cost a large sum of money for the, already cash strapped, city to do this work itself. And, while it makes sense that the city should do so, do you not feel responsible for helping out your fellow city residents? I shovel the snow from my sidewalk, not because the city tells me to, but because I feel like I should be a good neighbor. I often have the widest path cleared on my street, which means I have the tallest snow banks on the sidewalk (it doesn’t help that I have bushes in front of my house that make it difficult to put snow anywhere but along the curb). But I always have perfectly cleared sidewalks in front of my house, even if my driveway kinda sucks. Most people walk in the street because so many others do an awful job (or not at all) when it comes to clearing snow from the sidewalks, but I try to lead by example (the ones who do an awful job are perfectly capable… it’s not an instance where they’re elderly or not around).
That $3M assumed a rate of clearance (5 mph) that seems completely unreasonable.
But still, I am of the opinion we have to draw the line somewhere where we want property owners to take care of their “property”, which does extend in some cases to things that they don’t technically own but take stewardship of as part of their home ownership.
The alternative is more taxes to pay for snow removal on sidewalks (among whatever else we want to take away). I don’t think there’s some great moral or ethical rationale for where we draw the line and where we don’t. I don’t think not having the city clear 100% of the sidewalks is some great hatred or anti-pedestrian policy (though I think lack of ticketing is a big problem). In the Downcity area, the Downtown Improvement District guys do a lot of work cleaning out wheelchair accessibility along corners and some times even sidewalk it seems. We pay almost 10% more in property taxes for that service, and my building still spends thousands on snow removal (sidewalk around us and a small parking lot for 9 cars + egresses) each year.
IMO, the real problem are areas serviced by busses and main arteries for pedestrians. A lot of the time this is the fault of struggling businesses and the city itself dumping its plowed snow wherever. I’d be more interested in supporting the city taking care of sidewalks in specifically identified corridors (and it would be much less costly dramatically reducing mileage). There’s no need down side streets that are nearly exclusively residential with detached homes. That’s part of being a homeowner virtually everywhere.
As far as I understand it, this isn’t the case – if someone has the actual ordinance(s) in question I’d be interested to see them. To my knowledge, however, abutting property owners aren’t held responsible for sweeping, grass mowing, tree trimming, or any other maintenance of way. The one and only exception is snow removal.
When I stand in the middle of the street to force cars to stop so that elderly or infirm individuals can safely cross without some jackass buzzing them, that’s me being responsible and neighborly. When people knock on at-risk residents’ doors just to make sure that they’re doing okay in the wake of a storm such as this one, that’s being a good neighbor.
I can’t find a good way to phrase this, but I consider “shoveling the sidewalks” to be in an entirely different category from neighborly actions like helping people cross the street or checking up on the local elderly folks. It is, at best, something you happily do because the city doesn’t care about its pedestrians – and for most people, it’s something you do because the city is extorting you into doing its job for it.
I am curious how not sweeping the sidewalks is a public safety concern that is akin to not shoveling the sidewalks?
I think anyone who thinks the city can/would clear the sidewalks better than homeowners, is nuts. The city can’t even take care of the roads it owns, or the parks it owns or the trees it owns or the buildings it owns.
Do you really want to tell residents “OK, no worries, the city will do it for FREE!” and then have the city disappoint you like it has on almost every other front? I mean, have you even seen some of the sidewalk under the snow–they need work too? There is no amount of money that would get the city to do this right unless they subcontracted it out and I still don’t think they would get it right.