Greater City Providence

Shoveling the Sidewalk – It’s the Law


Inspired by Jef’s fun live-blogging of the snow storm (who hasn’t enjoyed the blizzard so far?) it’s time for us to shine the brightest of spotlights onto the clearing (or lack thereof) of the city’s sidewalks.

On the East Side, my wife and I walked from Wayland Square, to our synagogue near Brown Stadium for services, to Hope Village (or whatever we try to rename it), and back, and the sidewalks were 85% cleared, I’d estimate. Pretty impressive, but just not good enough folks.

Why is that? Because property owners clearing their sidewalks is more than just good citizenship, it’s the law. Here at Greater City Providence, this is going to be a BIG focus this Winter season and we’re going to do a lot of blogging and advocacy on this issue.

Here’s the ordinance text:

Sec. 23-13. Removal of snow–Required.
All owners, occupants or persons having care of any building or lot bordering upon any street, highway or public place within the city, shall within the first four (4) hours of daylight after the end of any snowfall, or the fall or deposit of snow on the sidewalk of said building or lot from any cause whatsoever:

(a) Remove or cause to be removed all snow from a path not less than three (3) feet in width of the entire border in or on said street, highway, or public place;
(b) Remove or cause to be removed all snow from around any fire hydrant on the sidewalk in front of said building or lot;
(c) Remove or cause to be removed all snow from the opening of any catch basin in the sidewalk of said building or lot;
(d) Remove or cause to be removed all snow from pedestrian-access ramps cut into street curbs bordering said building or lot;

Any person found guilty of violating this section shall be fined not less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) nor more than three hundred dollars ($300.00). The enforcement of the above shall be done by the city police department.

(Ord. 1914, ch. 30, – 24; Rev. Ords. 1946, ch. 33, – 38; Ord. 1961, ch. 1422, – 1; Ord. 1994, 94-56, – 1, 12-27-94; Ord. 2003, ch. 03-37, 6-16-03)

By the way: All of Providence’s ordinances can be found on this website. This is very useful and one link that we should all bookmark.

Photo from

Bret Ancowitz


  • What kind of stinks is that the snow has been falling, a technicality in the law as technically it has not stopped (at least not here in my neighborhood). I noticed a big difference in my neighborhood here in the Chalkstone/Pleastant Valley Pkwy area versus when I lived between Eaton and Admiral (both neighborhoods mostly single family homes). Lots more people actually shoveled the sidewalks here.

    Now if we can only get the city and business owners to shovel their sidewalks and get the city to plow. Driving around yesterday afternoon made it seem like the city stopped plowing sometime early yesterday morning on some streets and late Friday evening on others (mine). I know the city is running out of money and all, but a lawsuit will probably cost them more than paying to plow the streets.

  • I’ve had to drive down Douglas Ave a few times yesterday and today, and it looks like about 90% of the sidewalks are unshoveled including the bus stops.

  • Regardless of the law, I wonder what has happened to common sense. How can a business owner, on Atwells, open their shop, sit there and wait for customers to walk in, but not shovel their damn sidewalk? What is the thought process there?

  • All those businesses need is a few law suits to help them see the light on shoveling. same with homeowners.

  • I rent and I can only shovel for about a half hour at a time. So I go out every now and then and deal with this piecemeal. I have never seen the other occupants in the house shovel. If the city fines someone, who will they fine? The owner, the occupants, or both? Do I get fined equally with the others even though I did shovel? I can’t even walk to the mailbox without shoveling. I’d also like to know why the city can pile the snow up in front of my driveway (last time was about 2 and a half feet by 3 feet high the width of the driveway) after I had cleared it just hours before. I don’t think they would appreciate it if I were to shovel all my snow into the street. Why can they block my driveway?

  • IF (big if) the city fines at all, they will fine the homeowner. Unless it says in your lease that you’re responsible for shoveling, the landlord is always responsible. And even if the lease does say that you have to shovel all the snow, the landlord is still the one the city will fine.

    However, if you don’t shovel then the mailman won’t deliver your mail.

Providence, RI
Mostly Cloudy
5:57 am7:31 pm EDT
Feels like: 54°F
Wind: 13mph SSE
Humidity: 42%
Pressure: 30.13"Hg
UV index: 5
63°F / 37°F
59°F / 39°F
59°F / 36°F