Now that we are firmly entrenched in winter’s grasp, I thought it might be a good time to take a pulse on what’s happening on our sidewalks. My anecdotal non-scientific windshield survey seemed to indicate that sidewalk shoveling compliance is better this year than it’s been in recent years — hopefully that’s a result of all the public outreach efforts and newspaper coverage of City Council’s lengthy deliberations this summer about how to make our sidewalks safer for pedestrians — especially our pedestrians with special needs that rely on sidewalks for most of their transportation.
I wish I had a camera because there’s been some great images of shovelers, including 5 year old kids using beach shovels to help mom shovel the front sidewalk on a section of Crain Avenue. And I’d have to say that those 5 year olds made a difference because their front walk has been cleared all winter long. It seems that the neighborhood sidewalks where we live are better this year but the sidewalks on the main drags in front of commercial establishments are still not so good.
I guess the lack of sidewalk attention in front of commercial establishments is a testament to the fact that we are a car based drive-thru economy because the owners/managers have certainly not made it easy for any foot bound traveler to visit their establishment. I suppose you could argue that in the spirit of a free market economy they can choose not to clear sidewalks until a savvy competitor starts to dent their market share but the troubling part is that in the meantime I see folks trying to walk past their business to get their destination struggling to stay safe.
As evident by the 6 hours of time spent in City Council deliberating sidewalk shoveling, this is a many faceted issue which I am not trying to solve here but I did want to provide an update on a couple of the changes that Council approved this year. The City’s Public Service Director, Gene Roberts, has been driving the streets during the course of this winter to monitor not only street conditions but also sidewalk conditions, with a particular emphasis on intersections and the snow that the City plows may have pushed into the pedestrian right of way.
As a result of the Council discussions held this summer related to snow removal from sidewalks, Gene has worked with the City snow plow crews to change their plowing tactics that previously left piles of snow pushed from the street in the intersections and crosswalks. That change in practice does seem to be working as the problem appears less prevalent this year despite some relatively significant snow fall over the last couple of weeks.
However, short of physically scooping and off-loading the snow to other locations we will likely always have some areas where the snow plows have contributed to creating pedestrian challenges and it’s in those areas that Council authorized the use of a contractor to come in behind the City crews and clean the intersections for safe pedestrian access.
To that end, Gene has developed a log that he uses to list areas that he feels require contractor attention, which he then forwards to the contractor to execute. Gene generates the list based on three primary factors:
1 – quantity of snow based on City roadway snow removal efforts
2 – proximity to Kent City Schools
3 – State Routes where the presence of pedestrians is most likely
City crews take care of the some sidewalks but here’s a snapshot of the list that Gene sent the contractor this week: