As much of the nation is walloped by another storm, our transportation needs again come to the forefront. However, while the news focuses on delays and cancellations at airports and traffic on the roads, I am concerned about our sidewalks.
Prior to today Boston had been pounded by over 60 inches of snow. Day in and day out, I have trudged across banks of snow and over poorly shoveled walks in my trusty winter boots. But each time I do so I wonder how the elderly and those with disabilities are traversing their neighborhood streets. How are they getting to work, to the grocery store, even out of the apartment to walk the dog?
I am shocked by the pathetic response by homeowners and landlords to snow on their sidewalks. Many people have shoveled, but few fulfill the 42 inch requirement stated in the Boston Municipal Code. It seems even those who shovel rarely complete the responsibility within the time dictated by the law. In fact, there seems to be a proportionate inverse relationship between the amount a property owner drives and the quality of his or her sidewalk. I have been particularly dismayed by the sidewalks of many wealthy suburbanites.
However, cities like Boston do have recourse against what is not just lawlessness, but a disregard for civic responsibility. Local laws permit municipalities to fine those who do not appropriately shovel their walks. In a time of fiscal challenge for most municipalities actually levying the fines on not shoveling would have the dual benefit of raising revenue and creating greater incentive for property owners to shovel.
In the age of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no excuse for any property owner not clearing his or her walkway of all impediments, especially snow and ice in the winter.