Shovel your walk, or else!

March 16, 1993

It's been so long since Baltimoreans had to cope with much snow that some have forgotten their obligations to their neighbors after a storm. You may not do much walking around after the snow stops, but others do. Some don't have much choice about traversing your sidewalk. They deserve a relatively clear path, not snow that has been trampled into slippery ice.

And, perhaps more to the point, it's the law. The City Code requires that sidewalks be cleared by owners of properties fronting on them within three hours of the storm's end unless it stopped overnight, in which case the deadline is 11 a.m. Fine: $15. It is not a well-remembered law (a police sergeant downtown Sunday evening was not familiar with it), but it's still the law.

In some neighborhoods of the city few people walk around even in good weather. But that is certainly not the case downtown, where some of the city's leading corporate citizens did little to clear their walks in time for the Monday rush hour, let alone on Sunday. A walk up Calvert Street from the Inner Harbor (well cleared by city workers) included at least partially uncleared sidewalks outside the Rouse Company's Gallery, the Mercantile bank, Alex. Brown, Rite Aid, Brookshire Hotel, one of two Maryland National Bank operations centers, the Mercy Hospital garage, Social Security Administration and, to our chagrin, The Baltimore Sun.

Packed snow, especially when it has melted a bit on top and frozen again, is treacherous footing. It's not enough to shovel just in front of your own door -- the whole walk should be cleared. Even a little snow left on the pavement freezes again at night, leaving a thin sheen of not always detectable ice. That can be more dangerous than the snow itself. Some pedestrians who had no choice about walking downtown Monday morning thought they were safer on the dry streets, dodging cars and trucks, than on sidewalks with packed, slippery snow.

People who have lived in more northern climes and learned to deal with snow understand that walks that are not scraped clean must be sprinkled with sand, cinders or even kitty litter. But they are also the people who know how to drive in snow, think of parking on a downgrade when snow is coming, move their cars near streets that get plowed and actually own snow shovels that are capable of handling heavy, wet snow. Unhappily, that seems to exclude a lot of Baltimoreans, including some businesses that like to think of themselves as good corporate citizens.

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