It's called a shovel

December 09, 2003

IF IT SEEMED that there were more people than usual walking in the street Monday morning, blame their neighbors.

Most days, people walking in the middle of roadways are exhibiting plain old bad pedestrian behavior, but a quick glance to the sidewalks during the first post-snowstorm morning commute was enough to acquit them, this time.

A full day after the worst of the snow in the city, nearly entire blocks of sidewalk were still coated in the stuff; short shoveled sections merely dotted the gray-white here and there. Definitely not pedestrian-friendly, no matter the treads on one's boots. And these weren't alleys or quiet side streets, but such major thoroughfares as Eastern Avenue and East Baltimore Street.

Where's that vaunted neighborhood spirit? The concern for the safety of one's unfortunate fellows forced out into the chill to earn a living or buy some milk? Tucked snug behind those painted screen doors.

City law says that residents must clear a walkable path in front of their homes within three hours of the end of a storm, if it's daytime (they get some slack if the snow stops after dark). Of course, no one expects officers to be out writing those $15 tickets - they have enough troubles along the thousands of lane-miles of slushy city streets.

But it is reasonable to expect that the guy next door shouldn't want school-bound kids and parents wrecking their ankles trying to navigate in front of his house - or choosing to brave the slushy street and the hazard of inexperienced winter drivers. He surely doesn't want the attendant liability lawsuit.

Those who rely on the passive-solar approach - waiting for it all to melt away in the sun - only add to the menace, as half-melted snow freezes overnight into treacherous ice.

Can everyone have forgotten basic civic snow duty since last year's blizzard? It surely can't be just plain laziness, or apathy, can it?

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