Upham's Corner Online

Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011 - A Look at Upham's Corner MA

Posted: January 21, 2011  Nancy J Conrad

Snow removal issues fall into two categories - those covered by, and those that fall outside the existing ordinance.  Two days after the storm, at least 50% of the residential sidewalks were not cleared to 42".  Eleven days after the storm, business sidewalks were still in violation of the law, some of them not shoveled.
    Covered by existing ordinance

  1. Sidewalks not cleared
  2. Pathways under 42 inches
  3. Residual snow and ice
  4. Ordinance not enforced as written

  5. Not covered by existing ordinance

  6. Sidewalk/Street interfaces blocked
  7. ADA ramps buried
  8. Bus stops not shoveled
  9. Bus shelters not cleared
  10. Crosswalks not shoveled
  11. Curb cuts not shoveled
  12. Fire hydrants not cleared
Summary & Overview
Snowstorm 1/12/2011
Chief Mackan Interview
Snow Removal Issues
Boston Not Pedestrian Friendly

Eleven days after the storm (1/24/2011) some areas were still  not shoveled.

Example:  600 Columbia Rd Rear.  We are wondering how many Code Enforcement tickets were issued? Any?

Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011
600 Columbia Rd Rear
Photo taken 1/24/11
Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011
600 Columbia Rd Rear
Photo taken 1/24/11

Left on their own, people will clear a path that makes sense to them.  They might choose the width of the sidewalk (30 inches) or two snow shovels wide.

Often their choices do not support full use of the sidewalk:
  •   Two or more people walking together
  •   People walking in both directions
  •   Wheeled traffic such as cargo carriers, strollers and wheelchairs
  •   People walking dogs

Aaron's was moving furniture out of the building to a waiting truck. 

Because they had not shoveled enough space around the front of their entryway, the open doors fully blocked the sidewalk. We had to close the open doors to get around.
Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011

Aaron's - Both doors open to move merchandise into/out of store.
Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011
Changes in the grade of the walkway are one of the most common causes of tripping, falling and injury. 

So imagine a business that has cleared the sidewalk. It is safe to walk and you begin to trust the steps you're taking. All of a sudden you hit a section of packed snow and ice an inch or two higher. It's easy to trip and fall.

Example:  The long patch of ice in front of CVS.

According to the ordinance, if the sidewalk has residual ice or snow, then it must be covered with a layer of sand or sawdust.

Note that if you wait too long to shovel, the snow may turn to ice and be difficult to remove. 

Chief Mackan stated that Code Enforcement prefers teaching, not fining.  They also respect the Mayor's message:  "Don't do too much."  This attitude applies especially to homeowners.  As a consequence, the code is not being enforced as written.  Four days later, he says, if the condition of the sidewalk has not changed, then it's time to consider applying a penalty.

"If it looks like they've made an attempt, we leave them alone."  The code calls for 42".  Is that wrong?  Is 30" OK or the width of one shovel (18")? 

What is the impact on a woman pushing a stroller, or the handicapped person in a wheelchair, or the mail delivery person?  

The most egregious problems occur on the main "drags" which is where the businesses are located.  Eleven days after the storm, businesses still had not complied with the ordinance.  Why?  If Code Enforcement went out there, what is the problem?

Which sidewalk do you prefer? 

The narrow sidewalk on the left or the more expansive one on the right? Same sidewalk, different

Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011
Rainbow Fashion
Photo taken 1/24/11

Code Enforcement received multiple calls
about the sidewalk in front of Rainbow.
However, nothing has changed.

Exactly one person can fit.  If you are coming my way,
then one of us is going to have to wait in the street.
Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011
L&M Bargain
Photo taken 1/24/11

Same sidewalk but on the other side of
Virginia Street. Safe and clear. 
More than one person
can travel at the same time.
Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011Most businesses know they are responsible for clearing the sidewalk. But they draw the line where the sidewalk ends and the street begins. "The City is responsible for clearing the streets." After a major snowstorm, the dividing line between the street and the sidewalk gets confusing. The snow plows create the problem by pushing the snow away from the center of the street toward the sides.

As a result, a pedestrian may safely traverse an entire sidewalk only to find crossing the street near impossible. Invariably a 3 to 8" thick and up to 6' long section of slush, frozen ice and snow exists between the end of the sidewalk and the center of the street where the snowplows have cleared. No one is responsible for clearing this and they don't.

We posed this problem to Code Enforcement and were told that residents and businesses were not responsible for this.  "So what do we do?" "The best you can - step over it, jump over it, walk through it, whatever works."

Taking on responsibility for clearing this section does not add much to the work to keeping the sidewalk open. Upham's Corner News took a shovel to several such areas. Within a matter of minutes, the walkways were clear. Unfortunately, the street section may not stay clear for long. Snow falls off the embankments or gets pushed over by passing cars, occluding the walkway (again!).

"What about the handicap ramps?" we asked a spokesperson at Code Enforcement. "There's no language covering handicap ramps in the ordinance."

Handicap ramps are not always where you expect them. They can be in front or to the side of an intersection. Especially if they are more towards the front, they will be buried in the snow, and why? The snow removal ordinance indicates where to place the shoveled snow. You can put it between parked cars or you can put it at the front edge of the sidewalk. Prior to shoveling, no one is digging down to grade looking for the handicap ramps.

So we need to question our attitudes and the extent to which we remember people with disability. To what extent are we cognizant of the need to clear the sidewalk for all people?

Note: The City accepted and used ARRA money to install new ADA ramps this summer and the Mayor strongly supports making our city ADA compliant. So why are the ADA ramps not included in the snow removal ordinance?

Sue Ann lives at Columbia West

She lives on the first floor and is wheelchair-bound. "So how do you get around after it snows?"
Almost as if the answer were obvious, she said: "I don't." 

"What about your car? Can you go outside to your car?"
"We don't have a car. When I go outside, my husband John pushes me."

"So how do you move around on the sidewalks when there's so much snow?"
"We don't. They haven't even shoveled the ramp."  That was surprising.

"What do you do to get the ramps cleared?"
"I have to call the Mayor's office."

"Does that mean you're housebound until the snow is completely gone?"
"That's right."

Not all handicapped people are housebound following a snowstorm. We've seen several people navigating wheelchairs and waiting for the bus.  So it is very important to not forget them when we are clearing the sidewalks.

Snow removal issues 1/14/2011Rev. John Odams was waiting for the bus at Columbia Road and the Dorchester North Burial Ground Thursday, January 13, 2011.

"Four workers from the cemetery department were using a snow blower to clear the sidewalk on either side of the cemetery.  One, who seemed to be a supervisor, was talking to his workers.  ‘Well, it's not our job, but this bus stop sure needs clearing,' and he directed his crew to take care of it."

Rev. Odams wanted to make sure we understood.  "Whoever is responsible for clearing the bus stops, it's not getting done.  If it hadn't been for the cemetery workers, this bus stop would be in the same condition as the one across the street by Payless Shoe."

Photo of front of shelter.  Cemetary workers cleaned this out so people would have somewhere to wait for the bus.  See below for photo of shelter.

Jackie Connors, Sr. Administrator at Public Works says they get "a million calls" every time it snows.  "There is nothing defined.  The City says the MBTA is responsible for clearing open-air bus stops.  The MBTA says the City is responsible.  So the bus stops are never cleared."

Bus stop at bank of America. 

Notice the path that bus riders use to cross into the street!
Snow removal issues 1/14/2011

The Number 15, 16 and 17 buses have
a stop in front of Bank of America.

Snow removal issues 1/14/2011

Path bus riders use to cross from the
sidewalk waiting area into the street
to board the bus.
Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011The Wall is responsible for clearing bus shelters.

As of 1/24/11 the shelter at Columbia Rd and the Dorchester North Burial Ground  is snow bound and unuseable.  
This is truly one of the strangest failures of our pedestrian walkway system.

Pedestrians get used to the traffic patterns including the light signals. Wide streets with a median strip have crosswalks that cut through the median strip.   This assures the pedestrian will not have to change grade in order to cross the street.

After a snowfall, whose responsibility is it to clear the crosswalks? It certainly doesn't belong to the businesses and residents. You would think it would be responsibility of the City, yet no one is clearing them. The crosswalks seem to have fallen off the City's radar map.

What happens when the crosswalk in the median strip is blocked? After crossing over the first section of street, you walk through the cut out in the median strip then cross the second section of the street to the other side.

If the median strip is blocked, you have to walk in the street all the way around the median strip. Meanwhile, you and the cars are sharing the same space.

Update:  On Sunday, January 16, 2011 we found a few crosswalks and bus stop waiting areas cleared out. Based on the width of the cleared opening and the snow "footprint" left behind, you could tell it had been cleared by a front loader. Oddly enough, the work was done on the West side of Columbia Road but not on the East side.
Snow Removal Issues 1/14/2011
Snow removal issues 1/14/2011After a heavy snowstorm, snow is piled to the outside of the sidewalk in a continuous line, creating an embankment.

If you park your car and walk towards sidewalk expecting to step up, you won't be able to because it is blocked by a wall of snow. It'll have to walk in the street to the next intersection.

The simple solution is to create an opening, a "curb cut," through the snow embankment from the sidewalk to the street. It's not a lot of effort and the safety benefits are enormous. 

As of Friday, January 14, 2011 many businesses had begun creating these openings. What a difference it made my mission point!
The snow removal ordinance does not require anyone to clear the fire hydrants.  It is a matter of public safety that this should be done.  The City asks our residents and businesses to clear the fire hydrants as a "Good Neighbor" act.

Snow Removal Issues

Fire hydrant on Dudley Street in front of
Foot Locker, buried in the snow.
Snow Removal Issues

Fire hydrant on Stoughton Street cleared
by Cemetary workers.

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