La Vida Local: Irregular Notes on West End Life
Winter Sidewalk Report
by Rosanne Graef, Past President – WENA
Today’s Topic: The Perennial Problem of Perambulating Portland
Black Friday, Buy Nothing Day, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday… All the excitement of November behind us. Now, it’s time to turn our thoughts to what lies ahead for the next three or four months: snowy, icy, unshoveled and unsanded sidewalks. La Vida Local started the year with a January article about the slippery and needlessly dangerous brick sidewalks. Yet, here it is December and here we are with another winter sidewalk report.
The City’s winter sidewalk conditions were a topic of discussion at the recent District 2 meeting. Alex Landry, a member of the Portland Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PBPAC) raised the issue. Alex questioned the current procedure, a complaint-based process that includes hand-delivering warnings to residential property owners who do not comply with the city’s snow removal ordinance. See excerpts from City Code below.
What City Code Says
ARTICLE VIII. REMOVAL OF SNOW AND ICE
1-2. Sec. 25-173. Snow and ice to be removed from sidewalks.
(1) Residential property owners, or the manager or any person having the responsibility for any residential property building or lot of land which abuts a street where there is a sidewalk shall remove snow from the sidewalk in such a manner as to clear a path four (4) feet wide within twenty-four (24) hours after snow has ceased to fall or within twenty-four (24) hours after the city conducts its last snow clearing for that storm on the adjacent street whichever is later. In cases where a sidewalk is less than four (4) feet wide the entire sidewalk shall be cleared. Property owners whose property abuts a sidewalk containing a curb cut and/or leading to an intersection shall clear a path four (4) feet wide through the curb cut or to the curb at the intersection, giving access to the street.
(2) Whenever the sidewalk or any part thereof adjoining any building or lot of land on any street shall be encumbered with ice for twenty-four (24) hours or more, it shall be the duty of the residential property owner and any person having the responsibility for such building or lot to cause such sidewalk to be made safe and convenient by removing the ice therefrom or by covering the same with sand or some other suitable substance, so that the sidewalk is suitable for pedestrian use, to a width of four (4) feet. In cases where a sidewalk is less than four (4) feet wide, ice on the entire sidewalk shall be cleared or covered.
What City Code Should Say
The ordinance then proceeds to outline an onerous process of hand-delivered warnings, fines and other actions that the City can take when these responsibilities are ignored.
The Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee suggests several improvements for the city code.
- Make it clear that the warning and fine schedule are per winter, not per storm.
- Adjust the fine schedule so there’s no first free pass.
- Streamline the warning and fining process so public works personnel can work on our streets and sidewalks, rather than traipse around hand-delivering warnings to scofflaws.
Keep your eyes open for more to come on this. And get involved. We have a new Public Works Director, Chris Branch. And he has purchased six new sidewalk plows! Isn’t it time we all pitch in to make Portland a truly walkable city?
Just a thought, if you’re not a property owner, you’re still welcome to shovel. So why not get your name on the list of volunteer shovelers? It’s easy. Just contact Linda Weare at the Portland Office of Elder Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org and she will let you know how to help.