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The hard-knock life of a pedestrian in Scottsbluff

January 16, 2016

It starts out sounding like such a good idea.

“The sun’s out, it’s 30 degrees – let’s walk to the winter farmers market!”

or

“Let’s walk down to the river pathway and soak up some winter sunshine and watch the geese come in.”

And then we find ourselves navigating the winter sidewalks of Scottsbluff. It’s a good thing we’re still relatively young and agile. If we were up in years and getting a little wobbly, we’d be homebound!

There is a city ordinance that states that every homeowner and business must clear the sidewalks adjacent to their lot within 5 hours of the snowfall stopping, or by 8:30 a.m. for an overnight storm. (See section 20-6-20 here.)

I understand that, for some homeowners, this can be a hardship, and they can’t get their sidewalks cleared right away. Maybe the homeowner is elderly. Maybe they have a sidewalk adjacent to a busy street where the plow and traffic throw slush back up onto the sidewalk. Maybe they are running late and don’t have time. Maybe they are out of town. (We would have been in the latter boat, except that we have awesome neighbors who clear the walk for us.)

I certainly don’t like walking across freeze-thaw icy bits of sidewalk, and it does annoy me when it remains undone for weeks, but I am willing to cut homeowners a little slack from my righteous indignation.

Businesses, on the other hand – I somehow feel that they have a higher level of responsibility. They are supposed to be inviting to the public to visit, after all. But what really burns my britches is when the crew that clears the business parking lot (hired hands or no) PILES THE SNOW UP ONTO THE SIDEWALK!

Then, not only do you have the slick surface to deal with, but you have a slope and depth to navigate as well. It’s ten times worse than a flat bit of ground that never gets cleared.

Here are a few examples from our recent walks around town:

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Argh.

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Argh!

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OK, not perfect, but this one gets points for trying. Looks like a snow tsunami.

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A small “argh”, but with a bonus facepalm because the alternative is to walk across unstable rocks, and because the rocks will be scattered across the sidewalk when the snow melts.

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This one here is the worst of the bunch – a huge snow pile that forces a pedestrian into a busy street or into the business’s icy gravel parking lot.

I issue a plea to all business owners (and homeowners, too): go take a look at your sidewalks. Can a pedestrian get through safely? If not, please, for the benefit of your community (if not to avoid a potential lawsuit or city citation), keep a clear path on the sidewalks.

Also, if you notice your neighbor having a hard time keeping their sidewalks cleared, see if you can pitch in to help. It’s the neighborly thing to do, and we are, after all, a pretty neighborly community.

If you are a pedestrian and notice a particularly egregious snowy sidewalk problem, help the city’s code enforcement crew by calling it in, since they can’t be everywhere at once: 308-630-6243.

And while I’m on a curmudgeonly rant, I’ll bring up this point, too: Would you park your car so it blocked the whole roadway? No? Well, it doesn’t make sense to do that to the sidewalk, either.

When you park your car across the sidewalk, you are obstructing a public right-of-way. A person in a wheelchair or a kid on a bike may need to detour into the street to get past, or a pedestrian will need to walk across your lawn and possibly risk turning an ankle. Be courteous – don’t park your car so that it blocks the sidewalk, even in your own driveway.

On another note, I like to give credit where credit is due. The Scottsbluff city crew does a pretty good job of clearing the river pathway all winter. Props, y’all.

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Be safe out there, friends! We’ll be living through this freeze-thaw winter wonderland for a few more months.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

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