Sidewalks of Shame Vol. 27, 311 Being Honest, and CM Cheh reintroduces ‘The Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act’ to impose and enforce fines for not Shoveling


“Dear PoPville,

The sidewalk this morning was terrible outside the Airline Association… And why not wait for the sun to melt it? You won’t get a ticket, as evident by the tweet by 311….More than annoying, this is dangerous.”


WUSA9 reports:

“The Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act would enable the District to impose a $25 fine on residential property owners and a $125 on commercial property owners.

Under current law, property owners are required to remove snow from sidewalks adjoining their property within 8 daylight hours following a snowstorm, but the enforcement process is impractical, according to a news release from Cheh’s office.”

Ed. Note: I do have to give props to DCFD who cleared a sidewalk in Columbia Heights after a resident tweeted about the danger.

85 Comment

  • What I hate about the city paying more attention to roads than sidewalks is they are basically acknowledging that car drivers are more important than pedestrians when in fact, walkers (plus bikers and those who take public transport) make up a huge portion of commuters. It’s the wrong message to be sending. So DC city govt, should we all get in our cars and go to work that way?!?!?!

    • Not to mention that walking commuters live in the city, while many car commuters live in MD or VA. Who pays DC taxes – and elects council members?

      • This was exactly my thoughts too. Pedestrians should be given the same courtesy as vehicles. And what about our disabled residents? There was someone on Rant & Ravel today who has MS and fell on the icy sidewalk. I think that’s terrible.

      • thats not completely true. people who bus and metro into the city then walk. lets not forget that our metro system is designed for and mostly used by suburbanites.
        Also, most households in DC have cars. and many people in DC take the bus.

        • True, and of course the sidewalks should be cleared for anyone that needs to use them (not just DC residents), but I was just making the point that folks that have a door-to-door/home-to-work commute live and work in the city.

          • you weren’t “just making the point”. you were trying to insinuate something about suburban drivers being the ones that benefitted from our roads being plowed while dc residents suffer yet have to pay taxes.

            which is not what’s going on with the fact that the streets get plowed.

      • Not to mention that even the most dedicated driver has to walk *somewhere*

    • I completely agree.
      Also agree with everyone downthread saying that the fines are stupid. Double it for residences, quadruple it (or more) for businesses.

    • I grew up in a relatively small town that was by no means pedestrian oriented, but they did have a handful of sidewalk plows that could clear a neighborhood’s sidewalks in under 20 minutes. I don’t see why DC hasn’t invested in something similar, at least for the major pedestrian sidewalks.

    • Wait, are you suggesting that the city should plow sidewalks as well or just get serious about ticketing residents/businesses for not shoveling? I think your perspective is messed up (I think you are making up a message that isn’t there) but I could in theory get on board with better enforcement, but not with the city plowing sidewalks.

      • BID’s would be a better mechanism for that.

        • BIDs rely on the businesses in the area being willing to pay, and there are many areas that don’t have BIDs (either because they’re primarily residential, or because the businesses that are there aren’t interested in paying to support BID services).

    • Not necessarily. The damage potential is much bigger with cars/trucks/buses. A car/truck/bus skidding in close proximity to pedestrians and buildings is a lot more dangerous… wouldn’t you rather be a pedestrian worried about sliding and falling than a pedestrian constantly worried about which vehicle is going to slide and run you over while you’re on the sidewalk?

    • i think you’ve missed a larger picture of how citys function. roads are cleared for a number of reasons, including fire and rescue vehicles, police, mail delivery, food and supply deliveries, and evacuation routes. those are vital to the function of a city. a clear sidewalk is not.

  • I appreciate the effort, but like the 311 Tweet says DPW already has its hands full with clearing roads and picking up the backlog of garbage.
    Cheh needs to give authority to some other department. Perhaps the meter maids?

    • Yes, parking enforcement would be excellent at chasing down these scofflaws! And the fines need to be higher. $125 for a business is probably cheaper than the cost of shoveling. Make it $1,000!!!

  • Remember on April 1 that this was brought up earlier and Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser voted against it. Not that this should be the reason to vote or not vote for someone, but I think it speaks to larger issues with both of these candidates. Wells supported it and the Mayor didn’t have much to say.

  • Cheh’s bill is kinda ridiculous. If you own a huge commercial property that’s on a corner, or worse yet, takes up all four sides of the same block, you’ll spend a lot more than $125 on a crew to come shovel it. It’s almost like she is saying “please, don’t shovel the snow and look out for public safety – it’s cheaper if you just send the city a check and let it melt away all by itself, even if that takes a week”.
    If she wants this bill to actually encourage people to do the right thing, it has to be economically beneficial for them to do that instead of paying the fine. Something with some teeth, like $2 per linear foot of sidewalk, per day, that isn’t cleaned up, I’d support. Anything else is just wasting time, and might actually serve as a disincentive. If I have to pay a crew to shovel snow off of four sides of a city block, and risk the slip-and-fall lawsuit from that crew, OR I can just write up a neat little check for $125, I’m getting out my checkbook.

  • the city should fine themselves for not shoveling the sidewalks bordering and inside parks!

  • The price tag is absurd. It takes a business far more than $125 worth of time and effort to clear a sidewalk like this. Why would they be incentivized by such a fine? Reminds me of the data that shows that when you fine parents for showing up late to daycare they simply treat the fine as a cost of extra babysitting and feel more comfortable showing up late because it’s more like an economic transaction.

  • While this seems headed for some political and bureaucratic entanglements, I focus my frustration on businesses that don’t shovel by simply boycotting when possible. I figure that if a restaurant or other business does not have the time or pride to clear their sidewalks, then they probably cut corners in many other aspects of their operations.

    For example, I won’t be trying Diego at 14th and V, as I had once planned. All of the sidewalks around them are clear, but they didn’t clear the 2 inches of ice running the entire length of their property.

    I encourage others to keep tabs on business with similar lame records on snow clearing.

    • You should boycott diego simply because it’s by the same people behind DIK. Cutting corners in the quality and preparation of ingredients is their business model!!! Yuck. 😛

    • justinbc

      Probably because they are constantly rotating between being open and closed for business.

  • Why is the District efficient at parking tickets but not at poor-shoveling tickets? Seems like a ready-made money-maker for the District and it would save a lot of necks.

    • Because at this point it isn’t a money maker. There is no fine. The enforcement is for the city to clean it, then charge the property owner for the service. I think we all need to lobby the Council to enact fines – and ones much larger than Cheh is talking about.

    • justinbc

      Because people park year round. It only snows here a couple times per year, if that.

      • But that doesn’t stop them from rapidly ticketing and towing folks on snow emergency routes. They could do it, even if they hire seasonal employees to do it (how hard could it be to train someone to input an address into a handheld device?).

  • Are property owners liable if someone slips and breaks their neck due to the snow/ice not being cleared?
    Let a few homeowners gets sued for a ton of money and maybe we’ll see some action.

  • Meridian at Gallery Place Apartments (450 Mass Ave NW) is also repeatedly poor at clearing their sidewalk (which is quite long on Mass). They clear their driveway and entrance but that is it. $125 will do nothing to encourage such owners to do what they should be doing anyway.

  • Thanks, Dan for publishing this. I’m really still flummoxed by the 311 response.

    My colleague had the right response: CORY BOOKER! Where are you?


  • Is there any way to get the National Park Service to clear sidewalks on property in their jurisdiction? There are several large sections of sidewalk in areas with lots of pedestrian traffic and/or very busy bus stops that are basically never cleared.

  • Why not have a program where the city workers clear the sidewalks and charge a reasonable price for it? As someone with balance issues, I really DO get the issue, at the same time, I’m sure there are some homeowners and maybe even business owners who are just not able to manage it. The fine doesn’t fix the problem. It would be nice to have a solution that addressed the problem directly.

    • I have balance issues too. New COlumbia Heights had a post on a website that connects people who need help shoveling with those that are willing to help shovel. One of my neighbors sent it out to our block’s listserv. Our house is STILL one of only 3 that bothered to shovel on our block. I’m basically house bound from anywhere I need to walk to because my neighbors are complete and total Ass hats.

    • If you can’t afford $20 to pay someone to clear your sidewalk, then you probably can’t afford to own your home.

  • I’m sorry, but NO props to the fire dep’t. Seriously – they had to be REMINDED to shovel their own property. When I read the props, I assumed they’d read a tweet and gone out and cleared someone else’s property, but no – they hadn’t even bothered to clear their own until somebody complained. That is complete and total BS.

  • We definitely have neighbors who won’t shovel (and this doesn’t include elderly people, who everyone takes turns shoveling out). Today I saw a man on a rascal type scooter (I see him around some mornings) and he had to go in the street on his scooter because of the icy snow. So unacceptable and unsafe!

  • I shoveled my walk and the walk of a few of my neighbors. The next day, everything melted and froze. My sidewalk is terrible today but I tried to buy salt and the stores are pretty much out at this point. I feel bad but I’m not sure how to remedy the situation. Do I get a ticket?

    I’m not opposed to enforcement and think that the city should do more, especially to businesses who have no excuse. But it can be tricky for something like snow.

    • I’m sorry, but yes. It was nice of you to shovel your neighbors, but you clearly didn’t get all of it. We had to go out and shovel several times to get all of the layers of snow and ice off of the sidewalk. This was a particularly gross storm because the ice came first, then the snow. It was an absolute pain in the rear. But we did it. And by the end of the day there was nothing left on the sidewalk to melt and refreeze, so the sidewalk is still clean and dry. And you know what, if someone slips and falls on your sidewalk, they can also sue you if they get hurt, too. “I tried” won’t help you on a lawsuit either.

      After the last storm, I went out with a hammer to get the ice off of a neighbor’s sidewalk because they didn’t get all of the snow and it refroze into a sheet of ice and they refused to finish the job. It is just dangerous to leave that stuff on the sidewalk. You do what you have to do to be neighborly.

      • I’d have some more sympathy. You can completely shovel and still get ice with melting and refreezing. Sidewalks aren’t engineered to drain properly, and there’s not much place to put the snow besides in a big pile next to the sidewalk!

    • We have a long-handled ice pick/”sidewalk scraper” to break up large sheets of ice on our sidewalk. In addition to a snow shovel, every homeowner should have one of these. They break up the ice very easily.

    • Most salt doesn’t melt ice when it’s this far below freezing anyway. You’re better off getting litter or something to use for traction rather than trying to melt it. Or you know, scrape it if you must.

  • Stop your whining and pick up a shovel if it’s that important to you.

    • Yeah, we should just all carry a shovel with us to work each day just in case we run in to any patches of snow/ice along the way. While we’re at it let’s just have cars install plows on their front bumper if they want the streets to be safe.

      • +1. And I’m sure the OP’s employer won’t mind if he/she is late to work because he/she was shoveling in front of some business that couldn’t be bothered to shovel its own sidewalks.

    • So you’re saying I should shovel in front of businesses and houses who can’t be bothered to do it themselves? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You should stay in Virginia with the rest of the jerks.

  • Why isn’t DYRS commissioned to shovel the sidewalks in the city? A good use of available resources, on-the-job training, exercise and fresh air. Win-win.

    • Genius. I want this to happen, like, yesterday.

    • No way DYRS would do this. Neil Stanley can’t figure out when a kid has absconded from one of many group homes in the city. No way he would be competent enough to get something done like this, plus all the kids would run off while they were doing it and there would be a rash of murders and iPhone thief’s.

      • ankle bracelets with proximity sensors…they walk too far away from whoever is supervising them and it lets out a blood-curdling whine. That oughta do it.

        • I have no confidence in DC’s ability to make that work, even though it’s so simple. Maybe if we had Giuliani as head of DYRS…

  • Hopefully it will not be necessary this winter, but I would LOVE for PoPville to have public shaming posts for businesses/buildings that do not shovel their sidewalks. I live on 10th, north of U st and the sidewalks go from well shoveled in front of some houses and condo buildings to dangerous and impassable in front of others.

    • I completely agree. There are plenty of people in my neighborhood in Georgetown who do not even make an attempt to shovel that I’d love to publicly shame. The worst are the people who shovel their front steps and their driveway, but not their sidewalks. Also people who live in corner houses who only shovel one side of their sidewalk and ignore the other.

      • YES! Corner houses are the worst. There is a condo building at 10th and W that covers a significant portion of W St. but only ever shovels the 10th street side so residents can get out of the building. Meanwhile, around the corner it looks like outer siberia.

  • Here’s a solution: DC temporarily employs a couple of hundred people to go through neighborhoods after a snow storm and record the location of every home and business not following the sidewalk rule. You don’t need pictures because a property is only recorded when it is not obeying the rules. You pay for the temporary employees through the fines themselves. There would be increased revenue from enforcement.

    • Riffing off your idea: Pay the people to take a before picture (with time / date stamp!), do the shoveling, and then take an after picture. Property owner gets sent the pictures, with the bill, plus some small extra percentage for administration / punishment.

  • The only point I would make about the roads versus sidewalks debate is this – cars are more dangerous. Period. An accident on an icy road causes a lot of damage, snarls traffic, and can also injure pedestrians.

    I don’t own a car, so not inclined to have empathy for drivers in the city. But I understand the weighing the dangers here. Cars have one option – the street. You as a pedestrian have a little more flexibility to get around icy patches of sidewalks (like I did last night when I walked across the street to avoid a very icy section of the block). You know, sometimes you have to just sort of be responsible for yourself.

    That said, I think there should be more public shaming. That’s fun.

    • This is a good point. One of many reasons why the city should stick to plowing roads instead of sidewalks, though I would be on board with stronger fines and enforcement for residents and businesses who don’t shovel their sidewalks.

    • Good point about cars not having any other options besides the street. And I have followed this advice this week by walking in clear streets as opposed to icy sidewalks. Last night I walked down W from 14th to 10th. I told myself that I would simply flip off any drivers that honked at me. To my surprise, drivers were polite and just slowed down when they passed me.

    • Another salient point about roads is emergency vehicle access. Getting to a fire, murder, or person in need of medical treatment is a lot harder if the streets aren’t plowed.

      • And a lot of people take the bus. And bus routes tend to get plowed first. So is isn’t just about carowners.

  • I actually work in this building (where photo was taken) and the sidewalks have been clear since work opened Tuesday morning. Perhaps this shot was taken on Monday when offices were closed??? Anyhow, I get the point, but I tend to find the only sidewalks that are always well shoveled are those from businesses.

    • justinbc

      According to Twitter her tweet was sent at 3PM yesterday. I’m not sure if this photo corresponds to that area, or it’s just a stock one used for the post.

      • Photographer here : ) I took the photo at about 10:30 am on Tuesday outside that building. I work the block over and had a heck of a time walking down that path on my way into the office after the two hour delay.

        I only tweeted it after I had no luck getting my 311 calls answered.

  • The bill should require that the entire budget for snow removal come from fines on homes and businesses that don’t comply with the city’s requirements. That’ll get the bureaucracy moving. More snow should equal more revenue for the District.

    • only problem is after a year or two everyone gets a clue and shovels and there is no money for actually getting snow off the roads. Then what?

  • crampons.

  • Well here is my dilemma, my house is on the south side of the street so gets very little sun. I shovel faithfully every snow. So this winter this is what happens. I shovel the snow, the little bit of warm up we get melts some of the ice and snow during the day, at night it refreezes and the sidewalk is now a deadly place to be and we go through this for about a week till the snow melts. I have a dog so I get it. Now as someone who has a dog I walk around a lot and find myself happy when I see someone on south side of street hasn’t shoveled and I can walk on the snow and not worry about breaking a hip cause I have some traction. So what is the solution to this? Be good citizen and watch the neighbors break hips as melting snow refreezes or don’t shovel and give folks a chance of getting home.

    • I also live on the south side of the street. As I said above, we had to go out and shovel several times to get all of the layers of snow and ice off of the sidewalk. This was a particularly gross storm because the ice came first, then the snow. It was an absolute pain in the rear. But we did it. And by the end of the day there was nothing left on the sidewalk to melt and refreeze, so the sidewalk is still clean and dry. I just don’t buy this argument and think those making it got the snow, but not that last layer of hard to get ice because, well, it was hard to get.

  • I walked by Ulah Bistro yesterday and was disappointed that they were one of the few places on U Street that had not cleared their sidewalk. Get with it Ulah!!!

  • I’m onboard with this bill if it includes the churches!!! Some of them are the worst. I pass three on my metro walk, and only one of them has cleared their side walks. And they’re all on corners. Amusingly, one is across the street from a police station.

    But from the summary it appears that the bill will exempt them, as always …

    • justinbc

      But if you fall and break a hip then it encourages you to come in and ask Jesus to make it better. And toss in some tithe money while you’re there. It’s a win-win for them.

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