“Sidewalk? How about Circle of Shame?” and You’re Damned if you do and Damned if you don’t…


“Dear PoPville,

This is what Sherman Circle has looked like for days. The pocket parks around are just as bad – no sidewalks or pathways cleared. In the Spring the NPS takes too long to cut the grass, in Winter they ignore the ice. Earlier this week folks were walking in the street in the circle – I guess it was safer than falling on the ice.”

pain sculpture

and while I sympathize with the early wake up I still gotta file the following under damned if you do and damned if you don’t:

“As you know, this Saturday we got a snow storm that gave us lots of snow and ice. I hope/expect that our neighbors will shovel the next day to make the sidewalks safe for walking around. However, this Saturday night/crack of dawn Sunday, we were woken up at 4am by people shoveling/chipping away at the ice on the sidewalk across the street. It was REALLY LOUD and this went on for two hours until they finally finished, so we were kept awake from 4-6am because of this. This seemed a little absurd. It is possible that it could have been a church doing it for their Sunday morning service, but still, 4am seems a little crazy for shoveling ice and waking everyone up. I know there is a law that people have to shovel/de-ice their sidewalks within a day or so of the precipitation, but is there a law banning people from loudly shoveling ice in the middle of the night within the city? Or just common courtesy?”

38 Comment

  • Franklin square at 13th/14th I and K is the same. Its dangerous trying to make your way speedily down eye street sidewalk to get to a bus before it departs, leaving you out in the cold (literally!)

  • I tell you, it’s something in the culture of DC. It is a city that at some level thinks it is Biloxi, not subject to snow and ice. Somewhere this idea got into the minds of the larger culture. Look at how paralyzed it is when snow comes! But year in and year out, winter comes here! Please, ruling class, please! Admit that Washington is almost northern!

  • Zero sympathy for the 4am wakeup. Zero.
    My neighbor goes to work at 6am, and gets up even earlier to shovel when called for. The alternative would be leaving it unshoveled all day, til he gets home after dark. I lie in bed, awake earlier than I want to be, and send warm thoughts his way.

    • This. However unhappy they are at being woken at 4 a.m., I guarantee their neighbor is even unhappier at having to be out shoveling at 4 a.m. But if that’s when they’re home, that’s when they’re home. Plenty of people need to be out the door for work by 6 a.m., even on weekends.

    • Not zero sympathy, but certainly approaching zero. People want clear sidewalks after snow & ice, but don’t want to be bothered by the noise?
      Slightly off topic, but I’ve also noticed people want their trash picked up but complain about trash trucks with their back-up beeping, loud engines, and workers shouting to each other.
      People want to live in nice neighborhoods close in to the city center but complain about repair & construction noise, detours or anything that disrupts their daily routines, even slightly.
      | | |
      Human nature can be hard to deal with sometimes.

    • binpetworth

      +1. I’d rather have the minor inconvenience of an early wake-up than the major inconvenience of breaking a bone on an icy surface.

    • Yup – my condo contracts with a company to clear ice/snow, and they sometimes come pre-dawn (like 3-4 AM). It’s loud, but they are likely making the rounds to dozens of properties and hence they start early.

    • Also: As someone who walks to hop on the first Metro train at 5 a.m. every day, I really, really appreciate when people have already shoveled their walkways. Sometimes, especially since it’s still dark, it gets super hairy. Thank you early shoveler!

    • Same here. Boo hoo, you lost some sleep. Compare that to someone breaking a hip, leg, or even hitting their head on the pavement and dying (e.g., Dr. Robert Atkins). No sympathy Get a white noise maker from Bed Bath and Beyond.

    • I shovel as early as I get up after an overnight storm. I live on a street with high pedestrian traffic so (1) it is easier to shovel before a bunch of people have stomped on the snow and compacted it and (2) I’m trying to be nice to the people who have to walk on that highly trafficked sidewalk.

    • If the complainer would have walked out there with a shovel and helped, the job would have gotten done twice as quickly and he/she could have been back to bed by 5.

    • While I understand that a 4 am wake-up is unpleasant for those not used to it, nonetheless I’d give the neighbors a pass on this one. There’s no time that’s going to make everyone happy and this way there’s a clear sidewalk. And as others have said, it’s quite possible that these neighbors didn’t have much choice.

    • burritosinstereo

      +100. After a treacherous walk to the metro this morning (Grant Circle is just as bad as Sherman), my first thought was “yeah, I’d take a 4am wakeup if it meant shoveled/de-iced sidewalks” !!!!

  • We used to have very loud neighbors and our bedroom is in the front of the house. Ear plugs work wonders. Even though those neighbors have since moved away, I still don’t go to sleep without them.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Perhaps you could volunteer to do it for him or her at a later hour instead, allowing both you and your early-morning-shoveler of a neighbor to get a little bit more sleep.

  • NPS is a perennial offender. They send crews out way too late, after people have trampled down the snow, IF they get out to their properties at all. I’m sure some of it is because of budgetary restrictions but their people always seem to be fat, lazy and surly..

  • OP – if the 4-6AM shoveling bothers you, perhaps you could ask your neighbor if you could volunteer to shovel his sidewalks at a time that is more convenient to your sleep schedule. I’m sure he/she would really appreciate your generosity, and you’d get the sleep you deserve 🙂

  • Here in Germany the early morning ice chippers would have to answer to the police. They would be fined, at least. I thought the US had some rules about living together in cities and such.

  • Regarding the parks, the NPS may be short staffed or underfunded like many other federal offices so they may not have the resources to meet their requirements. Who knows. If you don’t like it, you could donate your time and energy toward shoveling a small portion, organizing a group to do it, (like adopt a highway), or donate to the NPS personally or start a kickstarter or gofundme me or whatever to help them out.
    In other words, stop complaining and do something about if you don’t like. Or at least find out why something is not being done instead of blindly criticizing others. Try walking in someone else’s shoes…

    • west_egg

      I donate to NPS every two weeks.

      • I don’t agree with what Anon is saying, but I feel compelled to point out that paying your taxes does not constitute a “donation.”

        • west_egg

          That was a touch of sarcasm for your Tuesday afternoon 😉 I’m not one of those rabid anti-gubbermint know-nothings but I do feel like the services our taxes ostensibly support should be carried out without the need for donations or Kickstarters.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Not just criticizing NPS or any other single agency, but the federal government as a whole, being above the laws of DC in the literal sense, is not held to the same standard as any other property owner, and I think it is reasonable for citizens to find that state of affairs offensive. If the same property were owned by a private citizen or a corporation, we would consider it unacceptable that they were not shoveling the sidewalk, and I think many of us on here would blindly criticize them.

    • OP on Sherman Circle Post Here – I pay taxes which fund (among other things) NPS. If they feel like giving me and everyone else in our neighborhood a discount for them not doing their job, I’d be happy to take care of it myself. Otherwise, they need to do their job.

      For what it’s worth, I shovel and salt in front of my house and my elderly neighbors’ house every time it snows. The guy across the street handles other neighbors who aren’t able to take care of their own. We (and many, many other people near our block) pride ourselves on being good neighbors – all I’m asking if for NPS to be a good neighbor as well..

      • NPS is pretty underfunded – we’re getting what we pay for there.

        That being said, it really doesn’t make sense for them to control these parks in the first place. Hand them over to DC so we can complain when DPR doesn’t take care of them.

        • HaileUnlikely

          The question of NPS funding is a red herring here. A business that is in the red is still expected to clear the snow off of the sidewalks adjacent to its property. The heart of the issue is that the federal government is literally above the laws of DC. I agree that it would make more sense from a practical standpoint for there to be some sort of agreement, whatever that might entail, that would ultimately make DC responsible for clearing the sidewalks in question.

      • Anon here. NPS is likely underfunded, like many fed agencies. My 1st point is this. Find out WHY they are not clearing the circle. NPS has money each year to do a number of things in DC. Like many (even us posters), they need to set priorities on WHAT gets done. This was probably not a high priority for them after the snow storm, so ask them. WHAT was a priority for them? Also ask, WHAT should they NOT have done in order to clear this circle? Not clear the roads in Rock Creek Park? Not clear the sidewalks around the malls and museums? Not clear the heavily traveled areas for which they also have the responsibility? Those are just arbitrary examples, b/c I I don’t know everything that they do and WHY they didn’t clear this circle, but I know they have limited resources, like everyone else.
        Ex… Sure I would like to make a 4 course meal for my family every night, but I only have 15 minutes some nights. WHAT should I do? Make the soup and salad, NOT the entree and dessert? Make the Entree only? Hire someone to make the meal for me, but that gets expensive and may cause me to burn through my monthly budget too quickly which may not allow me to buy food (or some other essential) for the rest of the month. Or DON’T commit to the unrealistic goal of making 4 courses every night? (Try walking in their shoes…)
        And DID ANYONE CALL the NPS to file a complaint? Or take them to court? Or fine them? The fed can be sued and fined, btw. It’s not easy, but it happens.
        To recap, ask questions, try to understand instead of assuming (use your own experiences if that helps), and do something.
        ps. I shovel my sidewalk, my retired neighbor’s sidewalk and area around the car, the foreclosed house next door, and part of the alley that we all use, b/c I realize that even though my neighbors would like to do everything, they do not have the time, energy, or equipment to do so.

        • HaileUnlikely

          There is no law requiring property owners to cook four course meals. If property owners bow out of some things that they feel like doing for their own personal benefit due to their other obligations, that’s cool. It doesn’t violate any laws and it doesn’t adversely impact other citizens. In contrast, there is a law requiring property owners to shovel their sidewalks. A better analogy might be to somebody like a self-employed HVAC technician or plumber. He definitely has other priorities besides shoveling snow, as his clients probably need him most when there is a big snow storm and their heat is failing or their pipes are bursting. And he probably doesn’t have a snow removal budget either. He doesn’t get to say “I don’t have the resources,” though. His options are to eat the time and go shovel, eat the money that he didn’t budget and hire somebody else to clear the sidewalk for him, or accept the possibility of being fined for having not done so. The only difference here between Joe Plumber and the federal government is that the mechanism by which the DC government can compel one versus the other to follow the law.

  • Mary Cheh, et al. want to increase fines and enforcement for DC residents who don’t shovel snow within a few hours of a storm, but NPS, the Feds and, especially DC Gov’t doesn’t clear their own walkways. Shame on you.

    • burritosinstereo

      I see your point, but I still think enforcing/fining people homeowners who don’t shovel within a few hours of a storm is a GREAT idea. Signed, a person who almost ate shit 15 times on the way to the metro this morning.

  • Scott Circle area – particularly around the Hahnemann Statue and the Daniel Webster Statue – are just as bad. It’s like nobody ever thought to throw down some ice or shovel. It’s like you have to be Michelle Kwan to navigate those pathways.

  • I have to second the call that NPS take better care of shoveling/ice removal in their parks. Meridian Hill Park is downright treacherous. It seems like some good Samaritans have helped a bit with the entrance ways off 15th (or maybe that’s all NPS did?), but walking around the park is a miserable experience. Many of the stairs are particularly slippery – with black ice – and that seems especially dangerous to me. I was wondering if that is something they are supposed to take care of, or if they aren’t held to the same standards as the rest of DC, but this seems to answer my question. I really hope they will turn their attention to it soon (with pet-friendly salt!).

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