Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Snow removal information, flyer for your walking convenience

10. January 2009 • Matt Hampel
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The Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition publishes a page on local snow removal ordinances. Here’s the Ann Arbor blurb:

General Rules: All snow and ice which has accumulated on the adjacent public sidewalk prior to 6am must be removed by noon. Immediately after the accumulation of ice on such a sidewalk it must be treated with sand, salt or other substance to prevent it from being slippery. Within 24 hours after the end of each accumulation of snow greater than 1 inch, the owner of every residentially zoned property must remove the accumulation from the adjacent public sidewalk.

Contact: Community Standards Division (734) 994-1788

They also make a handy set of handbills (PDF) that you can distribute to remind property owners to clear their sidewalks. I’ve made my own version that has more information, and I try to carry a couple with me when I go out walking.

Does anyone have any experience with receiving a citation or calling in a violation? Is the response prompt or effective?

Some related links:

  1. Remarkable. How many citizens’ arrests do you make?

       —Gronk    Jan. 10 '09 - 07:44AM    #
  2. Gronk’s trollish comment raises two important points:
    1) The flyers are quite passive-aggressive.
    2) How self-righteous do you need to be to hand them out?

    No contest to the first. How can the notification process be done better?

    Uncleared walks do lead to some nasty injuries, which are then exacerbated by the inconvenience of winter transit for those of us who can’t or don’t drive. And some business owners are confused about the where the responsibility for shoveling and salting lies, mistakenly thinking the city handles our downtown.

       —Matt    Jan. 10 '09 - 10:34AM    #
  3. What arrogance. Let’s have a sidewalk clearance jail, and we can pay for it with a tax on walkers.

    And we wonder why outsiders sometimes hate Ann Arbor.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jan. 14 '09 - 12:42AM    #
  4. As a sometime walker, I am deeply appreciative of those who take the time and effort to clear their sidewalks, and sometimes angry at those who don’t. In the mile-and-a-half between my home and my job, I pass through residential neighborhoods (including “student neighborhoods”) and business districts.

    As a 50-something adult, my reflexes and my bones are not what they used to be, and I have to be careful when traversing unshoveled and refrozen walks to not slip or trip and fall.

    I really don’t understand the hostility of Gronk and Alan. To me, clearing your walk is common courtesy to your fellow citizens. Yes, it is required by city code, but you should do it anyway. It takes a few minutes and a little effort.

    I have called community standards a couple of times in my many years of struggling over uncleared and icy walks. Once, the entire walkway in front of a property was frozen into a solid sheet of ice with embedded newspapers. I called it in, and the next time I walked that stretch of sidewalk, it had been cleared, and I didn’t have to fear for the integrity of my bones.

       —Spencer    Jan. 14 '09 - 03:32AM    #
  5. While I entirely agree that keeping sidewalks clear is a common courtesy, and one that I practice, the hostility is perhaps towards the rather officious nature of walking around handing out handbills. It may be in theory a completely sensible and proper thing to do, but (as Matt acknowledges above) in the real world of human emotions it is bound to set some teeth on edge.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jan. 14 '09 - 07:37PM    #
  6. That was my point—not coming out against dangerous sidewalks (lol). But the attitude and citizen ‘arrest’ aura of the flyer was what I was aiming my sarcasm at. I have a very long corner lot sidewalk, I spent hundreds on a Toro two years ago, so I could keep my sidewalks clear and be a good citizen. But if I miss the deadline by a few hour because I’m working so I can pay my taxes, then the idea of some yoyo with a stopwatch and an account at Kinkos is a bit annoying. That was my point.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jan. 14 '09 - 09:51PM    #
  7. I walk to work on campus once it gets too cold for biking (for me, below 30). My route includes the student-heavy South Forest area, and most of those houses and co-ops virtually never clear any snow. It’s been 6 years, and I’ve called about it a couple of times with little reaction and no improvement. I’ve had to walk on solid ice and packed snow in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, which is no fun. I’ve never gotten the sense that any of the students gave a shit and the standards enforcement didn’t seem to do much (unless I wanted to call every single day, which I don’t). I even tried bringing rice krispy treats to student homes while visibly pregnant and trying to talk to them about trash, snow clearance, noise, etc. to no effect. (The only thing it accomplished was reminding me how awesome those treats are!) I don’t know what the fines are or how many people are paid to do enforcement, but from my point of view it’s completely lax and the conditions can get pretty dangerous. Individuals shouldn’t have to police this — it should be like meter parking enforcement, where someone goes around every now and then ticketing homes. No one’s after the person who doesn’t clear instantly that one time — how about a priority policy for those properties where clearly days and days of snow has never been cleared, maybe with a warning and then ticketing only after they still don’t do anything? That would include all the folks I’m complaining about and wouldn’t hurt folks like Alan.

       —Anna    Jan. 15 '09 - 07:37PM    #
  8. We agree completely. My comments were aimed at the arrogance of the original story here, not at public safety. There are so many older people of limited means, with rising taxes, health issues, et. al. who have a hard time remaining in their homes and the original post just had this…Ann Arbor arrogance to it…But people who are constantly people others in danger are not good people either. But the treats sound like a better option than creating your own flyer!

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jan. 15 '09 - 09:25PM    #
  9. Since calls to the City, flyers and treats don’t work, why don’t you call your elected officials? Anna’s description is inexcusable. I can see cutting some slack when there is a “big” snow, but for it to go on for weeks is ridiculaous! And, it is the landlord’s job to keep those walks clear. Perhaps City Council should increase the fines, or, as they do with weeds, clear the snow and bill the owner.

       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 15 '09 - 10:08PM    #
  10. Call your elected officials. What the City needs to do is clear the snow and bill the property owners. They do that for weeds. Anna’s description is inexcusable.
    (If there is a double post here, it is because my first remarks disappeared.)

       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 15 '09 - 10:11PM    #
  11. Yes, let’s be very clear: it’s generally the LANDLORDS who need to be shoveling, not the kids who live there.

       —Gilla    Jan. 16 '09 - 02:46AM    #
  12. A few points:

    —Sometimes calling the city does work. Last year I called the city to complain about a corner residential property whose owner had allowed the entire sidewalk to become covered with slick ice. I know the city responded because the owner later complained about it to a neighbor, who also happens to be a colleague of mine.

    —The blurb from the Washtenaw Bike and Walk group (quoted in the original post) is incomplete. Only properties zoned non-residential are expected to meet a noon deadline. Residential property owners have 24 hours to clear their sidewalks.

    —It is indeed the owners who are held responsible by ordinance. However, landlords of student rentals sometimes put a snow shoveling obligation into their leases ( mine did, some years ago). Either way, we should have no hesitation about asking the city’s Community Standards unit to inspect uncleared sidewalks.
    Here’s their webpage for sidewalk snow, with contact phone number (has 24 voice mail)

    City policy is to inspect all properties on the block if they get a complaint about one property.

       —George Hammond    Jan. 19 '09 - 08:30AM    #
  13. There is a local non-profit called Neighborhood Senior Services that works to co-ordinate volunteer help for senior citizens who would like to stay in their homes, but can’t manage all the tasks they used to. They are looking for volunteers to help with shoveling and many other tasks, and they would also be glad to hear from seniors who need a little help.

       —George Hammond    Jan. 19 '09 - 08:38AM    #
  14. I called Community Standards and posted a comment on the Kroger corporate page regarding the 6 foot mountain of snow on the public sidewalk on Stadium which I climbed over tonight.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 19 '09 - 09:37AM    #
  15. Another problem seems to be sidewalks that are in some kind of no-man’s land (not next to a business or house). I was walking over the Broadway bridge yesterday around 4pm, and most of the sidewalk was completely uncleared, except for a stretch in the middle where someone (Amtrak?) had cleared a segment of maybe 10-20 yards.

    This was also a problem along the sidewalk across from the Gandy Dancer on Depot St. last year; I don’t walk that way anymore so am not sure if it’s still bad there. I’m sure there are other examples around town.

    Are these sidewalks owned by the city? No one else seems to clear them.

       —Ted Belding    Jan. 20 '09 - 12:17AM    #
  16. George, thank you for the link to Neighborhood Senior Services. I had hoped to include their number in the flyer, but I just couldn’t remember the organization’s name.

    Ted — I crossed the unshoveled Broadway yesterday, and it was dangerous. The City is responsible for clearing it, but it often fails to. I called Community Standards and didn’t get an answer — had to board a bus, so I hung up and forgot to call later and leave a message on their answering machine.

       —Matt H    Jan. 21 '09 - 12:48AM    #
  17. I’m going to contact the City about Broadway Bridge. I heard at the City Council’s retreat on Jan. 10th a firm commitment to keep bridges and pedestrian islands clear. I know we’ve had a lot of snow, and asking the City staff to keep these walkable paths clear is adding dollars to our budget. But I also know we’ve made a commitment to non-motorized transportation (which means bikes and feet) and to fulfill that commitment, we have to keep bike lanes and sidewalks clear of snow.

    With so much going on — repeated snows and ice — I won’t make promises, but I will make a firm demand. If there are other areas of neglect, please let me know. I don’t always read ArborUpdate to get caught up on the issues.

       —Sabra Briere    Jan. 21 '09 - 07:36AM    #
  18. Thanks for that, Sabra. That there is “a lot of snow” is no excuse for something like the Broadway Bridge — it was built with especially wide walkways to encourage pedestrian traffic!

    This happened last year, too, after a particularly icy storm — the whole sidewalk was a sheet of ice. We stopped in at the police desk on the way downtown and complained, but the bridge wasn’t cleared.

       —Matt H    Jan. 21 '09 - 08:33AM    #
  19. Matt, maybe you need to get a bucket of sand and salt and sling it on your backpack so you can leave a clear trail behind you.

    I’ve taken to taking a shovel with my on my trips to Kroger along Stadium – in part to keep my balance on the icy sidewalks, and in part to dig out the mountains.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 21 '09 - 09:59AM    #
  20. If there is one thing I detest is walking paths that are not cleared by responsible parties. This is a hazard that can lead to serious injury to pedestrians. The Broadway Bridge is a perfect example of a structure that was designed for significant pedestrian traffic and is often dangerous due to ice accumulations; the prior poster is dead on correct about the situation there.

       —John Dory    Feb. 2 '09 - 02:50AM    #
  21. For what it’s worth, the Stadium Kroger removed the mountain of snow along Stadium. All it took was a one page letter to the Kroger CEO, and nine days later I got two apologetic phone calls.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Feb. 2 '09 - 04:49AM    #