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Build-A-Story: Who's not clearing their sidewalks?

It's the law, and it's the right thing to do: In most Washington area jurisdictions, you're required to clear the sidewalks on your property in short order after a snow storm. Yet as anyone who headed out to work this morning discovered, far too many of our neighbors have fallen down on their obligation.

So, come ahead and tell us about the businesses that still haven't done the right thing. On my own walk to work, it was mostly banks and public institutions--WMATA being the most galling offender, with totally iced over sidewalks right outside a D.C. Metro station, but schools also being bad scofflaws--that have failed to get the shovels going.

We want your stories and your pictures--photographic evidence tells the story best. Email your photos and detailed accounts of who hasn't cleared the snow to

By the way, here's the law in most of our major jurisdictions: The District requires all property owners--businesses and residents alike--to have the sidewalks clear within eight hours of the end of the snow event. That means everything should have been cleared by Sunday morning. In Montgomery County, business owners and owners of multi-family dwellings must clear sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of snowfall or face a $50 citation; single-family homeowners are not subject to the fine. In Prince George's County, the fine is higher--$100--but the timeline is more lenient, 48 hours after snowfall, which means property owners have til this evening to get their acts together (and the law in the county covers all property owners, including homeowners.)

In Virginia, as you might expect, the state doesn't nanny your snow shoveling activities. Fairfax County urges homeowners to shovel their walks, but there's no legal obligation to do so.

Thanks very much and happy shoveling.

By Marc Fisher  | December 21, 2009; 10:52 AM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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If the sidewalks aren't clear, maybe you should ask the property owner to clear them.

If the owners are not around or cant clear the sidewalks themselves, maybe you should be a good neighbor and help them.

Rather than tattle to some forum on the Post.

Posted by: FrancisMacomber | December 21, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

You guys would be performing a tremendous public service if you also discussed how snow removal crews used by the local governments are BLOCKING the sidewalks by dumping snow removed from the roadway into crosswalks and sometimes back onto sidewalks that have already been cleared.

My neighbors and I (the Garrett Park estates neighborhood in Montgomery County) did a great job clearing almost all the sidewalks on Sunday, and in a lot of cases cleared crosswalks so that pedestrians could actually get from one side of the street to the other. County road crews, however, found those cleared areas to be excellent places to dump the road snow, so although the sidewalks are clear, you still can't go anywhere because there are 10-foot wide, 5 foot-high, walls of packed snow and ice blocking every single crosswalk. In numerous spots, road crews actually pushed the snow all the way onto the sidewalk.

I spent the morning trying to contact county crews, or anyone in the county, about having a little more sense and concern for pedestrians--despite the clear walkways, pedestrians still have to walk in the street, which is a major hazard (cars + slippery roads + pedestrians). Of course, no one is picking up the phones, so I had to resort to email, which I am sure will be acknowledged by next July. I also asked the County when they plan to send the crews back out to dig out all the crosswalks they blocked (ha, ha).

This was all totally unnecessary because there is plenty of space to pile the snow at roadside. The plow drivers just aren't thinking. I talked with a few of them one year (as I was standing in the crosswalk and pointing to the spot a mere two feet to the side where they could push the snow) about this, I have concluded that some of them are doing this on purpose because they think it's funny. Silly pedestrians.

This especially steams me because the primary public school bus stop is at my intersection, and the kids need a sherpa and ice climbing gear to get to it. Luckily, there's no school today, but in past years I've been out there hacking down these mounds with an axe. After several hours of shoveling over the weekend, I don't yet have the energy to clean up the County's mess again this year.

Posted by: Wallenstein | December 21, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

The couple down the street have NEVER cleaned their sidewalks in the time they have lived there except what is needed to get from their car to their house. And they are a very athletic young couple - w/stickers from numerous marathons & triathalons, so they can definitely get out there and do it. They simply choose not to.

Posted by: CMcG1 | December 21, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

P.s. Any chance the Post will resume home delivery in Arlington tomorrow? No paper since Friday.

Posted by: CMcG1 | December 21, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Though FX county VA doesn't require sidewalk snow removal by law, the City of Alexandria DOES.

Posted by: kac72 | December 21, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: kac72 | December 21, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

You have DC law incorrect. "Residents are responsible for clearing sidewalks
District law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, handicap ramps and steps abutting their property within the first eight daylight hours after the snow, sleet or ice stops falling."

There wasn't any daylight between the end of the snowfall and Sunday morning. Try 3:30 in the afternoon as your cutoff.

Not that anyone will pay any attention until the council changes the law to enable enforcement via ticket instead of lawsuit.

Posted by: streff | December 21, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

The District sidewalk is about 5 feet wide. With the amount of snow that fell people would have to stack the snow on their lawns to be able to clear the sidewalk. You'll find that if a path has been cut thru the snow it's probably only about three feet wide.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | December 21, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I find it humorous that a local funeral home here in Arlington has their entire parking lot cleared, but left the sidewalk in front completely untouched. I'm guessing they're trying to drum up business by forcing people to walk on the road so they can get hit by cars!

Posted by: Dynaformer | December 21, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I agree wholeheartedly with the person weho decries dumping snow in crosswalks. In the Van Ness neighborhood yesterday, I went with a neighbor to do some important banking. In most cases, we could walk on the sidewalks. Some of our neighborhood businesses are bypassing the public sidewalk by cutting paths to their doors and then letting the main sidewalk uncleared -- after all, you could get to their business! For walkers, it was the crosswalks that were dangerous and difficult.
The sidewalk cleaners stop at the street. The plows dump at the crosswalks. So pedestrians have to try to crawl over heaps of slippery snow, or through puddles of icy slush. Why cannot business and homeowners clear the crosswalk near their house or business? It is very selfish to think your work is done if you've cleared your sidewalk, leaving walkers to end up with a five-foot pile of snow to cross to get to the street.
So, selfish business and home owners, think about what is the right thing, and do it -- with eight hours after the snow stops. We're a CITY. Get it?

Posted by: sbuck | December 21, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Arlington County has no requirement for its residents to clear their sidewalks, but suggests they should be cleared to the pavement at least one shovel's width 24 hours after snowfall. Unfortunately, many driving residents ignore this suggestion to the detriment of their pedestrian neighbors. Even the County doesn't follow it's own suggestion, as evidenced by the unshoveled sidewalks surrounding the country parks. Moreover, I have not seen one street with its wheelchair-access ramps cleared. Maybe how long unshoveled ice and snow from this storm stick around will finally prompt the county to adopt a snow ordinance like Alexandria's.

Posted by: c_id | December 21, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Ok big brother, leave people alone! If this is the best story line you can come up with, I suggest forgetting about journalism as a career and focusing on something else. The fact that we even have laws like this is a ridiculous attempt at exerting more governmental control over the most mundane of tasks.

Posted by: palermo1 | December 22, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

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