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Will DC Enforce the Law on Shoveling Sidewalks?

snowpocalypse, snowmageddon, Luis Gomez Photos, 17th Street NW, Dupont Circle

Monday evening at 17th and Corcoran NW: An unshoveled stretch of the block.

When is DC going to start enforcing the city law on shoveling sidewalks? It is a matter of safety as well as necessity for residents. I realize the city, all of us, have been overwhelmed by the unexpected and abnormal amounts of snow over the past few days. But sidewalks are a vital part of residents’ transportation, just like roadways.

This is especially true in downtown neighborhoods such as Dupont, Logan, U Street, Shaw, Adams Morgan, etc. Many residents don’t own cars and many of us don’t use them unless we must. This is downtown, not the exurbs and the carless pay DC taxes just like car owners. Moreover, sidewalks are a form of mass transportation—especially when Metrobus and Metrorail are close to being shut down due to snow.

Here is the DC law. From the District of Columbia Snow Guide 2009-2010:

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. This applies to all property owners – residential, commercial, federal, and municipal. If ice cannot be cleared without damaging the sidewalk, then property owners may spread sand or salt to make the sidewalks safe. Property owners also must clear snow from the ADA-curb cuts; these are part of the sidewalk. Property owners are asked to clear snow from catch basins and storm drains to prevent flooding during snow melt.

Note: In December the Prince of Petworth did a post, “Sidewalks of Shame” on this issue as did 14th & You yesterday, “14th & You PSA: Please shovel your walk.”

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- who has written 1898 posts on Borderstan.

Rhoades has lived in the Borderstan area for 17 years. When he’s not writing about the area he loves, he follows politics, tends his garden and spoils Lupe, the world’s cutest and smartest dog. Find him on Twitter @mattyrhoades; email him at matty[AT]borderstan.com.

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27 Responses to “Will DC Enforce the Law on Shoveling Sidewalks?”

  1. foshaw says:

    I’m just now learning that this is a law. I rent a house, so is it still my responsibility?
    I actually don’t mind shoveling snow; I just haven’t bought a shovel yet. We have about 2-3 inches on our walkway, and it’s powdery so not slick at all.
    I’m used to much more snow so I hadn’t really given it much thought until the mailman rang today and said, “this is my last attempt; I’m not bringing you any mail until you shovel this drive.” His attitude about the whole thing really pissed me off. Mostly because I’ve asked him and written notes and letters requesting that he stop delivering 99% of the mail he drops off anyway so he’d actually be doing me a favor if he stopped bringing all of that shit. But also because if he would have just asked I would have done it immediately and offered him a hot cocoa and an apology.
    I pretty much hate the post office and feel it should be a violation of trespassing laws for him to be allowed on my property in the first place, but the “this is my last attempt” threat was really too much. Now I feel like shoveling the sidewalk for the safety of passersby but not my walkway in hopes of keeping the mailman away.

  2. mattyillini says:

    For those in need of a shovel, Logan Hardware on the 1400 block of P Street NW got in a new shipment. http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/Washington-DC/Logan-Hardware/35130250678?ref=nf

  3. 1400 Block of W Street says:

    Another chronic offender is the gas station at the corner of 14th and W Streets (Lowest Price). They pay to have the gas station lot plowed (so they can make money), but won’t shovel the sidewalks. Not to mention the fact, they let drug dealers hang out in their lot. Bad business — don’t buy gas or any other items there!!!!

  4. mattyillini says:

    The language in the DC law says, “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. This applies to all property owners – residential, commercial, federal, and municipal.”

    The key words here are “ABUTTING their property.” The sidewalk in front of our house does not belong to us and is not on our property, but it abuts our property.

  5. Jessica says:

    sorry – not in your deed, but your responsibility.

  6. mattyillini says:

    Here on 15th Street, the sidewalks belong to the city. But we are responsible for maintaining them. At some point, though, isn’t it enough to simply want to a clean sidewalk in front of our residences?

  7. Jessica says:

    If it’s a sidewalk that’s part of your property, you’re supposed to shovel.

    If you live in a city park, then no – those sidewalks belong to the city so you’re off the hook.

  8. Mike says:

    I refuse to shovel, if city wants their sidewalk to be cleared they are welcome to do it. They own them, so they can do it.

  9. mattyillini says:

    The entire west side of 15th between Corcoran and R is clean. This is due 8 to 10 residents coming out to shovel when the snow stopped. One neighbor shoveled the entire block north of the alley up to R Street. A simple word for this is “decency.” It’s an old-fashioned word that my mother uses. It applies.

  10. Jessica says:

    having just walked down the sidewalks of T St between 17 and 18 in an attempt to empty the dog one last time for the day, those people should be ASHAMED of themselves. I fell twice, and am pretty sure a 90lb dog pulling me kept me up the rest of the way.

    It’s not like they have long expansive driveways to tend to. They have probably 2-4 ft to shove, and the WORST is when they’ve clearly done their steps.

  11. Jessica says:

    If you know it’s going to snow, and can’t shovel, you can always try to make arrangements for your walkway to be shoveled.

    A fine from the city, should they ever decide to enforce, is far less than being sued when someone gets hurt on your property. i’m looking at you T Street between 17th and 18th near Lauriol. Yes, you.

  12. DK says:

    I’m pretty sure the law is currently unenforceable–currently the City’s only option is to do it for you, then have the attorney general sue you to recover the costs. There is a bill before the Council that would allow the City to fine businesses and residences instead. Tommy Wells introduced it. So contact Evans and that at-large candidates and ask them to push it through!

  13. Craig says:

    Some of our neighbors on 13th Street, south of U have not been very good about shoveling.

  14. Rickenbacker360 says:

    Earlier this week during Blizzard No. 1, I saw 4-5 guys in orange jackets leaning on shovels near the entrance to the Safeway. Nobody was clearing snow but they were all griping about the fact that there was no snow blower. It’s all about attitude.

  15. anne says:

    Another chronic offender is the 7/11 at 14th and Rhode Island.

  16. Emil says:

    I am a young homeowner and I shovel my sidewalk all the way… including most of my neighbors who don’t shovel but sometimes it is difficult. Like today I haven’t been out there, but the last 2 storms I went out every 2 hours. In december I was out of town. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with a 1000 dollar fine because I was out of time and didn’t know a storm was approaching. Also the businesses might be short staffed.. anyone think of that? But there should be something on the news that basically tells people that its been a certain time after the last snowfall and now they have a certain number of hours to clear their sidewalks. Oh another reason I feel for people… someone stole my snow shovel from my stoop!

  17. Samantha says:

    You have to basically dance to stay on the crevices in the snow/ice people before you have already made.

  18. robin shuster says:

    Yums on 14th Street is a particularly bad citizen. WE finally shamed them (afer 20 years of begging) into shoveling a narrow walkway on the WP side of the restaurant but they stop at their kitchen door halfway down the building and they have not shoveled the 14th ST sidewalk. Many businesses seem to t hink they only have to shovel the immediate entrance!

    The District needs money — fine the businesses with a real fine — not 50 dollars. If they fined 1000 dollars, everyone would definitely shovel the snow.

  19. Avi says:

    This can’t be a one-sided relationship with our government, or we lose our right to dissent. Clean your sidewalks people. It’s your duty AND your responsibility. You endanger the lives of others when you don’t do this. Also, get out there and help your elderly neighbors when you get the chance.

  20. Jessica says:

    I was SHOCKED at how bad it is at safeway – I even slipped at the entrance of the store. The whole front is a sheet of ice covered with slush – NO treatment at all.

    I understand that this was a crazy amount of snow, and it’s still coming, but not shoveling makes it impossible to safely walk ones dog, walk to the metro, or generally not have to walk in the street (which isn’t clear of snow, either).

    I wish they’d ticket. Easy money, teach people a lesson

    Marwan, I hope your wife is OK.

  21. sydc says:

    When I lived in a house I dutifully shoveled my sidewalks. Most conscientious owners and landlords do. Think the city needs to start enforcing this as it IS a health hazard, more so than people being parked illegally for which the city is quikc to issue a ticket. I guess they have better things to do, but several warnings and hefty fines would probably stir folks out of their complacency.

  22. Gumpper says:

    Safeway is not alone. Although Whole Foods always manages to shovel the sidewalk in front of its P Street store, it NEVER shovels in front of its employee parking lot on Church Street. Even when reminded of its obligation under DC law.

  23. marwan says:

    Actually, the whole issue of unshoveled sidewalks in this area is simply disgusting. It shows a great deal of laziness, carelessness and selfishness. My wife sprained her ankle last week on one of these sidewalks right in front of a residential building while she was 40 weeks pregnant. The whole handling of these storms in the NATION’S CAPITOL is just disturbing and sad.

  24. mollytics says:

    I write this as someone that lives in an apartment building (and therefore has someone to shovel on my behalf), but it seems to me it’d be better to inforce this law than, say, the silly i’m-street-cleaning-so-move-your-car law.

    It’s a matter of safety.

  25. Taboo says:

    Is that Safeway? A company that big cannot hire someone to clean the sidewalk? They should definitely be reported to the city.

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