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Better Streets Chicago calls on the city to develop a plan for municipal sidewalk snow removal

7:21 PM CST on February 15, 2021

Snowy sidewalks by the Morse ‘L’ stop. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Ever since Mayor Michael Bilandic lost reelection to Jane Byrne after the great blizzard of 1979 paralyzed Chicago, city officials have been highly methodical about getting main streets plowed for drivers in a timely manner. However, sidewalk clearance is something of a free-for-all, with property owners technically required to clear adjacent walkways, but little actual enforcement of that law.

The result is that during snowy weather like we're experiencing this week, the sidewalks become an obstacle course for pedestrians. Many seniors and people with disabilities find it unsafe or impossible to leave the house at all under these conditions. Snow and ice on sidewalks also cause problems for families with strollers or young children, and create barriers for people catching buses.

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

The transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago, which formed last year (Streetsblog Chicago co-editor Courtney Cobbs is a founding member) is trying to change that dynamic. They've launched a new campaign and petition to exhort the city of Chicago to take charge of winter sidewalk clearance.

"The reality of how we clear snow in our city tells a story about our priorities that’s all too familiar," the group stated. "One block [of sidewalk] might be clear, the next covered in snow and ice. Mounds of snow get piled up at bus stops blocking access for transit users. Crosswalks get plowed in under piles of snow and slush. The public has few options to remedy the issue, and city departments play the blame game."

"It is time for the city of Chicago to stop shirking its responsibility to those who do not drive and begin clearing public sidewalks," Better Streets declared. The group has launched a petition demanding that the city prepare a plan and allocate the resources to make municipal sidewalk snow clearance happen by next winter. So far they've collected almost 1,250 signatures. Sign the petition here.

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