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“Plow The Sidewalks” ordinance reintroduced into new City Council, with minor changes

10:00 AM CDT on May 25, 2023

We expect cleared sidewalks in the Loop – why don’t we have them in all commercial and residential areas?

A group of 24 alderpersons introduced an ordinance at yesterday's City Council meeting that would start a "Plow The Sidewalks" pilot program in which current city workers would remove snow and ice from sidewalks in six pilot zones.

The ordinance's preamble establishes the lack of consistent snow and ice clearance from city sidewalks as a transportation equity issue and barrier to riding transit and to people with disabilities. The preamble also makes an economic growth argument as another reason why the city should clear sidewalks in the winter.

The ordinance requires that the Department of Streets & Sanitation create rules within four months of adoption that would select the six pilot zones (drawn according to criteria in the ordinance) and specify standards for streets and san workers clearing snow and ice from sidewalks and sidewalk ramps. The ordinance expects that the program would begin this year and last for two winters.

The ordinance would also establish a paid advisory committee that would meet quarterly "to assist with the Implementation and administration of the Program". The proposed ordinance requires that the advisory committee evaluated the proposed rules, as well as the effects, and that the Department of Streets & Sanitation prepare a "statistical and financial report" analyzing the pilot's impact.

Streetsblog reported earlier this year that a "plow the sidewalks" ordinance was going to be introduced at the March 15, 2023, City Council meeting. That happened but a resolution adopted yesterday killed most unadopted ordinances, including this one. The original ordinance would have established four instead of six pilot zones, and choose eligible pilot zones differently.

Better Streets Chicago and Access Living have been the primary proponents of this pilot, pointing out the successes in Ann Arbor, Rochester, and Montréal.

Eleven of the cosponsors were elected to City Council for the first time this year. The meeting was Mayor Brandon Johnson's first since his inauguration on May 15. In his campaign, Johnson showed a transportation plan that included plowing the sidewalks.

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