This winter the city has been fortunate; not until late January did we have even a modest snowfall. When it finally arrived on Saturday night, the mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain put pedestrians and drivers in some peril. In my view, neither the city nor some residents quite fulfilled their obligations in response.

As for the city, many side roads remained treacherous for the better part of three days, and some remain so today. The brine treatment placed on surfaces beforehand helped but little in clearing the ice away. Frigid temperatures undoubtedly retarded the melting process. But the plows stopped clearing surfaces prematurely, leaving a few inches of ice on the roads in my neighborhood. Because of the dangers of skidding, most everyone stuck to the main roads whenever possible. In my view, more treatment was needed, from plowing to sanding or both.

As for private citizens, some seemed to be unaware of Newton’s policy on snow removal as stated on the city website:

If you own a residential building or lot adjacent to a public sidewalk, you are required by City Ordinance to clear snow and ice from the walk and access ramps within 30 hours after a snow storm has ceased. If you own a business that is adjacent to a public sidewalk, you are required to clear the sidewalk within 24 hours.

Now most residents in my neighborhood cleared their sidewalks, either shoveling themselves or hiring someone to do so. Some folks never do, apparently with no consequence. The biggest problem lies with those who hire a service to plow their driveways. Inevitably, the pick-up trucks who do the work leave a bank of snow on each side, making passage along the sidewalk impassible to pedestrians.

Who suffers as a consequence? I have observed school children on their way to Zervas who are forced to veer into the street, sometimes near a dangerous corner. Dog walkers and seniors (my generation enjoys taking that constitutional even without a pet) also have little choice but to take their chances and risk being hit by cars taking tight  turns.

The city plows are also at fault here. When clearing intersections, sometimes they pile the snow high on street corners, thereby blocking foot traffic at crossings.

My point: both pedestrians and drivers deserve protection and safe passage on Newton’s public ways. Not only city government but also private citizens play an essential role in clearing snow and keeping roads and sidewalks safe and accessible.

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