.

Our Pedestrian Imperative

Do you love your neighbor? Then shovel your sidewalk!

I have to admit, I was naïve. 

When I saw the work crews building a nice wide sidewalk on the north side of S.R. 59 on the eastern city limits of Kent I thought that finally, 35 years after a two-lane road was turned into a four-lane speedway, the pedestrians of our community might have a fighting chance of travelling in safety. 

Imagine my disappointment upon returning to Kent from Ravenna at noon today (Jan. 3, 2012), after the first storm of the winter, to see a pedestrian walking in the highway. The question that I must ask, as I have in each of the last 20 years or more, is what will it take for our community to take seriously our responsibility to our neighbors? The follow up question is: do we need better laws or enforcement of them because we have failed to love our neighbors so grossly?

This issue has been discussed ad naseam by Kent City Council over the years, with the conclusion being as recently as 2009 that the sidewalks belong to the property owners and that unless someone recklessly impedes the sidewalk, our current ordinances will not be enforced. While a case can be made that the city should be responsible for maintaining pedestrian thoroughfares — especially since we plow so much snow on them while clearing the streets — each of us as property owners, residents and tenants can very easily take the time to make sure that our walks are free of snow and ice, overhanging branches and other impediments. If we cannot, we need to find someone who can do it for us.

I have had some interesting encounters over the years with people that are mad because of my “pet peeve” about this; some that hold advanced degrees who tell me that their health will not allow them to shovel. To these folks I suggest you look at the bulletin board at the post office to find someone who will do it for less than the price of a dinner on the town.    

The city has used some soft public relations tactics to encourage public responsibility, and those are to be commended. The challenge is of course that we do not make suggestions to our citizens and property owners on other matters of public safety. We either provide it as a service or we enforce our laws.

What is perhaps most interesting is the number of businesses, who rely on pedestrians for sales, who cannot get their act together to call someone to plow their sidewalks. On countless occasions many of us pedestrians have informed business managers of this basic civic responsibility only to be told, “It is not my job.”  Our large number of irresponsible absentee landlords who do not make sure their tenants shovel, even though they manage to get out of their driveways, also contributes to the morass. Comparing the condition of sidewalks on rental property with owner occupied tells anyone who thinks about it that someone needs to light a fire under someone.    

Ironically, at the same time that we were widening S.R. 59 to improve traffic flow, the city adopted a set of ordinances that reflect basic thinking throughout our nation regarding the basic responsibility of property owners to assure that sidewalks are kept safe and clear 24/7, 365 days a year. Simply enforcing these ordinances in one neighborhood per storm would send the message that we really believe that every person in our community should be treated fairly and given safe passage.

This post would not be fair or complete if I didnt take the time to thank those who year after year, storm after storm, have done the right thing and cleared your walks. You do not know how grateful those of us who walk are for this simple act of kindness.

I also understand that most of the people that need to hear this message do not read the paper or the Patch, so if I sound peeved, it isn't at those of you who understand the need to do the right thing. To anyone who can do something about this I ask, must we wait for someone to die before we learn to love our neighbors?

Editor's note: below is the text of Kent's city ordinance regarding snow and ice removal.

521.15   SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL.

(a) The owner, occupant or other person having the care of any building, premises or

unimproved lot of land abutting any street where there is a graded sidewalk or a sidewalk graded

and paved shall, within the first twenty-four hours after daylight after any snow ceases to fall, cause

the same to be removed from the paved or traveled part of such sidewalk. The provisions of this

section shall also apply to the falling of snow or ice from any building or from any other source onto

a sidewalk.

(b) Snow or ice shall not be moved into the gutter when the gutter has been previously

cleaned, and in no event shall snow or ice from any area other than the pedestrian walk be moved

in the gutter.

(c) Whenever a sidewalk or any part thereof along any building, premises or unimproved

lot of land is encumbered with ice, the owner, occupant or other person having the care of such

premises or lot, shall cause such sidewalk to be made safe and convenient by removing the ice

therefrom, or by covering the same with sand or other suitable substance.

(d) In the event the owner, occupant or person having the care of any building, premises

or unimproved lot within the City, fails to comply with the provisions of subsection (a) hereof the

Director of Service is authorized to cause such sidewalk to be made safe by removal of snow or ice

therefrom, or by covering the same with sand or other suitable substance as the Director may

determine at his/her discretion.

(e) After completion of the work, as authorized in subsection (d) hereof, the Director of

Service shall give five days notice by certified mail to the owner of such land, at his/her last known

address, to pay the cost of the removal of such snow or ice, or of the covering of the same with sand

or other suitable substance. This notice shall be accompanied by a statement of the amount of cost

incurred, and that in the event the cost of this work is not paid within five days after the mailing of

such notice, then this amount shall be certified to the County Auditor for collection the same as other

taxes and assessments are collected.     (Ord. 1976-20. Passed 2-18-76.)

 

521.16   SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL AFFECTING PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAYS.

(a) No owner or occupant or other person having the responsibility of removal, or the

person who actually removes the snow from any building, premises or improved or unimproved lot

abutting any street, shall remove snow and ice from the premises of said property so as to cause an

obstruction in the travel or parking lane of any abutting street, or to cause a view obstruction on the

abutting roadway, or at ingress or egress points to the roadway, or to cause obstruction to pedestrian

travel on the sidewalks.  Said actions are hereby declared to be a public nuisance and civil offense.

(Ord. 2009-115. Passed 10-21-09).

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Diane Stresing January 04, 2012 at 02:36 PM
You're not the only one with this pet peeve, Rick. I also saw a pedestrian walking in the road (SR59) yesterday, about 4pm, and said a prayer that she'd not be hit by a car, for her sake and that of the driver. The obvious answers are: 1, the city imposes a fee for clearing sidewalks on designated roads (Main Street from E->W and N->S on SR 43 within the city limits) in the interest of public safety or 2, businesses form a group or association something like homeowner associations and either invest in a snowplow to do their stretch of sidewalks or hire someone to do it. Sadly, I don't think that business owners/employees will do it themselves unless forced to. I'm one of those rare birds who won't shop with local businesses that I know flaunt the snow regulations (a certain sandwich shop is surely missing my sub business-yeah right) but the fact is, most customers don't speak up and those that do (you, me, who else?) are typically dismissed. So as not to end on a sour note, I must add there are exceptions - yesterday, I saw a doctor in Twinsburg shoveling the sidewalk and ramp leading to his office door, and to the business next door to his. Conscientious people and good intentions prevail occasionally, but most of the time, I think we (society/government) needs to step in and 'encourage' folks to do the right - safe - thing.
demo rat January 04, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Last Winter the north sidewalk outside of CVS was never maintained and it was necessary to walk on Summit St. I complained to the store and the city manager. I have also taken all of my business to Walgreens across the street as a result.
Becky Thatcher January 04, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Even the law gives owners 24 hours after the snow stops falling to clear the sidewalks. The snow stopped sometime between 1 & 2 yesterday. At 4 pm - people are not even home from work yet to shovel. We shovel our sidewalk all the time ( at 6:30 am and then at night if needed). We are not home during the day. I saw a man walking on the street near Wild Goats. Frankly - I wear boots and walk on the sidewalk. The snow is usually never that high on the sidewalk. Pedestrians must also take responsbility for their own choices of footwear and dress for the weather. That being said, if a business or owner fails to adhere to the law, I expect the city to follow thru with enforcing the law. If this were done for other matters, we would not have had the entire chicken ordnance fiasco. Let the chickens be and if they are a nuisance, then enforce the laws. Ditto with cats, dogs, snakes, bunnies, children, etc.
Laurel Myers Hurst January 05, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Becky et al: We need to consider that hundreds of new foreign students have flooded into our community over the past few days. Most of them prefer to walk in the street, even when fully prepared with boots (and I have seen MANY doing so over the past week). I fail to understand this practice, even after years of pleading with students to walk on the sidewalks and encouraging KSU's International Student and Scholar Services to make this point clear to new students.
Chris (Kit) Myers January 05, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Yes! As one who likes to walk the neighborhood for fitness and recreation, and to walk to Save-A-Lot for groceries, I totally agree that winter sidewalks in Kent are a disaster waiting to happen, as is having to dodge street traffic. Here is the solution: People who own houses and shovel their walks should kick in fifty bucks to the city. People who own commercial property and shovel their walks should kick in one hundred bucks to the city. This would inspire those who don't clear their walks to see the error of their ways, become better citizens, and get out there and shovel.
Rick Hawksley January 06, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Kit, I would agree that the community needs to take some responsibility for this issue. Not sure that what amounts to a self imposed tax is the right way to go. I think it is more a matter of allocation of resources on both the public and private level. For instance, when I shovel my sidewalks and driveways after a heavy snow, the hardest part of the task is removing the snow plowed into my driveway apron by the city plows plowing parking spaces. It takes me longer to shovel that out than to shovel 250 feet of sidewalks, lots of parking areas and driveways. Likewise, we seem to be able to plow parking spaces quite well, and plow street lanes onto sidewalks. Putting safety of pedestrians before the convenience of parking (and making parking pay for the snow removal) would make more sense. Those of us working on this issue for years have always been told that the city does not have the resources to clear pedestrian thoroughfares. I would suggest that the city contract with the university because they do it exceptionally well. Indeed yesterday I ran on 3 miles of sidewalk that was totally free of ice, and most of that sidewalks was 8' or more wide. (there are probably dozens of miles of sidewalk on campus that are kept clear.) This is a design and a maintenance issue, as the university has learned to place sidewalks where snow plows wont fill them back up with snow...for the most part. https://www.facebook.com/groups/kentsafestreets/
Kim January 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Again, I will comment on the dangerous Majors Lane and Longcoy that students are expected to walk on to school. NO SIDEWALKS AT ALL. The city is to plow but where are the students to walk? Many busses and cars travel this very narrow, curvey roadway.
Jon Ridinger January 08, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I live in this neighborhood and also wish that sidewalks would be built. Why aren't they? Mostly because it's a poor neighborhood and most of the residents either can't or just won't pay the assessment that would be required to build sidewalks along with needed road improvements like widening (Majors, Longcoy, Stinaff Extension, Harold, and Randall are all narrow) and curbs along with storm sewers. That's on top of the roads already being in pretty terrible shape.
Jon Ridinger January 08, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I have also seen people walking in the street even when there is NO snow and the sidewalks are perfectly clear. What the heck?
Diane Stresing January 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM
To be fair, pedestrians need to do their part and obey traffic rules, too. Every day I see pedestrians in the campus area ignoring the nice crosswalks and median strips, instead just standing in the middle of the street. Pedestrians in a crosswalk have the right of way. Pedestrians jaywalking or standing in the middle of a street should have their heads examined. Sigh.
Mary Dander January 06, 2013 at 09:20 AM
As a property owner, it is my responsibility to make sure my sidewalk, driveway, steps are free from snow and ice and salted. If you can't afford to do this, I am sorry but maybe you shouldn't have a home. My concern is the sidewalks on East Main Street from Rockne's to Sheetz and from the podiatrist's office and Little Caesars to Acme. No wonder people have to walk in the streets. The sidewalks are full of chunks of ice. he only place who had it cleared was the plaza Evergreen is in. Wrong. I don't know who is responsible for clearing these sidewalks, the city of Kent or the businesses but they better take care of it before someone falls and gets hurt bad. There is no excuse for this. Parta can not even drop customers off at their stops because of this also. Not everyone has a car and has to walk these sidewalks to get home or to a bus stop. If Kent has money for building downtown, then do the sidewalks too in the entire city. KSU does an excellent job, I will compliment them on that.
Mary Dander January 06, 2013 at 09:31 AM
Also, I have had numerous men of all ages out of work willing to shovel my drive, etc...looking to earn a few dollars. Usually, I will let them do my drive to make some cash. But I repeat, as a homeowner, it is YOUR responsibility to get out early and protect yourself from an accident. You don't wait until the plows go by and let that hard snow/ice chunks settle. I am sorry it is heavy to get off the sidewalks but it is a good workout and pedestrians should not have to climb over this. Home ownership comes with a price. I would appreciate if anyone could inform me about those businesses on East Main. Business owner or city responsible? Thanks.
Chris (Kit) Myers January 06, 2013 at 10:34 AM
1/6/13. A year later and the same old story, huh? P.S. Ms. Dander, I beg to differ on one of your points. KSU does not do a good job with the walks on South Willow Street or College Street. The only walk on South Willow between College and Main that is always kept clear is at 224.
Rick January 06, 2013 at 12:37 PM
Since it is the city that plows the snow off the streets and covers the sidewalk then a the city should be responsible for clearing the sidewalks plain and simple.If the city wants to argue its the property owners sidewalk therefore their responsibility to clear it then the property owner should be able to remove the sidewalk with no one from the city saying they can not do so.The city likes to say there is no money for sidewalk clearing well put the prisoners to work.Since those prisoners are getting free room and board on the tax payers dime let them work it off.
Teresa K. January 06, 2013 at 01:08 PM
chris: say what? why should I, who shovels my walk, chip in anything to the city? Am I thanking the city for letting me shovel my own walk? Why are we who are shoveling pitching in ANY money? Whats to be done with the money? Who is overseeing it? Who do you trust to? The main high car traffic AND pedestrian traffic areas are SR59, Water Street, Lake Street and roads leading directly to KSU. These businesses need to shovel more than the parking lot/ walkway into their business. They are also are on the KSU bus routes and NEED shoveled. Lets not punish the entire city with a NEW FEE when it is some people. Chris: are you meaning the CIty should PAY US...the ones who shovel our own walks??? Im good with that.
Chris (Kit) Myers January 06, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Rick and Teresa. My comment from last year about those who shovel paying the city was a spoof regarding something, I don't remember what, that was going on at that time. Anyway, the logic about which I was being cynical, was that taking money from some people will somehow inspire others to become better citizens. Maybe it had to do with the free salt fiasco.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! January 06, 2013 at 07:47 PM
"Pedestrians in a crosswalk have the right of way." This should be on every billboard, heck, even on drivers licenses, since no one seems to know it!!
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! January 06, 2013 at 08:00 PM
Kent is, in general, very unfriendly toward pedestrians, especially for being a college town. Everything being within walking distance is one of the perks of a city. It's a shame when even walking is darn near impossible The snow just makes it that much worse. Fresh, deep, unshoveled snow on the sidewalk is a pain to traverse, but nothing is quite as fun as attempting to survive the craggy wasteland of old frozen, icy footsteps. Might as well get my crampons out just to walk to the store. If you need or desire to walk to Acme/Drug Mart/etc down Rt 59 and there is snow, GOOD LUCK. No one shovels except the university, but even if they did, the snow plows come through and throw inches and sometimes feet of wet, dirty snow right onto the sidewalk. What should be a brisk 20 minute walk turns into a nightmare that clocks in around 40 minutes. Niether of the churches along the way shovel their walks yet always manage to get their lots plowed. I might also add these same churches manage to hire lawn care throughout the summer. So why not hire someone in the winter to do the sidewalks? Especially since they are on both sides of the street. Both sidewalks are always a mess. I shovel my walk, my neighbors, and the elderly lady across the street (and no, she doesn't and never has asked me to do it, it's just the right thing to do, so I do it).
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! January 06, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Also, I wonder why businesses such as Jack Crow Auto Body on Lake St. don't get fined multiple times a winter. Every year they plow all the snow into giant piles on the sidewalks. It's especially awesome since this is a school bus stop and many children are dropped off and unable to walk safely on the sidewalks...
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! January 06, 2013 at 08:13 PM
"If you can't afford to do this, I am sorry but maybe you shouldn't have a home." Maybe you're going a little bit far. Some people are very elderly and frail (my neighbor is in her 90's, can barely get about and ain't getting any younger). Or perhaps you're down and out with the flu. Or you broke your arm. Or you're in the hospital and not even home. Or you're a new and overly exhausted single mother. And the list of possibilities goes on and on. Sometimes neighbors have to be good neighbors and help each other out. At least, that's what should happen. We have a few ugly vacant rentals on our street and you know what, rather than point fingers at who is to blame, we (other neighbors on the street) take turns shoveling the rentals sidewalks. It seems to be an unspoken rule on our street. Maybe I just live in a fantastic little part of Kent. We're not perfect, but we're all good neighbors who seem to know when it's time to step up and help out. And everyone should have a place to call home.

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