What good is a public transit system if its users find themselves at the mercy of snow covered sidewalks? This morning I crossed a busy road in Dublin, Ohio to reach a breakfast restaurant in a strip mall. All the pedestrian paths were covered by approximately three inches of snow even though many stores were open.
Municipal codes in snowy cities typically outline the requirements placed on property owners for clearing sidewalks and the penalties for ignoring hazardous conditions (Ann Arbor and Chicago are two good examples). But few towns have the resources to monitor the vast network of sidewalks inside their boundaries – as witnessed by a recent snow storm in Buffalo. Instead, code enforcers respond to complains from unhappy walkers – but these are few and infrequent. After all, who wants to talke the time to report a minor civil infraction when the evidence may melt away in a matter of hours and there is no incentive to notify anybody?
At this rate, snow-affected cities might be better off lending snow shoes to transit riders so they can overcome the risks of walking.
How can code enforcement be transformed into an activity that benefits pedestrians in this regard?
Perhaps community members need a better way to communicate timely information about property conditions. There is a danger that this method would encourage a “tattletale” element in society – vindictive people may use such a system to spite neighbors or competitors. A more ideal approach would help code enforcement officials identify the highest priorities for their limited attention – the un-shoveled walkways that affect the most pedestrians and transit riders. Communication from code enforcement to the reporters of information is also critical – if there is no feedback about the status of a complaint, then reporters will lose efficacy in their city officials.