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Perspective

Why Cities, Not Individuals, Should Clear Snow From Sidewalks

Most U.S. cities leave the responsibility of sidewalk snow removal to homeowners, landlords, and businesses. The result: endangered pedestrians.
Forced into the street by blocked sidewalks, a woman pushes a stroller past piles of snow outside Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Forced into the street by blocked sidewalks, a woman pushes a stroller past piles of snow outside Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.Josh Reynolds/AP

In the car one dark evening last winter, on a busy five-lane road in Kalamazoo, Michigan, my spouse saw a pregnant woman walking down the right lane of traffic. The nearby sidewalk was covered by mounds of snow. Wedged between plowed business lots on one side and the plowed street on the other, the sidewalk had become the snow-container—there was nowhere safe for the woman to walk.

He carefully drove around her and, concerned, looked back in his rearview mirror. At that moment, a car grazed her, knocking her into a snowbank. He turned back, helped collect her bags and possessions that were scattered across the slushy lanes, and drove her to her destination.