Pedestrian safety depends on sidewalk conditions

In North Country winters, snow falls with regularity, and snow and ice prevail longer than most people like.

In recent years more emphasis is being placed on pedestrian-friendly communities, mainly driven by the health benefits associated with walking. However, during winter, far too many property owners neglect their responsibilities of clearing the snow and ice from their sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets rather on the sidewalks.

This is obviously dangerous. Several years ago, a pedestrian was walking in Elm Street in the village of Malone and was struck and killed by a car. This pedestrian was walking in the street because the sidewalks were not shoveled.

Many villages, including Malone, have ordinances requiring owners or occupants of homes and businesses to “clear public sidewalks from snow, ice, dirt, rubbish, or other matter which may obstruct the proper and free use of” these sidewalks. Unfortunately, these codes and ordinances are seldom enforced. This lack of enforcement, coupled with an elderly citizenship and lack of teenagers willing to shovel for a reasonable compensation, results in far too many of our village sidewalks too difficult or too dangerous to be used, forcing pedestrians to resort to walking in the streets.

Another common problem contributing to the unusable sidewalks is the propensity for those plowing driveways to plow or push snow onto the sidewalks. Several businesses are also guilty of this illegal practice.

Fortunately, some of our communities have sidewalk plows or sidewalk snow blowers that clear the most important sidewalks, such as along the main streets and the busiest routes to schools. However, far too many homeowners or residents are ignoring their duty to clear the sidewalks in more residential areas, where walking for exercise can be rewarding. Abandoned homes or empty lots, with the property owner totally ignoring their responsibility, contribute to the problem.

The Traffic Safety Board, realizing how short-staffed our enforcement agencies are, is appealing to responsible property owners to consider the dangerous results of not properly clearing snow and ice from sidewalks during winter. Take the initiative and shovel off sidewalks under your responsibility or contract with someone who will, not because it may be required but because it is the right thing to do!

For more articles on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board’s website at and click on the Traffic Safety Board from the pull-down menu under departments.

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