Snowfall notebook: 24-hour rule means few tickets for uncleared Bloomington sidewalks

According to the National Weather Service snowfall map, only about 3 inches of snow  fell on Bloomington, Indiana, from Tuesday night at 7 p.m. through 7 a.m. on Thursday.

It was a gloppy, wet snow that came with the above-freezing temperature of around 34 F on Wednesday morning.

But the overnight temperature from Thursday to Friday dipped to 15 F. That meant any of the uncleared slushy mix on sidewalks became a frozen bumpy mess.

That prompted a request on the city’s uReport system on Friday morning: “Please enforce the city’s ordinance requiring property owners to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours. The frozen slush today is worse than the snow was days ago. Thank you.”

The city of Bloomington’s local law says that property owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalks next to their land.

The fine for noncompliance is graduated: $50 (first offense), $100 (second offense), and $150 (third offense).

Based on a B Square Friday morning walk in the general vicinity of downtown, most of the sidewalks were clear. Still, many were caked with ice.

But on Friday morning, the city’s housing and neighborhood and development (HAND) department, which enforces the ordinance, wasn’t writing many tickets, according to HAND director John Zody.

That’s because the time frame spelled out in the ordinance for required clearing or snow and ice is “within twenty-four hours after snow or ice has ceased to fall or in any way accumulate.”

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, Zody wrote, “With the intermittent precipitation this week, code enforcement was unusual, notably with snowfall occurring last night [Thursday, Jan. 26] around 6 p.m. That would give residents until around 6 p.m. tonight [Friday, Jan. 27] to have sidewalks cleared.”

That squares up with the staff’s note on the uReport request says, “If you see someone has not cleared their sidewalk per the ordinance (24 hours after the last snowflake falls per the official statement from Indianapolis Airport), you can submit a uReport and cite a specific area on the uReport to HAND.”

Zody indicated that by Monday he’d know the exact number of citations that had been made, but said “not many have been written, nor have many uReports come into our department about it.”

The B Square counted 13 uReports complaining about uncleared sidewalks.

Zody’s emailed message said that the forecasted warmer temperatures and rain for the weekend would likely clear off the sidewalks. But he indicated that the colder temperatures forecasted for next week meant the HAND department would be monitoring conditions.

The National Weather Service forecast for Bloomington on Saturday is for a high near 50 F degrees with showers after midnight and a low of 42 F. On Sunday, showers are again likely before 1 p.m. with the expected high temperature of around 46 by noon.

According to the NWS forecast, Monday will give a chance of snow showers and freezing rain before 8 a.m., with a high near 33 F.

5 thoughts on “Snowfall notebook: 24-hour rule means few tickets for uncleared Bloomington sidewalks

  1. This is another fine example of our safe and civil city is wasting our taxpayers money on a First Amendment right. Let’s have an all out effort to remove the snow fall from each and every city building. Hand shoveling River sand that stays in place. And is better for the environment. The suits will lead the way no computers or cell phones aloud. This should happen after an inch of snow falls. This is what I had to do working for my parents business

  2. i’m sad about it. i’m not sure the variables involved but for whatever reason my stretch of madison/rogers got a lot of rime on the sidewalks when they were plowing the slush on wednesday afternoon. that rime is compacted and melts slower than other snow and it’s still there, but it looks like it might not last the day. (thank you sun!!)

    my sidewalk has been pristine since wednesday night, of course. actually, it was pristine the moment the snow slowed down in the afternoon but i had to do twice the work over again because the city plowed rime onto it. and one of my neighbors took care of it by the middle of thursday. but 4 neighbors, one city-owned vacant lot (!), the bridge over the railroad, and duke energy substation are all unplowed to this day. it’s slower and more difficult to walk on the frozen stuff, and at times your feet would get wet. a lot of people chose to walk in the street, and one day i decided to take a different (longer) route so i could walk in the street with less stress. it is a real bummer when compared to the car facility which has been pristine since wednesday afternoon.

    in the past, i have personally cleared all of the lots that i just mentioned, about 1200 ft of sidewalk. and in years when it has stuck around, it has been well worth it! but this year, with the promise of melting after “only” 3 days, i couldn’t find the energy.

    i’m just thankful that we’ve had mild winters the last couple years. a lot of times, a snow like this in january would’ve stuck around for more than a week, especially where it got piled up by the snow plows.

  3. I wonder if it makes sense for the city to take over plowing sidewalks. It’s hard to blame hundreds of property owners for not clearing their property.

  4. Some businesses don’t clear sidewalks either. Also the city and private contractors plow snow onto sidewalks and into the approaches to crosswalks (where it takes longer to melt and leaves large puddles full of slush). This can be especially bad around Eastland Plaza and the mall, which is theoretically an easy walk from my neighborhood. Sometimes it’s not clear who’s responsible for a given stretch of sidewalk (the railroad bridge on North Rogers, for example).

    I think it’s the city’s responsibility to provide pedestrians and cyclists with the same accommodation they give to drivers in winter. Sometimes when winter walking is particularly difficult, I start wishing the city would plow the sidewalks onto the streets.

  5. I wish that there was a more uniform method for maintaining the safety of sidewalks, whether it be shoveling/ice removal or repair of sidewalks that are crumbling/uneven. I slipped on an icy sidewalk that hadn’t been cleared of ice/snow by a rental company more than 24 hours after the snow storm last week. I broke a bone in my hand as a result and may need surgery. I may not have full use of my right hand until summer, if not later. I think it is unfair for the city to maintain proper “control” of sidewalks (i.e., they pass rules for maintenance/replacement and approve their installation) but require that the landowner pay for replacement/maintenance. It just leads to uneven maintenance and quality of sidewalks and systemic inequalities (i.e., “poorer” neighborhoods will inherently be more vulnerable to lack of proper maintenance). After all, if the average income in one neighborhood is $150k+ and the average income in another neighborhood is less than $50k, which neighborhood’s landowners would you suspect will have a harder time ponying up thousands of dollars to repair or replace sidewalks in front of their home?

    It’s just a bad policy all around, in my eyes.

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