You plow the sidewalks so they’re passable three days after a snow

The morning after a snow storm, when an eight inch snowfall blankets the neighborhood, it’s really obvious that we need a better way to clear the sidewalks.

But a municipal sidewalk snow removal program might not make a huge difference in that moment. For one, it’s going to take a while for city sidewalk plows to hit every sidewalk. It can take a day or more for plows to get to minor streets, and the same would be true for sidewalks too.

And it’s hard to get all the snow off a sidewalk even when the plow does come by. Broken pavement makes nooks and crannies where snow can hide from plows, so they’re probably going to leave some snow on the sidewalk.

But even imperfect plowing can make all the difference a few days after a big snow if the temperature gets above freezing.

These pictures show the sidewalk along Roosevelt Avenue on either side of Kensington Road. These blocks lead to Barry Park and the Co-op, and get a lot of foot traffic even when the sidewalks are covered in snow.

These pictures are from February 26th—three days after the last snowfall. Each of those three days the sun came out, the temperature got up above freezing, and a lot of snow melted.

On the block north of Kensington, those three days were enough to clear the sidewalks completely. That sidewalk got shoveled a few times during the month, so there wasn’t much snow sitting on the pavement to begin with, and it didn’t take much for what was left to melt away.

But south of Kensington, warm temperatures hadn’t worked the same magic. That block never got shoveled, so three days of warm weather wasn’t enough to melt the snow away. Instead the snow melted and refroze, melted and refroze, so that it turned into a thick unshovelable layer of ice.

If City Hall could make sure that every sidewalk gets cleared a least once or twice while the snow is falling, it will make a huge difference when temperatures rise and melt off the snow that’s left, leaving pristine pavement so people can walk around town safely.