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Where Cars are King

Michael Lehto  |  01/23/08 @ 1:04pm

It's remarkable how much time and energy we spend making sure our driving spaces are clear and easy to use... but where do we peds fit in? The recent bout of heavy snowfall in Cleveland has reminded me how ridiculous our social norms and public policies can be. My neighbors will meticulously remove (or, typically, pay to have removed) the snow from their driveways, but their sidewalks remain clotted with snow and ice. Why? Well, one simple answer would appear to be that the focus for these neighbors is easy access for their car. Even in this very walkable community of Cleveland Heights, the car is still king for many. But, oddly enough, our public policies also discourage homeowners from clearing snow from their sidewalks. If you remove snow from your sidewalk and someone falls, you're liable for that person's injury. If you do nothing with your sidewalk and someone falls on the ice or snow, then you are NOT liable for anything. How can this be? The result is much as you might expect: instead of picking their way gingerly across snow-packed or icy sidewalks, peds simply take to the street and risk their chances with oncoming traffic. How is this a safe alternative? It would be one thing if homeowners just decided they didn't want to clear snow from their sidewalks... but this policy actively discourages them from doing so.

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