Snow Clearance

Snow Clearance

Snow and ice present challenges to walkers. Cleared sidewalks are critical for people to access everyday goods and services, and are particularly vital to people with disabilities and to seniors. Snow clearance is a challenging task for municipalities and private property owners due to the mix of responsible parties, and the unpredictable and episodic nature of the need.

WalkBoston has a snow clearance committee looking for better ways to get our sidewalks and curb ramps cleared. If you’re interested in working on this project, contact us!

Who is required to clear snow 

Many Massachusetts cities and towns hold property owners responsible for clearing sidewalks on or next to their property, but each municipality may have different ordinances and policies regarding snow removal. The Massachusetts Sidewalk Snow Removal Map lists the regulations implementing snow removal policies for businesses and homeowners in municipalities across the state. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)  Snow Removal Priority Viewer tracks information regarding the roads and sidewalks maintained by DCR.

How cities and towns can improve sidewalk snow and ice clearance

WalkBoston prepared a set of recommendations in a Snow Clearance Report; that analysis resulted in recommendations summarized below.

  • Create a norm of snow and ice clearance through local and state information campaigns that make uncleared sidewalks and curb ramps as unacceptable as litter.
  • Identify a municipal point person who is responsible for oversight of snow removal.
  • Publicize municipal reporting system for snow issues, whether through a 311 hotline or app. Here are some examples of communities in Massachusetts.
  • Set priorities for sidewalk snow clearance that identify the most critical sidewalks – such as those near schools, transit stations or senior centers – to ensure that enforcement and public snow clearance are focused on the most important locations.
  • Improve monitoring and enforcement by giving ticketing authority to municipal workers who are already outdoors (e.g., parking officers, crossing guards) and can see the problems in person. Remember: the goal is to clear sidewalks, not to raise money.
  • Design sidewalks for easier snow removal with simple design interventions, especially at common trouble spots such as curb ramps.
  • Train municipal and private snow plowing personnel so that plow drivers are sensitive to the needs of pedestrians and are proficient in techniques that aid clearance of sidewalks, pedestrian ramps, crosswalks and median islands.
  • Develop snow shoveling assistance programs for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.