“We see the sidewalk as a transportation corridor.” This is the motto of Snow Buddy, a nonprofit organization that removes the snow from all the sidewalks in the Water Hill neighborhood.
I live in the tiny sliver of Water Hill that is in Ward 1, and I have found that Snow Buddy has improved my life immensely in the few years it’s been in operation.
In Ann Arbor, individual homeowners are responsible for removing the snow from their own sidewalks. In most neighborhoods, the result is that many people remove the snow in a timely fashion, and many people do not. However, if even one person fails to remove their snow in a timely fashion, that’s all it takes for the entire street’s worth of sidewalk to become impassible to a person in a wheelchair or walker, or a person pushing a cart. I have a friend who uses a walker and can’t afford to own car. They are trapped in their house all winter, entirely dependent upon friends to get around. Even for a person who can walk down the street without assistance, a sidewalk that has not been cleared can be a dangerous obstacle.
Snow Buddy is great for us in my neighborhood. But what about everybody else? It is not reasonable to expect volunteers and charity-minded individuals to clear everybody’s sidewalks in the city. It is not reasonable to say to people with mobility problems: “You are out of luck”.
Instead, sidewalk snow removal is a service that should be taken on by the city. Why should the city have the responsibility to clear the roads for the benefit of people who own cars, but not have the responsibility to clear the sidewalks for the benefit of people who own feet?
I talked with some of the members of Snow Buddy’s board of directors - Robbin Pott and Lisa Brush. They said that it has been Snow Buddy’s plan all along to serve as a model, and to figure out how the city could take on this responsibility.
I like the plan that they’ve been working on over the last couple of years.
They want to have nodes throughout the city, where the snow removal tractors are housed. The city will ask for snow removal companies to bid on the contract to remove the snow in a particular area.
With nodes spread throughout the city, the snow removal can be swift and responsive. We won’t have to wait for the tractors to drive all the way from the central station, as we do with road snow removal.
If the city takes on this responsibility, as it should, then all residents of Ann Arbor will have the opportunity to move about the city safely and comfortably, all year round.