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Sidewalk Snow Shame: Communities Failing Community 101

When sidewalks are needed the most, they've disappeared.

Welcome to the crosswalk. Photo by Greg Hambrick
Welcome to the crosswalk. Photo by Greg Hambrick
We've had a few comments, blogs and opinion pieces shared with Patch since Thursday about an issue many communities are still facing in Northern Virginia: disappearing sidewalks.

They were there on Wednesday — kids used sidewalks to get to school, commuters stood by sidewalks to wait for the bus and your neighbors and mine hiked or biked in safety. Now, for too many, the sidewalks are gone.

What priority should we place on clearing pedestrian and bike paths after a snow? What has your community done to address this issue? Tell us in the comments section below.

I cringed while driving a busy six-lane parkway Friday afternoon when I saw a woman standing on the roadway near where the bus stop used to be — a snow pile had all-but buried the long post for the bus stop sign.

On Saturday, I held my breath as I travelled down a four-lane road near dusk and was met by a woman walking up the street, obviously scared to death, but without an alternative as a large pile of snow roughly her height had replaced the sidewalk.

Driving Monday morning, I noticed how the bike path students use in my neighborhood was unrecognizable. The alternative for children walking to school is the street, at the height of the morning commute.

Many or our sidewalks are a perk in planned neighborhoods, sometimes they were a final demand from local governments, expected to inspire use, but not expected to be used that much. Now, when we need these paths the most, not just to enjoy, but to protect life and limb, they've disappeared.

What priority should we place on clearing pedestrian and bike paths after a snow? What has your community done to address this issue? Tell us in the comments section below.
Patch Reader February 17, 2014 at 09:08 PM
In Alexandria, the City did a pretty good job of clearing the streets, and most businesses and residences cleared their sidewalks. However, a few did not--which is problem in a walkable community like Old Town. Like a lot of earlier posters, I lament those who do not clear the sidewalks adjacent to their property, and do my part to clean the walks of neighbors who could care less (even if I resent it). I also decided to get vocal with businesses who have neglected their sidewalks. It's especially galling when their parking lot is spotless while the public sidewalks are a mess. I talked to the staff at a local dry cleaners, called the corporate 800 number for a nearby 7-Eleven, and contacted the broker of a nearby vacant property listed for lease. Believe it or not, each one had shoveled the walk the following day. Speaking up can make a difference!
Todd February 17, 2014 at 09:35 PM
I'm from Minnesota and they really are on top of keeping their sidewalks clear for everyone. It is sad to see with the little amount of snow that does arrive here, this city cannot stay in front of snow removal.
R Shakelford February 17, 2014 at 09:46 PM
Video doesn't seem to be up but the story was on channel 9 at the top of the hour at 5,6, and 7PM. Most likely at 11 as well. This is pathetic. http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/local/2014/02/17/sidewalk-snow-problems-in-reston/5560409/
Jo-Ann Scichilone February 18, 2014 at 06:39 AM
My mother lives at Manchester Lakes Senior Apartments and since being purchased by a new management company several years ago, they have literally quit clearing the sidewalks! Many many of the residents have dogs that need to be walked, but most of them use canes and walkers, my mother included. She cannot walk her dog nor can she get across the parking lot to go to the church service in the other building. They were told in a recent meeting that the budget doesn't allow for clearing, so I guess it's better to risk them falling and suing them? Oh and this budget issue comes after spending THOUSANDS on remodeling the lobbies to include grand pianos and fireplaces....REALLY?
Lisbet February 18, 2014 at 07:03 AM
I am really disappointed at the level of selfish, "take care of me and no one else" behavior of some (sadly more than just a few) homeowners who have cleared off their long driveways but left the sidewalks in front of their houses untouched. Pretty disgusting to witness but I guess not that surprising in the end.
Patrick J February 18, 2014 at 07:05 AM
The Reston Association doesn't have bobcats and equipment to maintain the trails during the winter months?
JT February 18, 2014 at 07:34 AM
Yeah right folks - bring a snow shovel to the bus stop. The county and RA can clean the streets for vehicles but dare anyone to walk or use public transportation. What a joke.
Walter Hadlock February 18, 2014 at 08:02 AM
Lots of good, and not so good, comments. Here in the Town of Herndon, while the street clearing is well done, one side effect, especially with a major snowfall, is mountains of snow pushed onto the sidewalks. Also, in many instances, no one takes responsibility to clear the sidewalks that run along office park property. The W&OD Trail, at least the parts I could see at various crossing points here in Herndon, is not cleared. It's a way for some to bike, or walk, to work. When it comes to clearing snow, the area has a long way to go. I use my snow blower to clear my sidewalk and the neighbor's on either side. Then the town plows come thru for one last pass and push snow that covers some of what I've cleared. Thankfully, we don't have major snowfalls as often as some parts of the country do. Then again, a measly, nearly inch of snow overnight (Feb17/18) has most of the school systems opening on a two hour delay.
ME2 February 18, 2014 at 09:29 AM
There is a complete "Disconnect" between the Snow Plow driver and the residents or his "Boss"! Plow down the middle of the street or cul de sac, Now residents have to get to the main street after already shoveling the drive way at least once. Bike paths, what not even a subject for elderly and it's not a pleasurable time!
Private Person February 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM
Add Shadowood Condominium in Reston to the hall of shame --- dozens of kids, mostly low income, are being forced to walk in the street to get to school. PATHETIC!
R Shakelford February 18, 2014 at 11:39 AM
CONTACT THE RESTON ASSOCIATION AND TELL THEM TO CONTACT THE PROPERTY OWNERS TO CLEAR THE WALKWAYS. Everyone is blaming VDOT yet the clusters on the lake side of the schools have all had the sidewalks clear. Same storm. Same issues. Proper results. There was ANOTHER sighted news crew this morning covering the chaos at the schools and on South Lakes Drive. What else is it going to take!? The community has to share the concerns with the powers in charge, not just commenting on articles! VOICES COUNT!
Lynda Silverstrand February 18, 2014 at 01:36 PM
Does anyone know how the street clearing drivers are trained? Are they even told not to pile up snow on the sidewalks or not to make a mountain on the sidewalk or driveways?
R Shakelford February 18, 2014 at 02:00 PM
You can't help it. It has to go somewhere. That's why property owners have to keep up with it. It's not like 6 feet piles show up at once. You have to clear it as it happens. That's why it's so frustrating. These people are just lazy. They wait and wait and wait until it get's too bad and then WHOOPS! We can't do it it's someone else's fault, and children and pedestrians suffer.
mbilock6 February 18, 2014 at 03:16 PM
In Connecticut, we were required to shovel the sidewalks in front of our houses, it was the law. We also had to move all vehicles off the street so the snow plows could do their jobs. Perhaps this is why they don't completely shut down when it snows. Virginia or PWC should really look into some of these common sense laws.
Casey Coons Crowe February 18, 2014 at 04:06 PM
Noticed a couple of comments referring to the County government in relationship to snow clearing, etc. In Virginia, the State owns and maintains nearly all the roads; and is responsible for clearing them. So it's VDOT that should be contacted except in the case of community association ownership.
maxine zahora February 18, 2014 at 07:39 PM
get all the men standing at Alabama dr and Elden st to grab a shovel and start at one end of Herndon and go all thru town, and make good use of all this overcrowding, plus im sure they would love a free meal for payment.
Mildred February 18, 2014 at 07:42 PM
There are enough residences on the dole in Fredericksburg who could have given back to the taxpayer by helping out. In fact, it should be required that those getting taxpayer funds to assist them financially would be placed on call to remove snow from the Fredericksburg streets. These folks could have worked in one hour shifts. Some of the elderly had children and grandchildren who did the shoveling for them, even though they themselves had enough to do, plus having to work at their jobs and take care of their own young children. If the taxpayer is expected to support the non-worker, then the non-worker should give back.
Rose Marie Junge February 18, 2014 at 08:48 PM
In my neighborhood many people walk their dogs or are just out walking almost in any weather conditions. We have sidewalks at least on one side of the street. During our recent snow I was so grateful to all the homeowners who cleared their sidewalks and made it possible for us to walk our dogs. Unfortunately, right along a busy thoroughfare the sidewalks were covered with snow. So, on the most dangerous parts of the street walking became impossible! The HOA does not clear the side walks. I would think, whoever owns the property cleans the sidewalks, what is good for the homeowner is good for the HOA. I hope this will be the last snowstorm that takes away our sidewalks and surely the last winter in which sidewalks are not cleared of snow and the safety of residents is made a priority.
Liz February 18, 2014 at 09:01 PM
Yeah, it was treacherous walking home on 236 this afternoon. Let's face it...nobody cares about the safety of people who take public transporation in the city of Fairfax. I guess that is part of the reason most people don't take public transporation. In the winter, you are doomed! LOL
April February 19, 2014 at 06:42 AM
Most sidewalks in my town home community were cleared. It's the FFX county owned sidewalks along Leesburg Pike that have mountains of snow, resulting from plowing that road. It's a hazard to walk to the bus stop on Leesburg Pike.
jan February 19, 2014 at 08:45 AM
Just took my life in my hands/feet walking in North Reston. Where to walk: Paths - hmmm - covered in black ice. Sidewalks - hmmm - covered in snow and ice. Street - hmmm dodging cars. Shame Shame Shame on all of the irresponsible bodies of government. RA, VDOT, Homeowners associations. SHAME!!!!
Patrick J February 19, 2014 at 09:02 AM
I can understand home / townhouse owners being responsible and clearing their own sidewalks and stairs. From what I notice most people do a great job. However, when it comes to common grounds and 9 ft high snow berms at intersections and cross walks, RA, HOA and DOT needs to step in. It's not just about plowing but removal is also needed for the particularly heavy snowfalls. People pay a premium to live in Reston through taxes / fees and should not have to take their shovels down to the bus stop. If the RA doesn't have the equipment then they need to budget for it. If a winter comes that doesn't have a lot of snowfall, then they are ahead of the game and can save the money in reserve.
Mike February 19, 2014 at 09:53 AM
I should invest in Kimberly-Clark (Kleenex) since there is so much crying and whining on this board about the bad ole snow and ice.
Private Person February 19, 2014 at 10:19 AM
RA should CUT the budget for the many nonsense and wasteful things it uses our non-tax-deductible and ever-higher assessments for. A communications director? Please! That useless high-color, glossy rag that RA puts out is taken right from the mailbox to the trash in my 'hood. It's nothing more than a propaganda piece for the tax-and-spend liberal politicians. Use that money (and from many other wasteful RA expenses) to enforce the covenants and, if necessary, purchase proper removal equipment. REMEMBER TOO when it comes time to vote---where is Hudgins? Has she so much as sent out a notice for help? Lobbied VDOT or RA to clear the snow and ice? Helped kids cross the dangerous, dark streets and intersections? She's advocating to spend many millions of dollars on more sidewalks and narrower roads for bike lanes; higher tolls on the toll road; and yet more social, subsidized housing in soon to be doubled in size Reston. Is that what you want?
T Ailshire February 19, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Casey Coons Crowe, I appreciate the correction. We should not tolerate VDOT employees or contractors who create safety hazards on public rights of way at taxpayer expense. NOR should we excuse those responsible for sidewalks; that's not VDOT.
Laura Stone February 19, 2014 at 11:55 AM
I would like to thank the Town of Herndon for the snow removal in our area. Between the town and the wonderful inhabitants of our neighborhood, our streets look pretty good considering the amount of snow. I got a lot of good exercise these past few days moving snow from the curbside up onto the lawn.
JohnQ February 20, 2014 at 04:54 PM
Hey people.. get off your lazy butts and shovel it yourself! Or get your idiot lazy kids out there! YOU are responsible for the sidewalk in front of your house as well as making the way clear for your postman and garbage collectors. I shoveled down my street in Ashburn clearing a block of sidewalk. Imagine how pissed I was when days after the snow I saw my community association hired a Bobcat to move what little snow was left. The president of the association must be one of the lazy asses who don't shovel.
Mark Mohay February 21, 2014 at 12:06 AM
Regarding snow removal from sidewalks in residential neighborhoods where they exist, I was always under the impression that the homeowner/occupant was responsible for removing the snow from the sidewalk in-front of and/or beside their house, and that they were liable for injuries incurred by pedestrians on those sidewalks should they have not removed the snow. Am I wrong? Is this an urban myth? If it's true, it seems to me, given the litigious nature of today, to be motivation enough to breakout the old shovel.
Jennifer Rosso Jain February 21, 2014 at 07:42 PM
In residential communities in FFX it is the property owner or HOA responsibility. If the HOA doesn't do it then the owner should. With that said there are many homeowners that could not remove all the snow for many reasons. Reasons could be health, not having the means or simply having to work. It would be nice in such communities to help one another out. It is a shame that even an HOA that doesn't routinely cover snow removal couldn't help out stating there is no budget for it. Instead opting for our kids to be in the street. Compton Heights located in Clifton is a perfect example. Very dissapointed in the HOA. I would be willing to include that service in HOA dues.
Sharon Dantzig February 26, 2014 at 08:27 AM
Fairlington is bad.

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