Slippery, snowy sidewalks are a problem local residents should be able to solve without additional city action.
Several mild winters in Lawrence have left little reason to worry about shoveling snow or clearing sidewalks. Any snowfall or ice usually was light and rapidly melted on its own.
This year obviously is different, and local residents apparently need to be reminded how important it is for them to clear snow and ice off the sidewalks on their property. It's a matter of courtesy as well as safety.
And, to some extent, it's a matter of law. The city ordinance on this issue is somewhat lax. It requires property owners to clean sidewalks but it doesn't specifically mention snow and provides no penalties or enforcement measures for violators. A property owner might face a liability claim if someone fell or was injured while walking on the sidewalks, but many Lawrence residents appear willing to take that risk.
If current winter conditions persist in Lawrence, the city may need to consider a snow removal ordinance with some teeth in it. Many pedestrians have expressed concern about snow or ice on local sidewalks, even well-traveled routes like Massachusetts Street.
The city's new bus system also adds to the need for clean sidewalks. Recent weather conditions have made driving conditions treacherous on a number of occasions. A ride on the bus probably was an attractive option for many local residents. But many people, especially older residents, may have found the walk to a bus stop even more daunting than trying to get their cars out to go to the store or an appointment.
The forecast for the next several days seems to hold little hope that nature will clear local sidewalks for us. With or without the threat of legal action or a city fine, property owners need to accept this responsibility. If there are people in your neighborhood who can't handle snow removal duties, take a few extra minutes to help them out. It's just the right thing to do.
When children return to school next week, they'll appreciate having a clear, safe route for their morning and afternoon walks. In the meantime, some of those same youngsters might make a few dollars shoveling snow for people who are unwilling or unable to do it themselves.
Spring will be here before we know it, but this may not be the last time this winter that local residents have to deal with snow removal. Wouldn't it be great if volunteer efforts, rather than a new city ordinance, were enough to take care of this problem?