An issue I’ve returned to repeatedly in winter’s past is the failure of many in the city to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes of snow thereby making it difficult and even dangerous for walkers, be they kids going to school or adults seeking exercise, to pass. While health or finances might be an issue for some who neglect this, the biggest problems often come from those who hire plow drivers to clear driveways but in the process pile the snow from the driveway onto the adjacent sidewalk. The car can get out but no one can use the sidewalk says a lot about our priorities but that’s another issue.
The city of Lowell has at least made an effort to assist those elderly or disabled who are unable to do snow removal themselves through Operation Rose Bud, an effort to match those in need of shoveling assistance with volunteers from the Lowell High School JROTC program. (Note to organizers: Seven of the nine Operation Rose Bud committee members listed on the city’s website have since left city employ so that might need updating before the next storm).
As good as the Lowell effort has been, the city of Chicago has taken this to a whole new level with Chicago Shovels, an interactive website that provides one stop shopping for snow and weather information. It features a “plow tracker” app that uses existing GPS devices in city plows to display their whereabouts as they clear the city streets (this is to combat the perception that the politically connected get their streets cleared first). There’s also an adopt-a-sidewalk program that lets people “claim” a sidewalk – especially the one in front of their own homes – that they’ll be responsible for clearing. There’s Snow Corps which is a citywide, automated version of our Operation Rose Bud. And there are a variety of “winter apps” that tell you when and where parking bans are declared and even where your car has been towed to. The video below does a good job of explaining it all. Maybe this is the next step for Operation Rose Bud: