SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Shoveling sidewalks on a cold and snowy night is not usually a task highly sought after, but clearing the walks is not just a nice thing to do, it is crucial for those that use wheelchairs, walkers, and other methods to get around.
Trevor Buit, a Provo resident, recently took to Facebook to plea with his neighbors to ‘please, please clear off your sidewalks’. Buit has cerebral palsy and uses a power chair to get around.
As you can imagine, when homeowners and business owners don’t keep their walks clear, uncleared sidewalks create a big problem for disabled people to safely trek from one place to the next.
“I know from personal experience it makes things difficult and when I say that I mean outright dangerous for some people,” says Buit. “It is a slipping hazard if you leave it be and the snow becomes compacted. As far as wheelchairs, it is too easy for us to get stuck and a lot of us don’t have the capacity to get ourselves unstuck. That can make for some very long cold times out in the snow while we wait for someone to come along and give us a hand.”
While city codes/ordinances involving snow removal vary from city to city, in Buit’s hometown, Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi took to Twitter to remind residents that ‘when it snows, residential and business property owners are responsible for keeping their sidewalks safe’.
In Provo and other cities, whenever the snow gets deeper than one inch deep, those responsible for the removal must do so within 24 hours. Mayor Kaufusi also reminded residents to be mindful of older neighbors or others who might have a hard time with snow removal themselves. Also, she says that if your neighbors are out of town, help them out.
While one inch of snow doesn’t seem like that much to many, to Buit and others with disabilities it can pose a large problem.
“I would like to think my power chair is fairly modern and so it handles snow okay, but it only takes about a half-inch of snow to really mess things up,” Buit continues to say of snow removal. “I can’t even imagine what a manual wheelchair would be like, that would be a nightmare.”
Buit says he understands if some people physically can’t remove snow because he falls in that category. At the same time though, he says it makes traveling really hard. He recalled one experience from a few years ago where a bus stop was blocked off due to snow. He had to find another way home and it turned his normally 20-minute commute into a 45-minute one.
“It is dangerous. I don’t think that people don’t care, I just don’t think that people think about it,” says Buit.
Buit also told of an instance a few winters ago where he was traveling along a sidewalk near an apartment complex and their sidewalk was ‘a complete mess’. He said that when he called the complex they seemed completely unaware that it was even their responsibility–emphasizing Buit’s point: it’s not that people don’t care, it’s just they don’t think about it.
Another aspect of snow removal is snowplowing. While snowplows certainly benefit drivers, they often can add more snow back onto the sidewalks. Kaufusi says that residents need to understand that that is unavoidable and will need to do their part to clear the way again on sidewalks.
Additionally, if you know that snowplows will soon be in your neighborhood, park cars off of the street and move obstacles like trash cans and basketball hoops in off the street.
Buit says that he understands that threatening people with fines for neglecting snow removal is a sensitive subject but says overall following and being aware of the city ordinances, more education on snow removal, and attention to the issue will help keep the sidewalks safe and clear for all.
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