walking in a winter wonderland

I love being out in the snow. Hate being cold and wet. But once I learned how to dress, being out in the snow became a true joy. My favorite activity used to be cutting firewood in a low wind snowfall in the north woods. Hauling it home on the sled. Watching the big flakes

Instead of the woods and country roads I now walk Providence, and while I still love snow, walking is more difficult here, and most definitely more dangerous.

I love walking my neighborhood, on 6th St the block is shoveled from top to bottom including the corners, and most residential streets are well shoveled, with many people even creating places to cross at the corners. The North Burial Ground is also a treat. Might be plowed better than anywhere else in the city, and if you take the back streets, you can almost avoid North Main St. while getting there.

North Main St has never been a great place for winter walking. From 6th St going south on the east side of the street the block between 4th and 5th as usual took a bit longer than they should have to clear some hazards and the corner is still bad. I made a call to city hall about N Main St yesterday asking that they do some enforcement among the scofflaws, so that could have made a difference at some of the places on N Main getting it together late yesterday and today, but I will never know. I have now requested that Miriam and Home and Hospice clear their sidewalks, and the crew from the Burial Ground was snow blowing that stretch of N Main St. I had been cutting through the burial ground instead of using the sidewalk, now I can go back to the sidewalk. I did not go as far as Branch this morning, but as of Thursday that intersection was still not pedestrian friendly. The highway overpass on Industrial is always neglected from a pedestrian perspective, though the mini-mall just to the north had shoveled their sidewalk, a most unusual occurrence. The areas near University Shopping Mall is a disgrace. A BIG RI mall developer, CARPIONATO, ALWAYS LEAVES THEIR N MAIN SIDEWALK UNSHOVELED, Yes, it is a poorly designed sidewalk, and there is no place to put the snow, but that stretch of N Main is critical to connectivity and that stretch needs to be kept passable ALL winter. There are ways to do it. Charles and Canal were difficult near the river. River frontage with no building is considered no man’s land for shoveling, despite the fact that these spots are key transportation corridors for all transportation modes from canals, to trains to interstates, to traditional walking paths, to Rt 1. It is clearly the city’s responsibility for clearing overpasses and river frontage like Canal St. and it is one they totally neglect.

Downtown, the Downtown Improvement Program, funded by special levies, clears the sidewalks. Always passable. Heading out Broad St the I-95 crossing was hard walking or in the street walking and south of the 3 High Schools the fast food area created one of the most dangerous hazards to pedestrians, the driveway plowing that blocks the sidewalk. This is one I really do not get. Or rather get and am disgusted by it. A fast food or convenience store shows parking lot to the street. Plows its driveway and parking lot, piles the snow on the sidewalk between the driveways and at the edge of the property. Never clear their own sidewalk. One year I did an action on a convenience store. I shoveled the snow piled up on the sidewalk into their driveway. An hour later they had shoveled their sidewalk.

How hard could it be for these businesses having their contractor clearing the driveway do the sidewalk or at least not block the sidewalk any worse than it already is? Maybe they need a sidewalk contractor? But mostly it would mean paying attention.

I have not yet been south of my office on Rice St, so I can not say what is to the south, but experience shows that buildings in distress, buildings for sale, buildings with absentee landlords and weak management leave gaps in the shoveling, the corners will be difficult, and driveway plowers will block sidewalks leaving pedestrians in dead ends with knew deep snow and 6 ft mounds to cross.

Maybe it is a pipedream, but given the state of the world, cities are going to have to become more pedestrian friendly all year round. Maybe we shall know we have achieved climate resilience nirvana when after a snowstorm it is just as easy to walk around the city as to use any other means of transport. The current model of making someone a second class citizen for having a lower carbon footprint does not seem like a good strategy to me.

One thought on “walking in a winter wonderland

  1. Thanks Greg for once again calling attention to this issue, one I’ve been frustrated with for a long time and have seen moslty passing the buck and little progress.

    However, my sense along Smith St is that Providence homeowners, perhaps responding to messages from Mayor Elorza, have a done a somewhat better job this time.

    Public institutions not so much. Besides Greg’s note f highway overpass problems, note for example 48 hours after the end of the storm the inbound bus stop on Smith St at the Dept of Adminsitration building and the adjacent sidewalk was all blocked. Same for the 2 bus stops and sidewalks going from the train station to Smith St, even the sidewalk on the edge of the state house lawn, the same lawn that was partially paved over recently for more parking.
    North Providence, where the Mayor was quoted as saying he was “uncomforatble” with fining businesses for not complying is worse, with big companies/chains such as Citizens Bank, Shell Oil, Honey Dew Donuts, not only not clearing sidewalks, many dump their parking lot snow on public sidewalks that will likely remain long after most snow melts. Indeed thr toen did not clear sidewalks along its own proerty such as by Stephen Olney Park, Evans Field, the latter rght on Smith St.
    While the whole thing is to make travel easy for cars, some must think drivers magically are transported to the door of where they are going without having to walk on the streets!

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