Cheh re-introduces the Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act

Legislation would enhance pedestrian safety by providing a real enforcement mechanism for the District’s snow removal laws.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) re-introduced the Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act of 2014, a measure that seeks to improve the enforcement of the District’s existing snow removal laws by adopting a simple citation system where property owners who do not follow the law are ticketed. Under current law, property owners are required to remove snow from sidewalks adjoining their property within 8 daylight hours following a snowstorm. However, the District’s current means of enforcement is extremely weak and impractical, resulting in limited compliance. Under current law, the Department of Public Works must remove the snow, calculate the cost of removal, provide the Attorney General with the cost removal information, and then have the Attorney General bring suit in Superior Court against the property owner.

“Maintaining an accessible, safe, and snow free urban infrastructure is an important aspect of the District’s transportation planning, especially given the large number of people who use our sidewalks as their primary method of getting around our city,” said Cheh. “However, it is nearly impossible to maintain such an environment for our pedestrians and others with our current means of enforcement. The cumbersome and bureaucratic nature of this policy has prevented the Mayor from exercising any meaningful enforcement of our snow removal laws.”

Under Cheh’s legislation, the District would impose a $25 fine on residential property owners and a $125 on commercial property owners. Both fines would rise for repeat offenses. However, the bill would require the Mayor to give all property owners one warning before penalties begin to be assessed. Additionally, to ease the burden on seniors and the disabled, Cheh’s bill would direct the Mayor to implement an exemption policy for those individuals, and encourage neighbors to assist those unable to remove the snow from their sidewalks.

“Although there are some residents and business owners who fail to do their part and remove snow from their sidewalks, many residents not only do their part and remove the snow from their sidewalks, but help their neighbors who are elderly or disabled by clearing snow from their sidewalks as well,” said Cheh. “However it is my hope that with the passages of this legislation we will show the community we are serious about their safety and encourage property owners to take the District’s snow removal policy seriously.”

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