Step 1 to Create a Pedestrian Friendly City

Shovel-Free School Zone by Immaculate Heart and IPS 84 in Meridian Kessler

A lot Urban Indy’s content focuses on decisions made by “the man”. You know, the guy/gal/power structure that messes up a lot, doesn’t always get the value of making Indianapolis a live-able city, and can’t seem to listen to our urbanophilic reason? Well, there are also a lot of things, simple things, that you can do to make central Indiana a better place to live and move around in. If you want people to be able to get around the city with ease, I have one recommendation for you today:

Shovel Your Sidewalk!

If you are reading this and you do not have a sidewalk, I am sorry for yelling at you there. I’m also sorry that you don’t have a sidewalk. That’s bunk.

But, if you’re like me, and you have a nice concrete pathway running through your front yard, you’ve probably seen many people using it from time to time. In my neighborhood, the people who are most often on sidewalks are kids headed to their bus stops. Too many children in Indianapolis do not have proper snow attire and, when people don’t shovel, have to trudge through snow in sneakers and cotton socks.  There are plenty of other folks who use sidewalks, too, and who are put at risk when people fail to shovel. Senior citizens use the sidewalks. People who either cannot afford a car or choose to go car-free use the sidewalks.

Clearing sidewalks demonstrates a concern for these neighbors, which is pretty important. But clearing sidewalks also happens to be a legal requirement of residents. Check out this city ordinance:

Sec. 431-106. Clearing snow and ice from sidewalks.
(a) The occupant of any premises, and the owner of any unoccupied premises, are required to keep the sidewalks in front of or adjacent to such premises cleared, so far as is practicable and reasonable, from snow and ice in order to facilitate pedestrian use of such sidewalks. The word “occupant,” as used in this section, shall be deemed to mean the person occupying for business, residence or other purposes the first floor of any building situated on the premises so occupied; and if the first floor of any building is not occupied, then such premises shall be deemed and held to be unoccupied and the owner or lessee of the entire premises shall be required to keep the sidewalks in front of or adjacent to the premises reasonably cleared from snow and ice.
(b) In case snow or ice has accumulated or fallen on any sidewalk or is continuing to fall after 7:00 p.m., it shall be removed, if practical to do so, or a sufficient path be cleared by the occupant or owner before 9:00 a.m. of the following day. If any snow or ice has fallen or accumulated on any sidewalk after 9:00 a.m., it shall be removed or a path cleared by the occupant or owner by 7:00 p.m. of such day, if the snow has ceased to fall by that time. In either of the foregoing events, the occupant or owner shall be deemed and held to have complied with the provisions of this section.
(c) Any person violating any of the provisions of this section, upon conviction, shall be fined in any sum not exceeding fifty dollars ($50.00).
(Code 1975, § 28-14)

The code gives us until  7 pm tonight to clear any snow, unless it’s still falling. Then, we have until 9 am the next day. That seems like something we can accomplish, right?

Comments 20

  • Id gladly shovel sidewalks in my neighborhood if I had em. Id shovel the whole block in thanks to DPW for choosing to install them.


  • Thanks for sharing this. It irks me every year when I see sidewalks covered in white. Now…what about enforcing that ordinance….

  • Well, I agree with what you are saying, and I do clear my sidewalks, but I think “the man” is going to have to be involved in any change in the culture in Indianapolis. The city is going to have to start handing out tickets. Still, even if there is no ramped-up enforcement, it would be nice if the mayor would go on TV and make a big push toward reminding people of their legal obligation, trying to persuade them to help elderly or disabled neighbors, etc.

  • I’ve lived for years in the Gardens of Canal Court complex that chronically fails to clear the sidewalks along West St. and St. Clair St. Finally, I got fed up and complained to the office staff. You know what they had the gall to tell me? In essence, because my apartment complex was designed like a fortress — alternating 10′ fencing with the backsides of garages along the perimeter streets — they don’t have an active use along the sidewalks and aren’t required to clear them. Oh, and even if they did, it’s the city’s responsibility to do so.


    So the next day I handed them a print out of the ordinance. They stood firm and said that there was no “occupant” along the perimeter of the complex so there was no need to clear the sidewalks. Never mind that our complex is just blocks from IUPUI and a significant percentage of people walk to campus, including my wife (at the time pregnant). They STILL wouldn’t budge.

    So I went to the city. And I got the circular pointing game. No one truly cares and no one truly knows who’s responsible for enforcing the sidewalk clearing ordinance. And even if they did enforce the ordinance, what’s a $50 fine to a 400+ unit complex?

  • I raised my kids just north of this photo’s vantage point. I’ll repeat here what I’ve written elsewhere many times about snow clearance.
    Once upon a time, I owned a house at the corner of two streets. One, a 4-lane Northside thoroughfare/busline, had the sidewalk next to the curb lane on a 60(?) foot ROW. Even there, about two or three extra feet of ROW existed “back of” the sidewalk in my lawn.
    Since the thoroughfare had a bus stop at my corner, and since I lived a block from a couple of schools that had heavy “walk to school” traffic, I religiously cleared my sidewalks by 8am. All 250 feet.
    Invariably, I would come out an hour or so later to find that the city snowplow had (finally) cleared the curb lane onto my clean sidwalk along the thoroughfare. By that time, the slush was too heavy for my snowblower, and I had to hand-shovel. And, of course, subsequent plowing would move even more slush onto the clear sidewalk.
    After a few years of this, I simply gave up. There’s only so much one person can do when he has to go to work. That was back in my “stand and fight” days; I was hoping for a non-clearing ticket so that I could prove that DPW was at fault. Alas, it never happened.
    Wonder what would happen if DPW had to return money from its budget ($50 per parcel) when it plows slush on sidewalks?

    • Yes, that must be frustrating. In the photo above, though, there was no plowed-up snow – just what had fallen directly on the sidewalk. With the city’s new reduced plowing and salting procedures, I’m not sure that any roads other than College and Meridian will be considered “first priority” – the level that seems to be required for plowing (unless snowfall is above 6 inches…).

      Before the city can ticket, they might need to address some internal compliance problems. Indy Parks seems to forget about shoveling/plowing like many individuals – the little parks in my new neighborhood didn’t have cleared sidewalks throughout the December snows.

      • That always bugged me about Central. There are four schools between 42nd St. and Kessler Blvd.: 84, IHM, 70, St. Joan, plus a busline. That should be reason enough to plow it.

      • Re Indy Parks: many of their parks don’t even HAVE sidewalks. Ellenberger has a little bit of sidewalk at its southwest and southeast corners. Christian Park has sidewalk along English Ave. and some along Sherman Drive at Pleasant Run. And Pleasant Run Parkway has no sidewalks. All the aforementioned areas have trails, but technically those close at dusk. If you want to walk for exercise in the evening after the time change, the Park Rangers can bust you.
        I did notice snow clearance on the Pleasant Run Trail once in December, but not with every snowfall.

        • True of most parks, but both Watson Bird Preserve and McCord Park (it’s a little triangle bounded by three roads) have sidewalks that are right along the street – those are the ones I’m referring to.

          Also, I looked at the “Indy Snow Force” website, where their FAQ states that IndyGo is responsible for making sure bus stops are clear. They suggest that riders are supposed to call them if an IndyGo stop is snow-plowed in.

  • You’re lucky you even have a requirement. Most of these hick Towns west of Indy don’t even require plowing.

  • I gotta give the Cultural Trail team some props for snow removal. I saw a team of five guys shoveling every inch of the trail along St. Clair earlier this afternoon. They’ve been Johnny-on-the-spot about keeping that clear all winter.

  • Between my neighborhood and the bus stop (30th + Mitthoeffer), there is a craggy, potholed, gravely litter-strewn curb, right against dangerous suburban stoplight-free traffic, that transit-dependent kids and elderly have to traverse to go get food. It’s even worse when there’s snow…

    The sidewalk starts at our house and goes into the neighborhood. We shoveled it today 🙂

  • Even the city doesn’t shovel their own sidewalks. Check the Mich. and New York St. bridges over White River. Those are city bridges and city sidewalks, yet the city never clears them. Thus, people walk in the street along the sidewalk.
    I’m also not so sure about shoveling sidewalks. Why not tell people to buy boots/snow shoes? When I shovel my driveway, the base snow starts to melt and turns to water. If it doesn’t dry and quickly evaporate, it always changes over to pure ice. I would rather walk in snow than walk on ice.

  • I walked from the Cosmo all the way to the ET building at IUPUI last night on shoveled sidewalks. That was along Senate, Indiana and then Michigan. There was some dusting on it, but it was otherwise clear. I was happy to see that at least

  • I guess to change the culture on sidewalk clearing in Indianapolis, I would first promote new infrastructure in the city to actually build WALKABLE sidewalks. It would be nice if just half of Indy’s sidewalks were pedestrian friendly to start with. For the most part here, I always find that sidewalks are a place for utility poles more than humans, unfortunately. I guess it’s nice that the snow covers our crippling infrastructure at times. As long as that stretch of 69 gets paved every other year though, we’ll be fine, right? Indianapolis: Build the Sidewalks and People may keep them clear!

  • There is a really poor culture of maintaining the built environment. When you listen to the politicians talk, its always about job growth, bringing people to Indianapolis. And they do good at that. But keeping people here, they dont do a lot about making the built environment very easy on the eyes. Sure we get great spaces like Monument Circle, the Cultural Trail, etc. But the everyday spaces just get brushed off.

    I dont have sidewalks in my neighborhood. My neighborhood group, its a non-profit, asks for sidewalks every year. We get the same response… “There is no money for it”

    My opinion, the city should be making room for this sort of stuff. Its infinetly cheaper to create brand new sidewalks, even where they dont exist, compared to repaving existing roads. And new roads…. those are even more expensive.

    Before I get too far off course though, it’s a poor thinking culture that we are stuck with. Nobody is aspiring to great levels. They may say they are, but when it comes to putting pen to paper, something always holds the decision makers from doing it.

  • It’s unfortunate, but I totally agree with you. It’s so true that Indianapolis culture is not one to value the everyday spaces that directly affect community livability. I wonder what would change this…besides higher taxes?

  • I shovel my sidewalk along with at least two of my elderly neighbors. When the plows come, I shovel again. I am usually one of only a few who even bother. The walk from my house to the Butler basketball game yesterday was very difficult for my father and his cane. I wish the city would enforce the ordinance. In Milwaukee, where my daughter is in school, you hardly ever see an unshoveled walk after 9:00 am in the morning. And, people use them, out walking, running, etc. Let’s go folks…no excuses get up off your A__ __ and shovel!

  • I have submitted some complaints for habitual downtown offenders on the RequestIndy web site. I’ll be interested to see what happens with them.

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