Cultural Trail Clearance: Serious Business

Welcome to the flipside of the great freeze-out of 2014 (hopefully it will be the only one). I was happy to act as directed by the mayor and stayed home from Sunday until Tuesday afternoon. Fortunately, I didn’t have to leave the house to see something inspiring on the internet. Our man living next to the Cultural Trail, Joe Smoker, took this photo of the machine that keeps the Cultural Trail clear of snow and posted it on Facebook:

Screen shot 2014-01-08 at 8.15.15 PM
Image Credit: Joe Smoker

Apparently this machine arrived more frequently than the street plows, and it makes good sense.  One of Indy’s most valuable public assets is only good if it can actually be used by the public in all weather conditions, after all.

Comments 16

  • But what good is a trail if no one can get to it? Either via cleared sidewalks or streets? The resources would have been better off spent on clearing the streets or sidewalks before this trail.

    • Jeremy,

      I completely agree with you that we have an extreme lack of care for our area sidewalks, dry or snow covered. That being said, the CT is the primary pedestrian artery of downtown. To prove my point, I will share this. From door to door, I was able to get to my apartment, grocery store, work, bike shop, restaurant, movie theater and I was able to get a run in all because of the CT.

      As a side note, the CT is funded and maintained by an endowment set up specifically for this. It does not take from city funds or efforts on other public infrastructure.

      • If only more roads and sidewalks could be funded by specific endowments and other innovative funding sources instead of only taxes. I think we’d see much more responsive services in Indy as a result since the scope is much more specific.

        • Funding and will exists, we just need to show the elected officials who pays them and what we prioritize. All they hear now is complaints about road conditions, therefore, our resources go to roads!

  • In Edinburgh, Scotland, there used to be a rule (whether a bylaw or just common sense, I don’t know) where everyone took responsibility to clear their own stretch of pavement (sidewalk). A little bit of effort fron everyone made walking easy for everyone. If everyone did this and the authorities concentrated on the longer distance routes, then snow wouldn;t be such an issue.

  • Well according to the city municipal code:

    “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 problem is for one, this isn’t enforced. Two, what will $50 do to a multimillion dollar organization like banks, the Indiana State Fair Grounds, or Crown Hill cemetery. And those were just the places I passed on yesterday and today where pedestrians had to walk along the street or choose to walk through 1 foot of snow on the sidewalk. The penalty should be higher as well as enforced. At least IndyGo cleared many of their bus shelters yesterday. Not all, but many. A shelter on 38th street at the Avondale meadows is still not cleared. It seems like half of the bus stops are in grass so it’s not like they have to go to each and every bus stop. Anyway, city leaders have to know that it’s not safe for drivers or pedestrians if pedestrians are walking in the street to avoid walking through snow. Even with giving the roads precedence, people from NWI feel that job could’ve been done better, lol, .

  • And then there is the challenge of residents who do shovel there walks only to find city plows come through and spray road snow all over them and bury their walks in deeper snow than what originally was there.

    It’s clear we don’t have a good “We’re all in this together” plan for when major snow hits. Fortunately it doesn’t happen often, but maybe the frustrations from this week will lead to some meaningful dialogue and a better approach.

    • A better approach is definitely needed. Districts cancelled school this week; while Monday and Tuesday were understandable, Wed. – Fri. carried one common denominator. School leaders repeatedly cited the amount of snow on sidewalks as dangerous and unsafe, and they did not want kids standing out in the street waiting for the bus, which is what many adults have had to do at IndyGo stops. While some did point to icy side streets, the IPS superintendent specifically said, “I’m not worried about Big Yella gettin’ out there.” Some effort has to be put back into the sidewalks in these cases. Pre-salting of the sidewalks needs to be done if not by home owners, definitely by apartment managers and businesses. A $50 penalty for not clearing the sidewalk is chump change. For some reason, though, I don’t think this will get city officials attention. Someone has to spin this into an economic impact for city officials to care enough.

  • Thank you, Joe, for the image and accolades! For quick clarification- ICT, Inc., a not-for-profit, that manages the Cultural Trail uses both endowment funds as well as other charitable contributions to maintain the Trail…including clearing it of snow and ice during winter weather events. Thanks to all for using it and for the positive feedback during this past week! Be sure to sign up for the monthly Cultural Trail newsletter on our website to keep up with happenings & find other ways of supporting ICT, Inc.’s work.

  • I truly dream of time when Indianapolis residents will be able to walk down cleared sidewalks shortly after it snows. 431-106 should be rewritten. The phrase “if practical to do so” should be removed, because it is too vague. The fine should be increased to something closer to the $302 the City charges if they mow someones excessively tall lawn. Here’s an example of a clear policy which is taken seriously:

    Of course, rewriting the ordinance wouldn’t mean anything, if it isn’t enforced, as it isn’t now. A sea change in leadership is needed in order to change the culture of this city where the vast majority of sidewalks go unshoveled, regardless of whether they get additional snow plowed onto them. Let’s do better Indy!

    • And I’m always confused when there is a nice money making opportunity that gets passed up. Obviously, I don’t want them passing out tickets, just to pass out tickets (like the dumb red light camera money-grab). But to treat public safety like a major priority and make some money at the same time, seems like a good idea.

      I know in our neighborhood, the streets looked like a jackolantern with every other house scooping their walk. The houses that didn’t scoop still had the owners walking in and out but obviously too lazy to do their duty.

      FYI, I scooped my walk plus 10 feet of one neighbor’s walk (to be fair, he scooped it and then worked an 18 hour shift) and scooped all of my elderly neighbors’ walk 4 times on Sunday and once on Monday.

      • My all time favorite situation is the businesses that hire armies to plow their parking lots, but do nothing for sidewalks. A certain local concert venue near Mass Ave had 2-3 plows working constantly to fight the snow storm………nothing happened on the sidewalks accept where this photo was taken.

  • The cultural trail is nothing but an oversized sidewalk. Not a tourist attraction.

    • John,

      We know it is difficult to grasp the concept of a piece of infrastructure that, on the surface, seems a basic necessity to an urban environment. However, the Cultural Trail provided both a figurative and literal connection for the city’s main bike and pedestrian infrastructure. You may not have noticed, but prior to its implementation, there were limited options for people downtown to travel safely by foot, bike and wheelchair. We now have a route, dedicated entirely to pedestrians (save the Conrad cough cough), which allows for people to explore downtown safely. Yes, it seems to be a simple concept, but for a city built largely for the car, this investment showed a serious commitment to something else. You may not believe it to be a draw, but real life experience proves otherwise. I certainly hope you are able to enjoy the Trail and that it continues to make Indy a better place to live, work and play.

    • Personally, I think it is just the right size of sidewalk. Also, it is definitely an attraction. We live just off the trail and have friends from the burbs who park at our house and walk or bike to various downtown locales.

      Would you care to elaborate on why you think the lame? A good start would be to tell us where you live.

  • I live in Richmond Indiana. ..around an hour drive….and I have came over many times with my family and friends with our bikes just to enjoy the Cultural Trail and what it has to offer along the way! It has been so much fun and it seems we get a few more tag along every time we come over. The CT is an amazing asset to Indy and let’s us explore things in a way we never did before, Love It!

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