There's no doubt that this last month's weather events have been frustrating for most people. For drivers, it's meant getting stuck on rutted roads and sliding perilously close to parked cars on the daily commute. But that pales in comparison to the frustrations of local residents who walk, bike or use public transit to get around. As we reported in last week's article, "Rider's Luck," people such as Jordan Ohlde, who has cerebral palsy and uses Cascade East Transit as his sole form of transport, are quite literally stuck at home when the snow piles up on the sidewalks and bus stops.
While we acknowledge that this season's round of storms has been quite unusual, stories such as Ohlde's are still deeply concerning—and it's a problem that falls on all of us. If your sidewalks are not cleared by now, you are part of the problem. If you have a business without a cleared sidewalk by now, you are most definitely part of the problem—and likely, one that is affecting your business when people are unable to reach it on foot or in a wheelchair.
According to James Goff, code enforcement manager for the City of Bend, the City handed out 933 notices of violations of snow removal guidelines as of Jan. 30. Goff said: "Six citations were issued to businesses not in compliance, but were later voided at the request of our city manager's office due to our extraordinary snow loads." In case you're curious, the fine for not shoveling your sidewalk is $200 in residential areas and $400 for all other zones.
Indeed, this has been an "extraordinary" year in terms of snow, and in terms of snow removal, it's been a monumental task for the City to stay on top of on the roads alone. It's also been a difficult time for homeowners faced with the threat of leaking or collapsed roofs. We take all of this into consideration. Adding a fine on top of an already-difficult situation may seem like insult to injury, but we posit that it shouldn't take a notice of violation—or even the threat of a fine—to move people to action at this point in the recovery. Business owners who fail to clear their sidewalks adequately—and that means adequately enough for a wheelchair to pass through—should be compelled by the simple fact that it's the right thing to do.
While currently on a hiatus for the winter, the City of Bend and the Oregon Department of Transportation are in the midst of improvements on Third Street, to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Surely we are not the only ones who find it ironic that currently, most parts of Third Street—even those parts already improved—are impassable for a person in a wheelchair. Even a sure-footed person may find it difficult to walk from point A to B.
While we venture to say that actually gathering those snow removal fines would add funds to a City budget that so clearly needs more dollars in its streets fund, we also believe that snow removal is just the right thing to do. It's not just about fines or the threat of getting one of those reminders from the City hung on your door. It's about caring for the people who simply want a way to get to work and to contribute to our community.