Snow Still on Your Sidewalk? D.C. Says Shovel or Face Tickets, Fines
District residents may want to pay close attention to the snow piling up on their sidewalk this winter, as the D.C. City Council recently approved a bill that strengthens snow removal enforcement by allowing tickets and fines to be issued on the spot.
The "Winter Sidewalk Safety" measure rewrites a rarely enforced D.C. law requiring property owners to shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes. Property owners now have 24 hours to clear the snow so pedestrians can pass.
“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,” council member Mary Cheh says.
Violators issued tickets on the spot
The legal rewrite includes a simple citation system where property owners who don't follow the law and remove snow in a timely manner can be ticketed.
Under the old law, the Department of Public Works had to remove the snow, calculate the cost of snow removal on the property, provide the attorney general with the cost removal information, and then have the attorney general bring suit in superior court against the property owner.
Sound complicated? D.C. officials thought so, too.
Now, it’s a simple ticketing process, much like a parking violation. Metropolitan Police and officials with the city transportation and public works departments will be able to issue tickets to violators.
“It is nearly impossible to maintain [a safe] environment for our pedestrians and others with our current means of enforcement,” Cheh says. “The cumbersome and bureaucratic nature of [the old] policy has prevented the mayor from exercising any meaningful enforcement of our snow removal laws.”
Fines for slow snow removal
First-time violators will receive a warning, but the second violation will mean a $25 fine.
Fines are steeper for businesses.
First offenses will cost business owners $125. That goes up to $250 for the second violation and $500 for a third violation.
Cheh does point out that many Washingtonians do their part and remove snow from their sidewalks, as well as help elderly and disabled neighbors do the same.
Should you pay someone else to remove snow?
According to Angie's List research based on members reviews, consumers in Washington, D.C., can expect to spend an average of $595 on an annual snow removal contract, though the cost for sidewalk-only removal may be cheaper.
Prices can vary greatly depending on the area that needs to be cleared. Snow removal contracts also usually include cost per snow occurrence, so a snowier-than-average season may increase the price you pay for removal.
Tips to shovel snow properly
If you plan to go the DIY route and shovel your own sidewalk this winter, here are a few tips from our Guide to Snow Removal:
- Drink fluids so you're fully hydrated. Warm up your major muscle groups by stretching.
- Take frequent breaks, especially if the snow is wet and heavy.
- Use an ergonomic shovel because it lets you push rather than lift snow out of the way.
- Leverage the shovel close to your upper body with one hand near the blade.
- Try to keep your back straight. Use the major muscles in your legs and shoulders for lifting.