Evanston aldermen may be on the verge of tightening requirements for homeowners and landlords to shovel snow from sidewalks.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, Monday night referred the issue to the city’s Administration and Public Works Committee.

That followed a Transportation and Parking Committee meeting last week at which Fleming and other aldermen appeared surprised to learn that current regulations only require residents to shovel public walks after snow tops four inches within 24 hours and gives them another 24 hours to get the job done.

“We’ve got to change that,” Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said at the Transportation and Parking meeting.

Title 7 – Public Ways 7-2-9-3 (A):

Snow and Ice. Whenever there is a snowfall with an accumulation of four inches (4″) or more within any twenty-four (24) hour span of time, every owner or occupant of a dwelling or other building, or proprietor or lessee of any enclosed lot or premises, shall clear a path at least thirty-six inches wide (36″) on the sidewalks in front of or adjoining such house, building or premises of snow and ice. The path shall be created and cleared within twenty-four (24) hours of any four-inch (4″) or greater snowfall, and the path shall be maintained and clear of snow and ice. If the snow and ice is hardened and congealed such that removal is unduly burdensome or may damage the sidewalk, the sidewalk shall have sand, salt or similar deicing material spread upon its surface. The path shall be cleared and created to give access to abutting property and public ways. All landlords shall clear snow and ice from private sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces, parking lots, and similar areas on private property to permit access for tenants and invitees to such private property.

Discussion at the meeting focused on reducing the amount of snow that would be required to fall before the shoveling provision takes effect and possibly requiring the shoveling to be completed more quickly.

A separate provision, in the city’s housing code, requires that private sidewalks be kept clear of snow and ice, but does not include any specifications for how much snow must fall to trigger the rule or how quickly the walks must be cleared

Title 5 – Housing Regulations 5-1-3 302.3:

Sidewalks and Walkways. All private sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces, parking lots and similar areas on private property shall be kept in a proper state of repair, and maintained free from hazardous conditions including, but not limited to, snow and/or ice.

In practice, like many other city government activities, snow-shoveling enforcement is complaint-driven — generally requiring a resident to call and complain about a neighbor’s unshoveled walk before a city inspector shows up to begin enforcement action.

And, given the limited number of inspectors available, it’s not clear whether the city could effectively enforce a substantially stricter shoveling requirement.

So far aldermen have resisted the idea of paying city staff or contractors to shovel sidewalks in residential areas of the city. Even though some neighboring communities have such programs, the conclusion here has always been that they would be too expensive.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. City plowing street snow into cosswalks

    Evanston must first addresst the problem of city snowplows moving dense snow/ice into pedestrian crosswalks creating impossible navigation for people.

    1. Absolutely!  It is hard for

      Absolutely!  It is hard for any pedistrian to navigate those heaps of snow created by the plows.  For those of us who have limited mobility and use a cane or a walker, it is positively dangerous.  I would be willing to pay an “Evanston winter surcharge” of some kind to get the city to take over both clearing the sidewalks and ensuring that every crosswalk was safely accessible.

      1. Hire a Kid

        Can residents take matters into their own hands and if not shovel themselves, hire a teen or someone who could use the albeit minimal income from shoveling?

        I remember folks knocking on doors to inquire if they needed shoveling after every large snow.  Or maybe have a standing arrangement with a kid or someone to shovel after each big snow.  

        Perhaps a nice way to support those who need the income rather than pay the city to do this.  I feel my dollar would go a lot farther with someone in the community who could use it rather than the city coffers. 

    2. City plowing street snow into crosswalks

      Most people can walk through 4 inches of snow on the sidewalk, but getting over the piles left by the city snowplows can be difficult even for young agile people.

  2. Why is it too expensive to

    Why is it too expensive to have public works shovel sidewalks, but they can afford to plow the streets? Of course leaving shoveling up to homeowners is going to leave patches of sidewalk that are unshovled. I’m not convinced that giving out fines is going to fix the issue either.

    Also the bike lanes are frequently left snowy and icy forcing me to bike outside of the bike lanes.

    1. The almighty bicyclists

      You bike people are unbelievable. It’s the middle of winter in the Midwest and you dare complain about how there is snow in your precious bike lanes. Let’s inconvenience the majority of people who are in VEHICLES because somebody insists on getting their riding in a day after heavy snowfall. I love to ride my motorcycle, should I cry and complain until they no longer use salt so I can ride my bike year round?!? 

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