Some of Evanston’s more inconsiderate residents haven’t done anything yet to clear their sidewalks from the six-inch snowfall that hit the city Sunday morning.

A city ordinance requires that walks be shoveled when there’s a snowfall of four inches or more.

And that message seems to have gotten through to some people who didn’t bother to shovel their walks after smaller snowfalls earlier in the month.

A walk around a neighborhood near downtown this morning found more sidewalks shoveled than had been the case with those earlier storms.

One walk shoveled — but lots of luck at the next house on the block.

Another city ordinance provision purports to require that sidewalks be kept clear of any snow.

But that provision requires building inspectors to provide notice of the violation and an opportunity to fix it before a violator can be taken to administrative adjudication where they’d face a $75 fine.

From the continuing city-wide non-compliance, it would appear that whatever effort city workers make to enforce the regulation does not have much effect in preventing recurring violations.

Discussion question: What should be done about people who fail to shovel their sidewalks?


Update 1:40 p.m.: The city is looking for people willing to help shovel sidewalks for the disabled and elderly who can’t shovel themselves. To help out, call the city’s volunteer coordinator, Shanee Jackson, at 847-448-8266 or e-mail at sljackson@cityofevanston.org.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Sidewalk shoveling

    What should be done about inaccessability and pedestrian hazard in the business districts:  the un-removed snow around the parking meters, between curb and the shoveled part of the walk? 

  2. snow removal

    It would also be considered considerate if people would park so that the walk way is clear. We clear our walkway that leads to the street, then people block it when they park! 

  3. Shoveling walks

    Perhaps a thoughtful, "Thank you for all of those neighbors that have/do shovel"… " a gentle reminder to those who may be unaware of the 4" snow fall ordinance" AND … "If you need help shoveling" (perhaps elderly, like my next door neighbor… or recently injured like my other neighbor) …"here’s a number you can call for assistance"…would be a considerate approach to communicating with the tax paying residents of Evanston. Merry Christmas.

  4. Great Question, Bill

    Before I go into this, I would like to point out that the carbon footprint from running a carbon spewing gas burning snowblower for 30 minutes is bigger than the carbon footprint of moving 500 people coast to coast on a fully solar powered bullet train, so I would like to see the City Council ban snowblowers due to their carbon emissions. As to your question, given that people need access to the train system to reduce our town’s carbon footprint, I think anyone who fails to maintain their sidewalks properly should be punished severely. I would like to see a sidewalk commission established and the commission should be staffed with 6 full time workers with full pensions kicking in after 20 years and full benefits (including retiree medical). On snowy days, the commission would inspect the amount of snow on each sidewalk and assess penalties as follows: First offense: Stern warning from an administrative law judge and 10 hours of community service Second offense: $5000 fine and 20 hours of community service Third offense: $10,000 fine, 48 hours in jail and 100 hours of community service Fourth and final offense: Property is deemed abandoned and escheats to city due to owner’s failure to maintain The sidewalk commission would also be tasked with making sure there are not cracks or dangerous obstructions on sidewalks, with punishments for those infractions determined in the commission’s discretion. The revenues generated from the fines and seized houses could then be used to fund branch libraries and additional research into alternative energy and organic farming methods.

  5. Vacationers?

    We make arrangements with our neighbor to shovel when we’re out of town, but seeing as how many people are out of town for the holiday week, perhaps we should cut those visiting their families away from Evanston some slack this week?

    Personally I’d much rather see fines levied against all the deadbeat landlords and bank-owned houses on my block who NEVER EVER clear the walkway in the winter or cut the grass in the summer than someone out of town who might take *gasp* two or three days to get to their walkway.

    1. Vacationers? Naaahhhh.

      Of course being out of town is a plausible reason for not shovelling…every now and then.

      But the ire you read about here does not stem from the occasional failure to shovel. No, the offenders in question are repeat offenders: able-bodied people of means who own and occupy their houses and just don’t bother….year after year.

      Thanks, Bill, for speaking up about this at the beginning of the snow season. It might actually make a difference.

  6. ” Inconsiderate” is pretty

     " Inconsiderate" is pretty harsh.  Snow removal is expensive, and lot of older residents cannot physically clear their walks themselves. I would have rather seen this post discuss the options for people who you have deemed "inconsiderate" then just call them inconsiderate.  You are inconsiderate and unprofessional.


    1. When people live in million-dollar homes…

      When people live in million-dollar homes, as do some folks in the neighborhood I was talking about, but can’t either shovel themselves or pay someone to do it for them — they are being inconsiderate. In fact that is about the mildest term I can think of that fits.

      I have also seen people who’ve had a service with a pickup truck come by and plow out their driveway, but leave the sidewalk covered in snow and ice.

      In a town that is supposedly trying to be pedestrian friendly, this sort of behavior is unacceptable.

      And don’t claim that all the people who don’t shovel are elderly and disabled. Many of them are perfectly able-bodied and could well afford to pay to have their walks shoveled if they are too busy to do it themselves.

      1. Great points

        I would also like to see a special tax assessment levied on those million dollar+ homes to pay for city snow removal for the elderly and those who cannot afford to pay someone else to do it.

      2. Apparently many of Evanston’s wealthy can’t afford a snow shovel

        I too have noticed over the years that the biggest scofflaws when it comes to snow removal are those who live in the 7-figure homes in town.  Try to walk down sidewalks on streets like Forest, Orrington, Lincoln and Sheridan, among others.  Then go to some of our less affluent neighborhoods and compare the number of unshoveled walks. 

  7. Shovel, already

    Thank you, Evanston Now, for posting a picture of one of my favorite (?) snow scofflaws. Not only does their front walk routinely go unshovelled, their overgrown front hedge hangs over half the sidewalk.

    This isn’t Naperville. People walk here. The person who falls on your front sidewalk is someone who lives or works in your neighborhood.

    Kudos to all those who shovel–even if it’s only a narrow one-shovel-wide-path. There are plenty of ways to get it done, even if the property owner isn’t up to it physically. Make a deal with a neighborhood middle-schooler. Hire the guy who rings your doorbell and offers to shovel your walk for a fee. Pay your neighbor who has a snowblower to take care of it for you.

    Notice of a violation? Ha! If Evanston can find a way to ticket my car parked in front of my own house seconds after a street-cleaning regulation takes effect, it can figure out how to ticket and collect from snow scofflaws. Write the law, pass the law, and enforcement will pay for itself, along with few other line items on the city budget.


  8. Thank you for pointing out this ongoing problem

    Unshoveled walks have been a seasonal complaint in our household.  I do think that the city should be aggressively enforcing the existing ordinances.   The selfishness of able bodied homeowners not removing snow has tangible consequences.   In addition to making this city less walkable during the winter, I guarantee that over the course of the winter there are a number of folks breaking wrists, arms, or ankles that could provide evidence of the cost of the inaction of these selfish homeowners. 

    In these tight financial times for the City, may I suggest that the fines be increased to appropriate levels to pay for enforcement of existing ordinances.   For those residents with legitimate reasons for not being able to clear the snow (e.g. low-income elderly or disabled homeowners), the revenue from the appropriately increased fines could also be used to employ Evanston youth who could be part of a Snow Removal Core.

  9. An invitation to the criminal element …

    When people don’t shovel their walk or front stairs and walkway it makes it very easy for robbers to see that no one is home.  That should be incentive enough for people to take care of business in front of their home.

  10. Snow

    How about work with your neighbors to make it a block or multilink responsibility?   There are several such neighborhoods around town.  In the area I live it started years ago with one neighbor with a snow blower who wanted to make sure the many local kids could get to Dawes.  He’d cut a path on snow events like this past weekend to the crossing guard. 
    Cooperation steadily expanded to doing a block or two in either direction from his home with help from one or three others. A significant snowfall brought out most of the Dad’s to clear the whole street and at a later event the street and the alley. After about 12 years about 5 neighbors have snowblowers and without prior agreements clear the public sidewalks in a 4-block stretch.  Clearing the sidewalks has been a community responsibility for about 20 years.
    It’s not about not letting the lazy neighbor get away with something.  It’s about making it safer to get around in our area and taking responsibility for making that benefit happen.
    This is more the norm than the above comments would suggest, but then comment pages tend to attract grumpy types.
  11. I agree with those who’ve

    I agree with those who’ve already posted about the negative slant…. and would have preferred a thanks and shout out to those who were able to get out and shovel, especially during and over the holiday weekend along with a reminder for us able-bodied (and in residence over the holidays) to help out our fellow neighbors. ‘Tis the season….  I don’t really thing Evanston Now should be the place for personal pet peeves of the author to be aired. 

    I’m also a bit concerned as to the seeming lack of plowing/shoveling by the city and park districts.  We live on a heavily trafficed  street (Custer Ave) and didn’t seem as though they (city) did much of a job clearing away the snow, leaving huge piles at intersections where I’d witnessed a number of cars getting stuck from having to stop and then start again once safe to proceed.  The sidewalks at 3 large parks were never shoveled/cleared from the earlier snowfall and have a nice sheet of ice as the foundation …. thankfully we have the climate change warm weather approaching this weekend that is sure to melt the ice and we can begin again in January….

  12. Snow Removal on Canal Bridges is Non existent

    I am not sure whose responsibility it is, but there seems to  NEVER be snow removal on the bridges over the canal at Main St. 

    This is a pedestrian-heavy area with people walking from east Skokie to the Food 4 Less, etc… There are always people having to walk in the street, which is really unsafe.

    I woud guess that it is probably the City’s responsibility, but someone needs to be held responsible for it.

  13. I have to agree with others,

    I have to agree with others, perhaps one way of closing the budget gap is to actually fine people who don’t shovel, whose garbage cans block the sidewalks, etc., etc. The city probably could have picked up an extra thousand dollars this week from my block alone.

    Several of my neighbors are elderly and require walkers to move about. When people don’t shovel their sidewalks, it forces those with walkers to use the street instead–definitely a dangerous practice. I’ve also seen children coming back from school choosing to use the streets rather than walk through the snow.

  14. Holiday weekend

    Having just returned from out of town for the holiday weekend today, I have to remind folks that it’s possible that some people were not home this weekend to shovel.  Yes, they should have thought to make arrangements with a neighbor or a service for snow removal should it be needed, but not everyone thinks that way. Unfortunately. 

    I actually was pleased with how my neighbors had cleared the walks (including my apartment building’s management). I had much greater issue with how poorly  the street was plowed!!! Perhaps half was done, but not one side — parts of both sides. I suspect neighbors and visitors weren’t paying as much attention to odd/even snow parking requirements, but it would have been good to see the enforcement of the parking rules as well as the sidewalk clearing ordinance. 

  15. snow shoveling

    i have to agree wholeheartedly with anonymous #36b above on the issue of downtown non-shoveling of the sidewalks, and especially paths to the parking meters.  i was downtown today at the post office.  my husband let me off in the street, as the snow was piled on the sidewalk by the curb.  i had to walk to the alley to access the sidewalk.  i suggested to the postal worker inside that the person in charge of snow removal had quite a bit more work to do.  as i left the building, a woman was struggling to put money in the parking meter, almost losing her footing in the mound of snow.  of course, if we fail to feed the meters, tickets would be forthcoming, wouldn’t they?  i wonder if there is any way to get business owners to clear paths from the street to the meters, at least a few per block, so we don’t have to walk in the street and then clamber over a mound to feed the meter?  there are all these campaigns to "buy evanston";  this would seem to be a campaign that the chamber and inventure could get behind.

    as to the neighborhoods, i too am puzzled by able-bodied, affluent neighbors with teens and pre-teens who don’t seem to care.  living on a busy street as we do, lots of people walk, so the sidewalks really are used, and should be cleared in a reasonable period of time.  

    rather than all the punitive stuff, how about hiring some of the unemployed to run motorized sidewalk brushes, as they have in wilmette?  then the only parts left to the homeowner are driveways and walkways to the house.  they could be paid a minimum wage, giving the young people job experience and some pay, and not costing the city an arm and a leg, plus making the city much more safely walkable.




    1. Homeless

      Love the homeless comment. Go ahead and ask a homeless person to remove snow for minimum wage. They will laugh in your face. Either because they are drunk, crazy or make more money shaking a cup in front of those suckers dumping money in their cups.

      1. Homeless and work

        Ten or so years ago there was a homeless man [actually parents lived in Wilmette] who would sleep in hallways on the north side of Evanston but would be seen in downtown Evanston or Wilmette.

        You may remember him, 40ish, thin, ragged beard, and carrying a pack of papers.  He obviously had mental problems or past drug/alchol problems [did not seem to take either at that time].

        The Episcopal church on Lincoln took him in, gave him a job taking care of the lawn, etc. and as the Evanston Review reported at the time, he seemed to be adapting back into society.

        It took more than a job [I’m sure the church counseled him and worked with him] but sometimes that can help.

      2. Shocked

        I am saddened and shocked to read your comment.  Even anonymously I’m surprised someone would write such a thing.

  16. I love this town.

    I moved to Evanston because I love telling people I don’t know how to think, act and live.

    When they fail to shovel their walks, I’m in curmudgeon heaven. "Be like me!", I shout at them. "What about the children?".  Arrgh!

    Yelling at dog walkers is even more fun.

    I love this town.

    1. Yup

      Welcome to Evanston.

      Class warfare has no place in society.  Has no place here in Evanston, but eagerly exists.

      Ironic that some use lack of snow shoveling to divide and castigate, to ridicule the affluent just becuase their homes have not been shoveled?  Fine.

      But, I guess every middle to low income class home is perfectly shoveled?  Sure.  I guess no one is commenting on every other neighborhood in Evanston.

      Nice double standard.  Classic lefty play.

      Just pure comedy and frankly sad, sad commentary on some of you posters on this thread.

  17. Evanston must be a nice place

    Evanston must be a nice place if this is all you have to worry about.  What do you people talk about when the snow melts…how residents don’t cut their lawn?  I see articles on real issues on this site that have zero postings.  Wake up Evanstonians.

    1. When the snow melts …

       … some Evanstonians spend their time talking about landscaping contractors who violate the city’s seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

      — Bill

  18. shoveling

    to anonymous #31c’s comment about the homeless:  if you read my comment, you will see that i referred to unemployed, and young people; i never mentioned the homeless.  it’s probably a good idea to read carefully before sounding off…….


    mary brugliera

  19. Ah, one of my personal favorites as topics go.

    1. As for ‘homeless’ shovelling snow – actually, the wonderful Evanston-based organization Connections for the Homeless tried over the past couple of years to operate a program in which their clients – the Homeless – shovelled snow for local churches and condo buildings and others.  Unfortunately, the program was discontinued due to insufficient demand for the service.

    2. As for the downtown business district, it is shameful how the snow removal is handled.  I’ve lived in parts of the country that have much harsher winters than here with far more snow.  They are very effective at first clearing all snow from the sidewalks — especially including around the parking meters.  The task is done at night when parking isn’t allowed – so no cars to contend with.  They first use equipment to push all snow into the street from the sidewalks and meters.  They next use street equipment to scoop up all the snow into dump trucks and haul it out of the downtown area.  The goal is to make shopping safe and easy.  In Evanston, with its brutally efficient parking enforcement Nazi’s, shoppers must climb mounds of snow and ice to even reach the parking meters and that often only after fording the 3 feet wide pool of salted/chemical laden water that has ponded at the curb.  Once stranded at the meter, you have the joy of trying to climb through the unshovelled portion of the walk to reach the litte strip of the sidewalk that WAS actually shovelled.  Some store owners are good at digging a trench to the curb in front of their businesses – and I applaud and appreciate them.  Most are not.  They are NOT getting the services they deserve for being in an SSA, with elevated taxes for special services.  This town is a disgrace in how unfriendly it makes the central business shopping district when it snows like this storm did.

    3. As for neighbors who do not clear their snow – I don’t think the city enforces their policy at all.  It’s the same neighbors year after year who do nothing.  In some cases, I’m sure they simply are proud of trying to live in their homes beyond the years they should – they need assisted living – but unable to pay for services.  I’m glad to see there is a city volunteer coordinator – I never knew that before this article.  Neighbors of these neighbors should call this coordinator to arrange service.

    Better would be to live in Skokie.  I love how the Village of Skokie shovels all the residential front walks.  And politely efficient about it too. If your car is parked on the wrong side, they don’t rush to write you a citation like Evanston – they walk up to the door of home its parked in front of and knock to ask the occupant whose car it is and inform them it must be moved.  As a Realtor doing open houses in Skokie, I’ve numerous times witnessed the civil problem-solving way Skokie goes about moving cars for snow removal and for street cleaning.  But – most of all I’m impressed with their snow removal of the front public sidewalk (not the walk to the door.) 

    Why can’t Evanston be so politely civil and solution-focused instead of so citation and violation oriented.  It’s about civil service and civic duty – as a community – instead of living in a totalitarian police state.  Skokie has it modulated better.  (I know – I can hear the voice of the Evanston nattering negative nabobs- why don’t I move to Skokie? … perhaps I’m working on that very possibility.  But is that really the right solution?)

    Come together people – snow removal shouldn’t be this tough a problem to solve – other communities are far more effective at it.

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