Let them walk on the road in 2011!

by Franke James

2011 unshoveled sidewalks

In Toronto we just got a big snowfall. The city is a winter wonderland… As I trudge along the snowy city sidewalks (en route to the park)…

Heated driveway but unshoveled walk

I look at the houses — like this very big one…

Close-up of heated driveway
with the pristine, perfectly heated driveway…

And adjacent to their energy-guzzling heated driveway…
Sidewalk in front of heated driveway home

is their unshoveled sidewalk!

And I think about my visual essay from 2008, “Let them walk on the road!”

Let them walk on the road

out for a walk on sunday

I am irked by unshovelled sidewalks

I wonder who lives in the homes

and why they don't shovel?

Are the people shovel nicer? Kinder? More thoughtful?

Are these people selfish?

Are they too old and frail?

I notice three homes in a row. They are identical, except for the unshovelled walk.

Nice people live here. Selfish people live here.

They just don't care I guess.

Pedestrians just don't get any respect.

Why can't they drive like everybody else? Let them walk on the road.

22 Responses: 12 Comments and 10 Tweets

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lloyd Alter, Lis Duarte. Lis Duarte said: RT @frankejames: Do nice people shovel the sidewalk? See: Let them walk on the road in 2011! […]

  • Whose Responsibility Is it To Keep Our Sidewalks Clear?

    “TreeHugger favourite Franke complains in one of her trademark photo essays that she is irked by unshovelled sidewalks. It is one of those contradictions, where the sidewalk is on city property. where we are not required to shovel the streets for cars, (the city has ploughs for that) but the sidewalks, for pedestrians, are the homeowners’ responsibility. Franke famously does not own a car and walks everywhere, so I am surprised by her complaint….

  • Well my first thought was: what a gorgeous neighbourhood and I wonder if I could afford to buy one of those properties (but if not, I can always consider Detroit).
    The sidewalks. My hunch is that indeed the cost/benefit of shovelling doesn’t seem worth it to the Owners Who Don’t Shovel. They are insufficiently aware of the Walks In Their World.
    if I *can* afford to buy one of those places, I hereby pledge to walk and re-walk and walk again in front of those houses (with my daschunds) so that the Owners Who Don’t Shovel get the message! :)
    ps – sometimes my mom and I don’t shovel up here in Yellowknife and it’s truly because my mom is literally too old and sometimes when I come home I’m just too tired.

  • Daharja says:

    Hmmm…I’m just imagining a greener city council for Toronto, where the council has mini ploughs that shovel the footpaths, but the roadway outside each home is the owner’s responsibility!

    Now that would shake everyone up a bit!

    Why don’t you suggest it?

  • Mary says:

    Another great photo essay! Your pictures reveal so much about neighbourhoods. Whenever snow falls on our street all the neighbours come out to shovel and reconnect. If someone is away we happily shovel their snow as well just as they would for us. The houses are very beautiful but I wouldn’t want to share the sidewalks with those people. I also wonder how much any of them walk. I’m sure they would be miffed if the streets for their precious cars weren’t plowed.

  • Terrell wong says:

    I shovel my sidewalk… Ok that’s out of the way…so I must be “good people”. I just wanted to note a small benefit from those who don’t. On a quiet night while jogging it’s like running on a beach. The extra work and coordination make it fun. Too bad this is only true for those fit enough to enjoy it. Ps I hate when the trucks with plows clear the driveway and dump it on the road……

  • Christine says:

    This sounds cliche, but a man was hit and killed across the street from my home, walking in the street. You can bet after that everyone in the hood got religion and started clearing their sidewalks. (Yes, I had done mine that night, but he was on the other side of the street.) In my city (Quincy, MA) it is the homeowners responsibility to shovel, and the law that you must, and I think that is a reasonable burden, and avoids a needless way to spend my tax dollars. Also, those sidewalk machines can really do a number on any cobblestone similar curbing you may have installed. BUT, it is not enforced, so people are at risk. It must be enforced, with fines to those who don’t clear the walks within 24 hours, and the city coming in to do it after 24 hours. Could be a great revenue source. One way or another, it should not be allowed to force pp onto the street. My two cents. Thanks for keeping treehugging alive and well!

  • Franke James says:

    Thnx Christine for your comment. Pedestrian safety is a big concern. When I first posted about this topic in 2008, there were a record number of pedestrian fatalities in Toronto.

  • Tammy says:

    …And imagine how people using wheelchairs feel about those unshovelled sidewalks! I have seen many forced to use the road to get around on, so dangerous! They don’t have the option of stepping up onto the snow to get out of the way…

  • C.J. says:

    I’m with Daharja on changing the “responsibility” for shoveling. Of course, I live in a place where we rarely get snow (South Carolina, USA), plus my rural area has no sidewalks at all. I think the saddest thing to me about this is that my location is not at all walk-friendly. The few sidewalks in town are in horrible disrepair. How can I, as a citizen, improve my town and neighborhood’s “walkability”?

  • Rebecca Whetstine says:

    Franke! I’ve never known you to be CRANKY! :)…

    Love your thought as always, my Applied Creative Enviro sister up North.

  • Franke James says:


    Oh yes. Unshoveled walks make me cranky, muttering to myself… BUT when a homeowner is outside shoveling their walk — THEN I praise them lavishly. Just yesterday I said enthusiastic thank you’s twice… of course they had no idea about this post, and what the backstory is.

    Thanks for your “slice’em, dice’em” late-night TV comment too.



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