Earlier this week on his during his regular “Hotline” radio show, Mayor Jeffrey Graham of Watertown, New York (population 27,000), said that he thinks people who ride bicycles in the winter should be arrested.
“I know I’m going to get in trouble for this: People who are on bicycles out on streets like this — they should be arrested,” I mean, that is a clear and present danger that is being created, and if you’re going to sit there and make the argument that texting while driving is reckless, doing that is reckless and it creates a danger for them and the motorists.”
Despite making headlines around the county since, Mayor Graham has stood by his statement that people like me are reckless. Graham has even ignored local reporting after a Watertown man who has to ride bicycle to work because he suffers from seizures, was the victim of a hit-and-run. He even expanded his comments to include people in wheelchairs and anyone pushing a baby stroller who have to take to the streets because the sidewalks are not shoveled.
I have been thinking about this in light of my post yesterday about the State’s decision not to maintain the Hank Aaron State Trail in the winter. The upstate New York Mayor’s comments made me thankful that I live in a more enlightened community. I guess we have a lot easier battle to fight than people in Watertown.
The other thing that stands out in the recording above is the complete lack of concern for the rights of people with disabilities. When I was the City of Milwaukee Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, I got lots of calls during the winter from people with disabilities who couldn’t get to work because sidewalks or their bus stops were not shoveled. For those with disabilities who can drive, I heard complaints that they were forced into the streets after they parked because snow piles kept them from getting onto the sidewalk.
There are no police out there enforcing the rights of people with disabilities, let alone people who ride bicycles. And if there were, federal and state rules are pretty weak when it comes to clearing walkways of snow. Here is the federal guidance:
A public agency must maintain its walkways in an accessible condition, with only isolated or temporary interruptions in accessibility. 28 CFR §35.133. Part of this maintenance obligation includes reasonable snow removal efforts. (9-12-06)
Municipal rules tend to be more strict. The Milwaukee ordinance requires property owners to clear walkways of snow or ice within 24 hours after the snow and ice have stopped falling. Violators who are reported to DPW are issued a notice to clear the walk and will be assessed an initial inspection charge of $25 for the first notice, $45 for the second notice and $90 for subsequent violations per City Ordinance 116-8. If the sidewalks still are not clear the next day, a Sanitation crew will clear a path on the walk, and the charge will appear on the property tax bill.
Since the Hank Aaron State Trail functions as the sidewalk for Canal Street, the City of Milwaukee ordinance is pretty clear that the State is required to maintain it in the winter. Beyond that, because the City of Milwaukee agreed to own the bridges on Canal Street, the state and City have a formal Memorandum of Understanding about the Hank Aaron which defines who is required to do what. That MOU makes clear the State’s responsibility to clear the trail of snow and ice.
Given the City ordinance, and the MOU, it seems like the City of Milwaukee could take the stance that if someone made a formal complaint that the walkway along Canal Street was not being plowed, Sanitation workers would clear the path and charge the State for the work. People can make requests to get sidewalks or bus stops shoveled online here or by calling the City of Milwaukee Call Center at(414) 286-CITY (2489). If you want to use the Hank Aaron State Trail this winter, feel free to file a similar complaint.
Today I filled in a request to get the walkway along Canal Street plowed. I reported the problem at the intersection of W. Canal Street and Selig Drive, but because I am reporting a long section of walk that needs plowing, I added this description:
The Hank Aaron State Trail functions as a sidewalk along Canal Street, and the WDNR has not been plowing a path on it from the curb ramp at Selig Drive all the way to W. Milwaukee Road.
These complaints are logged, and I am sure someone will follow-up on it. I got an email response immediately after filing the service request and my case ID number is 101000667710. I will let you all know what I hear back. At least I don’t live in upstate NY and have to worry that I will be arrested for filing the complaint!