Sidewalk Snow Removal FAQ

Why do we need an ordinance?

While many responsible citizens in Newton do remove the snow from their sidewalks, some do not. Children walking to school, wheelchair users, parents with strollers, commuters, senior citizens, residents walking their dogs or with service dogs, and anyone else who needs to use the sidewalk is forced to walk in the street. Walking on the street, especially after dark, is dangerous for the pedestrian and the driver.

Why should Newton take this on? What do other communities do?

Most of the large cities near Boston already have residential snow clearing ordinances (Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, and Arlington). Newton would be one of the last to adopt this. Communities near us that do not have an ordinance have few sidewalks, and the town clears them all (Wellesley, Needham, Concord…)

Why can’t the city just plow all the sidewalks?

Newton has 531 miles of sidewalk, and although the city currently plows the highest-priority routes, to do the whole city would cost $1.8 million a year.

What will the penalties be for people who don’t remove the snow from their sidewalks?

(wait for ordinance passage to answer this!)

What about the elderly or people with medical conditions that make it difficult or impossible to remove the snow?

These are often the same people who need sidewalks clear of snow and ice! If it is not possible for a person to shovel, he or she can find a neighbor, friend or family member to help, or hire someone to do it. The Parks & Recreation Department has a list of people and contractors whom residents can hire to remove sidewalk snow. Call them at (617) 796-1500.

What about a person who cannot shovel and also cannot afford to hire someone else?

The Parks & Recreation Department (617) 796-1500 also has a list of volunteers willing to shovel for people who cannot afford to hire someone.

What if I don’t have a paved sidewalk abutting my property?

The city does not expect residents to remove snow if there is no paved sidewalk. If there is a level walkway, residents are encouraged to clear for those pedestrians who need a safe haven from traffic.

Why can’t people just walk on the streets?

Drivers do not expect to see pedestrians in the street, and are not looking for them. Pedestrians, especially those with strollers or using wheelchairs, take up a wider berth, and are not safe walking in the road. It’s also difficult to see pedestrians in the dark, rain or snow.

What if a contractor dumps snow on the sidewalk?

It is illegal in Newton for a contractor or anyone else to plow or dump snow onto a sidewalk. If you know this is happening, please report it to the City’s Customer Service office at (617) 796-1000.

Why should I be required to clear my sidewalk when the city doesn’t clear all the sidewalks abutting its property?

This has changed. The city is now clearing all sidewalks abutting public property. If they are missing a walk, call (617) 796-1000 and tell them about it.

What if I am away when it snows?

Property owners need to make arrangements to have snow removed if they won’t be doing it themselves.

What if I live on a dead end street and no one walks on the sidewalk in front of my house?

All sidewalks are needed for pedestrian safety—particularly for children.

My snow removal contractor doesn’t do sidewalks. Where can I find someone to do it for me?

Call the Parks & Recreation Department at (617) 796-1500.

What if I shovel the snow from my sidewalk and then someone slips and falls? Am I liable?

Based on a recent Supreme Judicial Court decision, if you do not shovel, you are no longer protected from liability. In other Massachusetts cities with sidewalk ordinances, there were no known instances of anyone suing an individual who shoveled the sidewalk.

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