Winter 2014 is one of those winters we’ll always remember. The polar-vortex-style cold is compounded by constant precipitation — of varying degrees and types — and it seems that, even if you’re wearing two sweaters and a scarf, you’re always freezing on the walk to class. “Have you fallen yet?” has become a common question in a conversation between friends who haven’t seen each other in a few days. At the beginning of one of my classes, my professor suggested we get special cleats for the bottom of our boots to keep us from falling. Given the frequency of slipping and sliding on the way to class, I’m surprised I have not seen more of those. While the campus crews have been hard at work, it seems they can’t quite keep up. The University, as well as private businesses and local residents in Ann Arbor, need to take measures to step up their sidewalk-clearing game to keep everyone safe.

Ann Arbor has a city ordinance requiring that “non-residentially zoned property owners or occupants” must clear the snow and ice from their public sidewalks every day before noon. Sidewalks must be treated “with sand, salt or other substance to prevent it from being slippery,” and the city even provides residents and property owners with one 5-gallon bucket of snow-melting substances to aid in meeting this requirement. Residential area owners are also required to remove snow and ice within 24 hours of snow accumulation. Residents are urged to report violations of the ordinance to the community standards unit of the Ann Arbor Police Department, and violators can receive a $500 fine for their noncompliance.

Tattling may not the best solution, but people have been falling and getting hurt from these slippery conditions. This past week alone, two of my roommates fell on ice and got large and painful bruises that physically limited them for several days. It’s apparent that much of the danger is due to private businesses’ and individuals’ failure to shovel their portion of the sidewalk. The slush from the perpetual snow storm has turned into a thick layer of ice, and there is always new snow on top of that. These conditions are disastrous for anyone trying to walk to class. The Diag area is usually completely cleared, but the corner of Willard Street and East University Avenue, for example, is one of the worst. On my way to class in East Quad, I personally saw two people fall at this corner. It’s shameful that the local businesses haven’t taken the initiative to shovel their sidewalk areas.

This corner, and many others like it, technically don’t constitute “campus.” Considering that many of these areas are close to campus property — less than 10 feet away — it’s ridiculous that campus facilities haven’t been going the extra mile to keep these areas salted and safe. For example, students walking from the Diag to East Quad encounter a block of unsalted, unshoveled sidewalk simply because it isn’t legally University property and the University isn’t officially responsible for cleaning it. Granted, it is the job of the local businesses to take care of their sidewalks. But if they aren’t going to do it, someone has to. Is the University really going to leave these areas unsafe? The entire point of snow removal is to keep students and faculty safe on their commute to campus buildings. When entire patches of snow and ice are not touched for more than four days because they aren’t legally on campus property, the rest of the snow removal effort is pointless since University members still have no choice but to cross this hazardous terrain.

Ann Arbor is a college town. Most people walking around the campus-downtown area are students or faculty. It would be nice to think that all local businesses, the University facilities responsible for cleaning the “campus area,” and residents with public sidewalks would all care enough about their fellow Michiganders to clear the sidewalks and make them less dangerous. It would not take much time if everyone did their part and cleared their portion of the public sidewalk when the snow first fell so that it did not turn into impossible-to-remove ice patches. Their liability for not only benign bruises, but for broken bones, god-forbid, should be weighing heavily on their conscience. For the sake of the elderly and disabled, snow removal is even more important than a neighborly obligation, but a neighborly necessity.

Some may argue that the recent salt shortages and the extreme nature of these conditions have made it hard to keep up with snow removal. In this case, I propose that the University put up warning signs near slippery areas, and attend to those areas as soon as they appropriate the resources. They could even close off potentially injury-threatening areas to the public until more salt arrives to remedy the situation. Instead, the corner of Willard and East University has remained covered with a thick sheet of ice, traversed by hundreds of students a day, for this entire past week. I would assume that is enough time for local businesses or campus facilities to obtain salt and apply it to the sidewalks, though we are still waiting for that to happen. In any case, when the conditions are hazardous to our health and well-being the University should be doing more to protect us from getting hurt on our daily commute, and residents should step up and take the initiative to protect their fellow Ann Arborites in the struggle against Winter 2014.

Maura Levine is an LSA junior.

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