Snowy Sidewalks Can Lead to Tragic Consequences

The death of a pedestrian struck on the Sousa Bridge on a snowy February morning is a tragic example of the vulnerability of pedestrians and of the importance of prioritizing pedestrians’ needs when it comes to maintaining the city’s travel routes. Joseph Brown, 61, was walking west across the bridge that carries Pennsylvania Avenue SE over the Anacostia River on February 14 when he was struck by a pickup truck. Brown appeared to have been walking in the far right traffic lane because snow plowed from the roadway was blocking access to the sidewalk.

Frequent snowfall this winter has created dangerous conditions on sidewalks all over the city. The failure of property owners to clear snow and ice has forced some pedestrians to choose between risking a fall on treacherous sidewalks or risking a collision with cars on clearer roadways. City law requires the removal of snow from sidewalks within eight daylight hours of the end of snowfall. This law is rarely enforced. Clearing sidewalks in front of public buildings and open spaces, or on public ways such as the Sousa Bridge, is the city’s responsibility.

The Pedestrian Advisory Council urges residents to take responsibility to shovel their sidewalks as soon as possible after snow falls and encourages them to work with neighbors to shovel the walks of residents who are unable to do so themselves.  The D.C. government also needs to take responsibility for clearing public properties across the District to protect pedestrians from harm.  The D.C. government is considering making pedestrians the District's "highest transportation priority," in the forthcoming moveDC plan, a multimodal long-range transportation plan, and clearing snow from sidewalks on bridges and in front of D.C. government buildings, parks, recreation centers and schools is an important part of this.

Written by Heather Edelman