More education on keeping city walkable during winter

March 14, 2014 

John Smith walked in the street instead of on icy sidewalks along Martin Luther KIng Jr. Boulevard last month.

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Lexington has made huge strides toward becoming a more walkable city. But one lesson of this dreadful winter is that we must do a better job of being walkable in all weather.

As snowstorm followed snowstorm and frigid temperatures settled in, miles of Lexington's sidewalks became all but impassable for days, if not weeks.

Citizens who choose, or must, walk to work, to school to bus stops or to exercise themselves or their animals struggled to avoid injury. Too many of them wound up walking on the slushy edge of streets to get off icy sidewalks.

Lexington has an ordinance that requires property owners to remove snow and ice but it is rarely enforced. Enforcement is probably not the the primary answer to this problem but education could be.

With this winter fresh in our collective memory, this is the moment to begin planning how to encourage private property owners — particularly in areas that have regular foot traffic — to remove snow next winter.

This issue overlaps several areas of local government. The Bicycle-Pedestrian Commission, code enforcement, and those charged with assuring access for the disabled all have a role to play. In the private sector, neighborhood organizations, walking and cycling enthusiasts, advocates for people with disabilities and the business community should be involved.

We don't have a roadmap for who should take charge or what needs to be done. But it is time to initiate a public discussion about how to make Lexington a walkable city 12 months of the year.

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