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Sidewalks In Chicago

February 21, 2014 Accessibility, Bicycling, Featured, Travel, Walkability 13 Comments

Last weekend my fiancé and I went to Chicago for a 3-day weekend. I’ve been numerous times since my stroke 6+ years ago, including last August, but each of those visits was by car with me as passenger or driver. This trip we took Amtrak so I could use my wheelchair since our primary reason for going was to see the Chicago Auto Show. I know here in St. Louis my chair can easily get stuck in just a tiny amount of snow so I was nervous about going to Chicago where they had lots more snow. As soon as we exited Chicago’s Union Station I realized how much Chicago values all modes of travel: auto, bike, bus, foot, chair.

Sidewalks, roads, ADA ramps connecting sidewalks and crosswalks were all cleared.
Sidewalks, roads, ADA ramps connecting sidewalks and crosswalks were all cleared. This photo taken at Harrison & Wabash, click for map.
A protected bike lane on S. Dearborn was cleared of snow.
A protected bike lane on S. Dearborn was cleared of snow.
All the bus stops/shelters had been cleared as well allowing us the use various CTA bus lines
All the bus stops/shelters had been cleared as well allowing us the use various CTA bus lines

You might be thinking “Sure, in the Loop. What about in the neighborhoods?” Friends picked us up for dinner Saturday night, driving us for Lebanese at Semiramis, located miles away from downtown at 4639 N Kedzie Ave.  The sidewalks, ramps & crosswalks were also cleared there.

— Steve Patterson



Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. Fozzie says:

    Convince another 2.5 million of your urbanist friends to move into the city of St. Louis. We can then have a conversation about resources, priorities, and values.

    • In 1950 the city, at 856,000, was severely overcrowded. The density in St. Louis was higher than the density in Chicago today.

    • And Chicago doesn’t do all the snow removal as a city service, they enforce laws requiring property owners to clear sidewalks. We have the same laws, we just don’t enforce them.

      • JZ71 says:

        Along with laws is a cultural mindset. Don’t know if it has to do with the greater amount of snow places like Chicago, Milwaukee and Denver get, but while not perfect by any measure, at least there’s more of an attempt in those cities by more people and businesses to get sidewalks cleared. Yes, laws are likely enforced more frequently (compared to not at all, here), but it really boils down to doing the right thing . . . .

    • fozziebear says:

      Can they please all be as condescending and bitter as you? We need more big thinkers like you in STL, definitely don’t have enough. You guys are the best at having conversations about resources, priorites and values.

      • Fozzie says:

        Condescending, yes. Bitter, no.

        I choose to deal in reality. The reality is that Americans enjoy their cars, that most people in St. Louis abhor public transportation, and that there isn’t an infinite pot of money to deal with every misaligned curb cut in the city,

        I will leave condescension to others when sweeping generalizations are made, such as suburbanites don’t care about preservation or snow piled on a sidewalk equates to a civil rights violation.

        • Adam says:

          no, you choose to accept the way things are. there’s a difference. the reality is that not all Americans enjoy cars (and based on recent car sales fewer enjoy them today than did a decade ago), there are cities in the US (both mid-sized and large) where car-optional living is possible and which STL can emulate, and that cities/habits/people change from generation to generation. anyway, while you waste your time here condescending to people who don’t care what you think, the rest of us will continue pushing for a city that doesn’t favor drivers over pedestrians.

          • JZ71 says:

            Not so much a city that doesn’t favor drivers over pedestrians, but providing a minimum level of service to pedestrians – one step at a time . . . . it doesn’t matter if you have great infrastructure if it’s covered in ice or there are repeated disconnects – missing curb ramps and/or blocked or missing sidewalks.

  2. Hi Steve. Living in Chicago now, my first instinct is always to compare services/methods/mindsets to those in St. Louis. As I did in St. Louis for 2+ years, I now work for a neighborhood Merchants Association (or Chamber of Commerce) in Chicago.

    In our district, we have one of about 40 SSAs (or Special Service Areas) which, similarly to St. Louis’ CIDs, collect an additional tax levy not to exceed .300% on all properties’ EAVs within the service area boundaries. Our SSA — and most others — maintain sidewalk snow removal contracts which vary from zero-tolerance to per occurrence.

    Also, like St. Louis, the City of Chicago maintains a Municipal Code deeming it the responsibility of property owners or documented managers to clear snow/debris/etc to provide a clean/clear public way. The difference though — and this, I feel, is the major reason we see so many problem properties and half-assed solutions in St. Louis — is that the City of Chicago will enforce that Code and ticket properties for which they receive service requests or see at fault in their day-to-day duties.

    Chicago’s Snow Removal page: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/sidewalk_snow_removal.html
    St. Louis’ Snow Removal page (Article IX): http://www.stlouispark.org/webfiles/file/city-code/Ch24StreetsSidewalks.pdf

    I’ll leave it to you which page is more helpful…

  3. Phil says:

    I learned when I moved to Minneapolis that snow removal was more important not just for the ease of pedestrians and bicyclists, but for the long term survivability of winter. If you don’t clean it up the first time and maintain, then it won’t be clean till April. I think Chicago has the same mind set as Minneapolis regarding cleaning up snow. St. Louis has the mentality that it’ll just melt on its own. Which in most years is true.


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