During this morning’s walk in my Chicago neighborhood--when the temperature had soared to 8 °--I wrote in my small pocket notebook the addresses of two nearby businesses along Western & Peterson Avenues. Each, among several, had yet to shovel and/or de-ice their sidewalks, which I was getting pretty damn tired of negotiating on the way to the store or the bus stop, holding my breath the entire time for fear of slipping and falling.
I stopped into both of the businesses, first Jimmy John’s, then Napleton car dealership, to let them know that I would be calling 311 to report their civic transgressions to the city. This would involve their paying a hefty fine, which, more than doing the right thing, seemed to get their attention.
Well, we’ll see. I will be out there tomorrow to check on them. Because, really, who else would? Certainly not the city’s Streets & Sanitation Dept, whose trucks regularly plow piles of snow up onto the crosswalks at major intersections. Nor my 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O’Connor’s office. Truth is, I doubt that most city employees or aldermanic staff regularly walk on sidewalks, so why would they take notice?
Which leaves the health and welfare of pedestrians up to, well, us pedestrians. Which is why I felt inspired to write this Letter to the Editor at the Chicago Tribune last week.* I don’t recommend walking in the streets as a way to avoid icy sidewalks to everyone, but in many instances, I feel much safer doing so.
Sad commentary on “age-friendly” Chicago, ain’t it?
* Each winter, Chicago turns into a walking hazard
There's a certain irony in Chicago being designated an age-friendly city by the World Health Organization, especially for older pedestrians trying to navigate icy sidewalks on days like these last few. While drivers get streets cleared of snow as soon it lands, pedestrians are at the mercy of homeowners and businesses that may or may not clear their sidewalks of snow and the ice that accumulates when temperatures plunge. And so these past several days, I've taken to walking in the street instead of on sidewalks filled with ice. Not the best option for my 73-year-old bones, perhaps, but Chicago doesn't really offer me any other choice.
— Carol LaChapelle, Chicago