Making Winters Walkable

We know people walking and rolling will not be able to get around our city reliably until our sidewalks are usable all year round.

Right now in Minneapolis, the responsibility of snow clearing falls on individual property owners. This leads to many sidewalks and crossing areas not being cleared of snow and ice promptly in the winter. When sidewalks and crossings are cleared, they are not consistently maintained for people who are walking and rolling. Unfortunately, this is a system that just does not work. If even a single property owner fails to clear their sidewalk, an entire block can become impassable.

This is an equity issue. People who have restricted mobility and disabled people cannot access destinations as a result, leading to a reduced quality of life in winter. Meanwhile, our the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County clear thousands of miles of roads for cars each snowfall. Our systems and norms prioritize clearing roads for cars, but not sidewalks for people. The ability to comfortably walk and roll in our communities should not be seasonal, it is a basic right.

That’s why we launched an advocacy campaign to make winters walkable in summer 2018. Since that time we collected thousands of signatures in support of better winter sidewalk maintenance. Our advocacy to make winters walkable resulted in Mayor Frey adding new funding for improved corner clearance in the 2020 City Budget. Our work in this area continues to spark conversations about how our city ought to approach winter sidewalk maintenance.

The City of Minneapolis, in response to pressure from the community, carried out a winter sidewalk maintenance study. This study evaluated several options for clearing sidewalks, ranging from increasing public awareness to creating a city-led program to shovel sidewalks. The City also increased enforcement of sidewalks that were not being shoveled. However, these measures have not resulted in sidewalks being shoveled and cleared regularly in the winter.

A Call for City-led Sidewalk Clearing in Minneapolis

This January 2022, we announced our efforts to call on the city to invest in a municipal-led snow clearance program. This is one step towards making winters in Minneapolis more accessible for people walking and rolling.

We are asking for a city-led municipal sidewalk clearing program. Minneapolis, in its recently adopted Transportation Action Plan, established a Pedestrian Priority Network. These are streets where improvements to walking and rolling infrastructure will be targeted. We don’t believe that this network can truly prioritize pedestrians unless it is walkable in winter as well. We are asking the City to implement a city-led sidewalk clearing pilot program on the pedestrian priority network. This program will have the following benefits:

  • Open up city destinations to people walking and rolling throughout the winter, especially for people who have mobility restrictions
  • Ensure that street corners and transit stops on our cities most frequented streets are properly cleared
  • Remove the disproportionate impact of sidewalk shoveling enforcement on people of color, people of low income and disabled people
  • Advance the City’s goal to have 3 of every 5 trips be by walking, rolling, bicycling or transit by 2030
  • Give the City a better understanding of costs and resources needed to maintain sidewalks in winter

 We will launch advocacy efforts, including door knocking, phone banking and community outreach, in Fall 2022 to coincide with the 2023 City budget setting period. 

Read our announcement here.

Take Action, Spread the Word

We'll be ramping up efforts in Fall 2022, but you can still make an impact this winter season. Raise awareness of the issue by sharing photos of inaccessible sidewalks you see around the city. Send an email to the City of Minneapolis and post your photos on social media using the tag #MPLSsidewalks. 

Clear here to auto-fill an email, or copy and paste the template below. Be sure to include your photo and name. Include your City Council representative (find contact information here).

BCC: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

" Dear City of Minneapolis Public Works,

I am asking you to invest in a municipal sidewalk clearing program. Currently, individual property owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks. This has led to inconsistent clearing and ice piling up throughout the winter months. It is difficult to navigate many areas of the city, especially for those with disabilities and mobility challenges. The ability to walk and roll in our communities shouldn’t be seasonal, it is a basic right.

The 2023 City of Minneapolis budget should include a line item for a municipal-led snow clearance pilot program that focuses on the pedestrian priority network. This will increase accessibility and improve the walkability of our city.

Thank you for your time and consideration. "

You can find out more about our winter sidewalk advocacy by checking out the winter tag on our blog.

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