Keep pedestrians safe: shovel your sidewalks


Nate Dejong, Guest Columnist

Another holiday season has come and gone. As we pull ourselves through another winter, we are reminded yet again that we live in the northern Midwest, where this season tends to bring us cold, snow, more snow and more cold. I know many of us despise the snow-shoveling season and the responsibilities that it brings (especially after the last few winters), but I encourage you to give some thought to these responsibilities now, particularly the ones of snow removal. Besides driving on roadways, sidewalks are one of the main avenues of transportation for both bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

Being a community that is home to a sizable university, there is a large number of individuals —students and professors alike— that use the sidewalks around campus every day during the school year. With this in mind, I would like to encourage everyone to continue to be diligent in keeping these sidewalks clean after a snowfall in the areas surrounding campus.

There are several important reasons landowners or residents might be compelled to keep their sidewalks clean. First, it is common courtesy, and after realizing how many commuters use the sidewalks surrounding campus every day, a landowner would hopefully be compelled even more so. According to the South Dakota State University Department of Residential Life, there were 11,518 students that were enrolled for the fall of 2019. Of that 11.5 thousand, 8,115 students were enrolled full-time last fall through the Brookings campus, according to University Marketing and Communications. They also reported that the number of students who lived on campus during the fall semester is 4,143. Intuitively, almost 4,000 students (~34% of total enrollment) are left to commute to campus somehow, whether it be walking, bicycling, or taking a vehicle and using parking areas on or around campus.

Second, the responsibility of removing snow from sidewalks is a Brookings city ordinance. According to Brookings Code of Ordinances Sec. 74-211, the property owner must remove all snow and ice from any sidewalk that is on the property within 48 hours after a snowfall. Failure to do this is a violation of the city ordinance, and the landowner is then subject to paying a fine. According to City Attorney Steven Britzman, the cost of this fine can be as much as $200 in the event that multiple violations have occurred. In addition, the landowner will be responsible for paying the city to remove the snow, according to section 74-212.

Third, there is the issue of liability. When one does not remove snow/ice from their sidewalk following a snowfall, a pedestrian may fall and sustain injuries as a result of the landowner’s/resident’s negligence. According to Brookings Code of Ordinances Sec. 74-216, the landowner “will be liable for any damage caused by their neglect to keep the sidewalk clear and free of snow and ice.” This can include not only bodily injury, but can also include damages to any personal belongings as a result of the landowner’s neglect (e.g., bicycle, etc.) according to Britzman.

Taking all of this into account, I would think that you agree that it is important to keep these public-use sidewalks clear of snow and ice during the winter. Let us then, be responsible landowners/residents for the remainder of this winter by providing nice, clean sidewalks around campus for our fellow commuters.