Icy sidewalks, lack of enforcement create obstacles during snowy week for disabled community

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DENVER -- The worst of the storm may be over here in Colorado, but it’s leaving behind some icy obstacles for people who are disabled in the Denver metro.

Jaime Lewis knew the storm would leave him stranded for a couple days.

You hope that you have your refrigerator full and have enough activities at home to keep you busy,” Lewis said.

Lewis is part of the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition. They work specifically on improving transit policies.  On Saturday, he pointed out several icy areas along the sidewalk and crosswalk near 12th and Broadway where he said it would be too difficult to navigate in his wheelchair.

Lewis says he didn’t expect the sidewalks to be this bad four days after the worst of the storm hit the area.

He says there’s still parts of the sidewalk that have made it difficult to run errands, and even get to work.

“I tried to get out yesterday and go down Broadway, and had to be helped by three Samaritans on three separate occasions, because I kept getting stuck,” Lewis  said.

“I guess one of the biggest disappointments is when I did enter one of the businesses and asked them why they hadn’t shoveled, I was told it wasn’t their job.  So definitely the city is not communicating very well to businesses what their responsibilities are,” he added.

Adjacent property owners are responsible for clearing their sidewalks.  Residents have 24 hours after the snow stops, and businesses have 4 hours.

An inspector will issue a warning first—but if they come back, and the snow is still not shoveled, they can issue a $150 fine.

Sometimes, people will shovel the snow out of the sidewalks, but then they’ll leave all the snow on the curb ramps.  And the adjacent property owner is responsible for the curb ramp, too,” said Denver City Council Member Chris Hinds.

Hinds spoke by phone from a local hospital Saturday night after his wheelchair got stuck on a sidewalk Monday night while heading home from a city council meeting.

He was admitted to the ER with a high fever Friday night.

As it gets colder and wetter, the battery doesn’t hold as much charge.  Also trying to get over the snow that was there, over the hills and the terrain, that used up more of the charge,” Hinds sai.

At the time, the property owner wouldn’t have been required to shovel the sidewalk—but Hinds says it still illustrates the importance of efficient snow removal.

“I had a 102.9 fever, and I trace it back to that 45 minutes that I was just sitting there, stranded on the sidewalk,” Hinds said.

Lewis says for some areas, it’s too late to do anything now.

“When you hear excuses, ‘it’s hard ice now.’  Well, you should have shoveled it when you had the chance to," Lewis said.

He’s hoping the community will be more mindful during Colorado’s next storm.

“It really has to start with the residents having pride.  And then the city needs to enforce the rules as they’re stated,” Lewis said.

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