Keller @ Large: Why Can’t Everybody Shovel Their Sidewalk?

BOSTON (CBS) – I took Buddy the Wonder Lab on a long walk yesterday morning to get both of us ready for the big game, and I noticed something that appalled me, even if it didn’t shock me.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

I guess some parts of southeastern Mass. got as much as a foot out of Saturday’s snowstorm, but where I live it was a light, fluffy few inches, an easy job for a decent shovel or even a really good broom.

It was all over by late Saturday afternoon, and there really was no reason why anyone physically able to do so couldn’t have cleared their sidewalk by the time Buddy and I came by mid-morning on Sunday.

Still, I’d say about 30 percent of the sidewalks I saw in front of clearly occupied private homes showed no sign of having been touched.

Thirty percent!

How can this be?

I’ll give some people the benefit of the doubt.

For the disabled, or frail seniors, even a few fluffy inches can be a difficult chore.

But you wonder – where are their neighbors?

If you knew you lived next door to someone who couldn’t shovel themselves, wouldn’t you make an effort to do it for them?

And for everyone else who didn’t bother to clear the walk within 18 hours or so from the end of the storm, all I can say is – shame on you.

Did you see the forecast of 50 degrees today and tomorrow and think ‘oh, well, I’ll let Mother Nature take care of it’?

Or was the couch so warm and cozy you just decided, aw, the heck with it, let others fend for themselves?

You know, other people – like the parent or grandparent trying to push their baby in a stroller who has to go into the street because you couldn’t be bothered.

Or the elderly neighbor fearing a slip and fall who may wind up stuck inside because of your indifference.

I guess they don’t matter very much to you, Mr. or Ms. I Can’t Be Bothered to Clear My Sidewalk.

Amazingly enough in a region that features snowy winters, we talk about this negligence every year, and little seems to change.

Nice work, 30 percenters – be advised that the rest of us notice, and are disgusted.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

More from Jon Keller
  • tsalnew

    You have just touched on a perfect example of why we have big brother telling us what to do. We had a discussion on this way back in the CN days. Legislation says in some towns/cities that you either shovel your sidewalk within a certain period of time or you are fined. People went into a tailspin over this using excuses that ranged from if I have a heart attack can I sue the city to what about elderly. One person even called it socialism to be “forced” to shovel your sidewalk.

    Growing up we just shoveled our sidewalks and if we had an elderly neighbor we shoveled his/hers. It was a given because back in the day we had something called respect. We have a fire hydrant on our property now and we shovel it even before doing our driveway. We also combine efforts with other neighbors to make sure all elderly are shoveled out. We live on a small street without sidewalks but the town clears all sidewalks – IMHO – because the homeowners won’t. And I have to pay higher taxes because of that.

    Go figure.

  • Andrew Anderson

    Mr. Keller, did you shovel in front of your house? Just checking…

    • Chip

      While I can appreciate the safety aspect of a shoveled, salted sanded sidewalk, walking in the street is not just a winter issue in my neighborhood. Middle of the summer where are people walking……… in the street.

  • Steve

    I agree with you on this but how about the cities and towns that didn’t plow or even put salt and sand down? Who polices them? I find it hard to believe that with no snow all winter that they put people’s lives in danger so they wouldn’t have to spend money.

    • tsalagain

      Great point Our street is about 1/3 mile and the plow went up and down it seven times on Friday. Once each way would have worked. On Saturday they never plowed. However, it doesn’t excuse homeowners ignoring their responsibilities.

      • tsalnew

        steve you’ll have to read my post again – no plow Saturday at all – just Friday for the fluff we got

      • Steve

        At least you got a plow,we got nothing.Streets were a sheet of ice and ruts.No excuse for not giving services we pay for and then some.How do you complain about someone not shoveling when the town doe’s the same thing.God put it here and he’ll take it away attitudes.

      • tsalnew

        Steve you must not have read my comment – my street did not get plowed on Saturday – only Friday when there was virtually no snow

  • KF4766

    This is something I have been complaining about for years. My teenagers can’t even walk a half a block to the bus stop without walking in the street. Combine that with the maniac drivers and it makes for a very dangerous situation. When I was growing up I remember my father and grandfather shoveling together from property line to property line, as did the neighbors. If they knew someone was unable to shovel, they all pitched in to help. It never occured to them not to do it and they never complained about it.

    • The Owl

      What about your teenagers going from house to house to see if the owners would be willing to pay a few bucks to get it cleared.

      That was what happened when I was growing up.

      I guess the teenagers have found themselves entitled to do their thing when others might need their assistance.

      • t

        Your teenagers still have their heads in the wrong place.

        A community is a community, and people make it up. Either they are in the community or they are not.

        It would seem that they are taking direction from their parents.

        That’s a shame.

      • tsalnew

        KF – was replying to Owl and NEVER meant to imply your children are entitled. I would have no way of knowing and I did understand your intent with your comment. I apologize for giving the wrong impression.

      • KF4766

        My children are not “entitled” They don’t have smart phones or IIPads or the latest gaming systems and they know if they want these things they have to work to earn them. My comments were referring to able bodied property owners who are too lazy to get off their duffs to take care of their property, some of whom have teenagers of their own

      • tsalnew

        Good point owl. My brother saved enough money shoveling to buy himself a snowblower in 1964 (he was 12) that still works now. My kids still shovel their neighbors – they just don’t charge – but then they are all in their 20s. The kid in our neighborhood don’t even help their parents – let alone their neighbors.

  • plain citizen

    What I find the most offensive is the people who shovel only a path from their door to their car! That says “Yes, I see shoveling is needed,and I CAN do it, but I don’t care about anybody but myself. Not even the mailman carrying his heavy mail bag up our front steps with our mail” Nice message to your kids….

  • toni

    I have to disagree with all of you. I don’t feel that homeowners should have to shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes. Here is why. The land that the sidewalk is on is owned by the city/town that you live in. The city/town installed the sidewalk. Over the years the sidewalk (made out of asphalt or cement) is going to break down due to weather, and from general use. Therefore when the sidewalk needs to be repaved it’s not up to the homeowner to hire a construction crew to repair the damaged sidewalk. That is up to your city/town. Therefore, if the city/town owns the sidewalk, and is responsible for maintaining it, they not the homeowner should be responsible for clearing the ice/snow from said sidewalk.

    The reason why the are requiring people to do it, and fining them if they don’t is because no one has challenged this in court.

    • Steve

      You are correct in one point.If you don’t shovel all you can get is maybe a fine.If you do shovel and there’s a layer of ice on the sidewalk that you can’t get up and someone slips and falls they can then sue you.Great law!

      • tsalnew

        Steve if you don’t shovel you can be sued too – the law has nothing to do with it in either case. And how toni – how do you take respect to court?

    • miley

      yea because in this economy the cities and towns have the money to send people out to shovel all the sidewalks. you are ridiculous, just another freebie that you want the government to give out. Keller is right people are too lazy to spend ten minutes to shovel off a simple sidewalk. Its about being a decent human being and for once helping out and contributing to society instead of take take take.

    • tsalnew

      It’s called respect – and how do you challenge respect in court?? There was a time no one cared about who owned the sidewalk. I don’t have a sidewalk but my lawn goes to the street. Should I stop mowing it so many feet from the street.

  • web

    Mr. Keller, the people who don’t shovel really don’t care if you are shaming them or are disgusted with them…they really don’t care. They don’t go out..they sit in the house all day. I see less and less people outside. Everyone is in, watching tv, sitting, doing nothing. I’m the anomoly who still walks outside…most time I go 3 miles without seeing 1 person. They stay in, on their computers, watching tv or playing Words With Friends….it’s become a very introverted world.

  • jinxie

    my town plows the main road sidewalks with a small ‘cat’ – it is a tremendous help when walking my dog or for the children waiting at the bus stop. I know not every town/city can afford it. When i lived in worcester i had to take my life in my hands to walk outside as the streets were poorly plowed making the edges towards the sidewalk very slippery and of course few people shoveling their sidewalks.

  • Gma

    I agree with you Toni, the town/city owns the sidewalk not the homeowner. However, it is the homeowners responsible to shovel….go figure….life isn’t always fair. In the long run we are protecting ourselves and others from an injury, by shoveling.

  • johnmeli

    Totally agree with Jon. In fact, in my Newton/Watertown neighborhood where I ran at noon yesterday, it’s more like 50 percent that did not shovel. And how about those people who shovel their driveway and a path from their door to the driveway, but ignore the sidewalks or cutaways?

  • buzz

    John, you will see in some of the comments here that many people have bought into the entitlement mentality in that the “sidewalk is owned by the city therefore they should be clearing it.” Many have completely lost the sense of community or any clear understanding of personal responsibility or empathy for their neghbors (whom they probably don’t even know). The first thing they do is determine that it is anybodies responsibility but mine. Did I forget to mention the loss of simple common sense??

    • tsalnew

      Standing O for your comment – nicely said and absolutely true!

  • Gma

    Good for you, Buzz…..simple common sense and respect!! Unfortunately, common sense isn’t all that common!!

    • Enough

      common sense is barely a part of our society anymore…. not to mention common courtesy. it’s the age of entitlement and everyone for themselves

  • tsalnew

    I’m trying to also say – good for you Buzz – and Gma too – if this would just post

  • Gma

    Thanks, TSALNEW!!!! :-)

  • DoverDavid

    Many of these people are the same ones who drive the igloo on wheels. With just a scraped off patch to see out the front and the rest of the snow blowing off on to the car directly behind them. Lazy is as lazy does.

  • Mark

    We all know most of these people, they are the ones who don’t clean their cars off (just the front windshield), the ones that can’t walk 30 or so feet to put a shopping cart in the cart corral. The ones who pick something out in the grocery store and decide 3 aisles later they don’t want it so just throw on any shelf. So why does any of this surprise you?

    • Gma

      So true, Mark. Also, regarding TSALNEW,s first comment, you are so right about the Big Brother reference. It’s that way with our schools too. Some parents expect the teachers to teach manners, in addition to all their other responsibilities. What are the parents for? I just hope the responsible, respectful children of the next generation are plentiful enough to carry us forward.

      I’m glad their are people like, Mark, TSALNEW, etc.

      We should form a club :-)

  • Gma

    Mark, so true….and TSALNEW, you hit the nail on the head, especially w/the Big Brother reference. On that same note, school teachers are being forced to teach children manners, as some parents are not. They have enough to do with teaching the children their lessons without having to teach them manner too. I hope there are enough respectful members of the next generation to make this world as good a place as it was when I was growing up.

    Hey, we should form a club :-).

  • Gma

    How true, Mark. Also, regarding TSALNEW’s first posting, you are so right about why Big Brother sometimes gets involved. Just like within our school system, the teaches are forced to teach manners, in addition to their teaching curriculum, because some parents don’t. I just hope there are ENOUGH responsible, respectful people, within the next generation to carry us forward, or were going to be in a huge mess.

  • Graywolf 72

    Jon, I m not the least bit surprised. Why? Because far too many Americans have become FAT and LAZY ( And I don’t give two hoots about “political correctness” ).I am 73, I SHOVEL our sidewalk, and two driveways that are at least 50 feet long and 14 feet wide. And these lazy a***s in the Boston area towns and cities cannot do a little sidewalk? 3 to 6″ of fluff snow? This is the new American attitude of people born after WW2. I congratulate those who DO clean their sidewalks and are of the younger generation, you are of the minority, but you have what it takes to be an AMERICAN. For the rest of you, go back to your couch with your beer and chips, your reward is coming faster than you think.


    Having for years once owned a house in a town in Worcester County–which BTW may have had municipal water and sewer probably even before Boston did–I feel some sympathy for the person who suggests that the owner of the sidewalk bear the responsibility for clearing them. Especially when the City (I live in Boston’s South End) can’t be bothered even to shovel the sidewalks by its own properties (unless we call and complain) and, worse, insists on walks being shoveled to something like 44″ but fines property owners $200+ dollars should they be caught dumping that snow in the street (where else?). I happen to shovel, generally in somewhat the same way that folks in Southie vote: early and often. But snow continues–to use the legalese phrasing–to put me in fear because the city’s enforcement is spotty, often politically calculated, and neither the City nor the courts recognize a distinction between outright negligence and a good faith effort. To top it off, the SJC recently invalidated the old Common Law principle that until the home owner touched the snow, it remained an “Act of God” and no one was allowed to sue God (fines yes, law suits, no; God may now be litigated). All the pious rhetoric about the decline in the stench of community is trumped by the stacking of the legal deck–why bother if you are likely to be fined and/or sued anyway (but I’ll shovel anyway, just that I will do it under protest).

  • Peter B. Kingman

    Ever notice the people in grocery stores who cannot fix the handle on those little hand baskets so that they will stack near the cash register after they have put their goods on the counter? Such a statement of what those people are., which are wasters of our oxygen.

  • emom

    Jon your applause , WOW.. Have you thought to the reason why there may be 30% of people that do not shovel their walk way or for that matter their neighbors.. lets see it from a much different point of view.. I know many will not agree but It’s a valid reason. Lets start with the AGE of the neighbors, Are they in the 30’s young and agile, do they have kids old enough to lend a hand. Next are the side walks long as is their drive ways. Is this a rural neighborhood or a city one. Where homes are closer together and have little sidewalks and no driveways. Unlike rural homes which are spread out more and larger.Have you taken into consideration the health issues of some of these people, Shoveling snow any amount for some can create issues. For that matter have you seen the Emergency room at the hospital at this time of year. HAVE YOU. sorry but they get slammed with potential hearth attach patients, Sure some are merely pulled muscles, But hurt just as much. People go out there shovel in a hurry and then go back inside and start to feel something and wonder did I pull a muscle or am I having a heart attack. People in the 40’s line the Emergency room for this reason. Check them out, you would be very surprised of the percentage of them that DID have a mild heart attach..
    So for helping our neighbors, I see it this way, One fear of strenuous work could trigger a major health issue, sleeping and falling is another, the hours it would take to clear them out, the lack of some with gratitude, The many that say stay of my property, and yes the many that say its going to be warm so let it melt .. What is the harm with weather melting some of the fluffy stuff. its not as if it was 2 feet of dense wet stuff. Oh did I go out and clear my driveway sure with my kids help mostly,,, health issues prevent me from doing to much. But we did it a few times during the storm to prevent a problem, By the time I was done each time I need a break. Cold & wet and some expect you to go and help a neighbor,, setting your self up for a major cold. Sure there are a few people that will not clear their sidewalk off, However those 30% I bet have other reasons for not clearing up… Maybe a door to door check would have given you that.. I know who my neighbors are at least the most of them.. Older, past their 40’s and Oh yeah they hire someone when needed,,, We have only 1% that are under the age of 3 years old,,,, would you expect them to walk around and clear everyone’s sidewalk,,
    Able persons are hard to come by these days. so many are unable, for a variety of reasons,,,

    • emom

      WEB you are correct to some extent… However I have seen so many that are frail an still living in houses, and well If you ask them if they need help , they refuse, what are you to do then, just do it and risk getting in trouble for it,, Its not the same as it was 30 or more years ago,, and there are plenty out there that refuse help as well as don’t do anything to clear their area,, sadly its not lazy people that don’t take the risk its those with extremely bad health issues, and I have seen plenty of young healthy looking adults land in the Emergency room with a heart issue,,, sometimes you have to wonder why is it so many land there, if they are healthy,, its because they do to much and in the wrong way,, some are just heave ho ing the snow and pulling muscles they hardly use daily,,,, falling is a huge problem, and well lack of knowing how to pace yourself,, That is why me and my kid cleared our area more than once during the snow storm we did that last year as well, There are a small amount of folks that are unable to do what most can,, and an even large amount of folks that forbid you from entering their property so I rather stay clear and not risk a law suit.. its a shame that there are more sue happy folks in this world than those that truly care,, A cynical world or greedy folks. By the way not all are making excuses, Like I said once before until you know why how can we know for sure and then ultimately judge why.. thats how rumors start and then when you know the true, things look so much different.. Try looking at it from that point ask the neighboros find out why they dont, you might be surprised by a few, Just saying

    • tsalnew

      Makes me wonder how we all did it before. Health and age have always been an issue but yet………………….

      • emom

        Back when I was a kid, sure we did help our neighbors, But as I have mentioned above, this day and age to many people do not want to get involved because of fear of a problem.. SAD really when you think about it, that these same people that do not want help are the ones that did get it from their younger neighbors. I see it all the time, they barely wave at you or even look in your direction,, You wave say high and they scurry into their home. why is that.. My neighbors are older and well most do not want help. Are we to just clear their walk way and set them up for a potential lawsuit if ice should form.. think about it,, Its a problem these days,, SUE HAPPY PEOPLE, looking for an opportunity to take what you have worked for all your life. I don’t blame most for not asking or wanting them to help,, Its a sad world we live in today. NO it’s not like it was growing up back in the 60’s and 70’s . when people cared. Today they rather not get involved. As for lazy folks, that may be a small percentage, I see the health and age a bigger issue , Like I said, so many fear that trip to the ER department.. Is it that bad,, OH YES. I know, I have been in the Emergency room In the back with the admitting patience’s are, and have seen the monitors going off, the scurrying of nurses from room to room and the chatter in the corridor of they had a heart attach from shoveling snow.. No I was not a patient, but was there with my husband for other reasons,, not heart related… But Being in the emergency room many times during this time of year You see plenty and hear plenty,,
        I think its time some folks LOOK around and see who their neighbors are some might be surprised at their age and maybe their health.
        Not everyone in the senior years are health enough to shovel even the white powder fluffy stuff. JUST saying….

      • tsalnew

        it’s no different now than then except for lack of respect and as Gma and buzz said common sense ——– and simple excuses to just not get out of our own way

      • web

        emom please…the excuses. Maybe if people shoveled even more, they would be in better shape so those trips to the ER would be less. The population is getting fatter and lazier..and yes, sue-happier…but the health problems? A portion probably caused by lazy, no exercise over medicated able bodied adults who are afraid to lift a finger just in case they might faint.

  • tsalnew

    Hi Gma – tsal is fine – this site has posting problems and I changed my name to get comments to post – and I believe there are a lot of people who feel the same – from all ages even though I do like the reference to the younger generation being born after WW2 by Graywolf72.

    We complain about regulation but we create the need. I don’t get why people don’t see it.

    • Gma

      Teal, bingo……we unfortunately create the need!!

    • Gma

      Teal….u hit the nail on the head referencing creating the need! :-)

  • snowman

    If you are physically able to shovel snow, you should clean the public sidewalk in front of your home. It’s a matter of respect for your fellow townspeople. I remove the snow from 120′ of sidewalk in front of my house(corner lot). I don’t like doing it, but consider it my responsibility.
    And on rare occasions, someone has actually thanked me for cleaning the sidewalk!

  • timh

    instead of critisizing people for not shoveling “their” sidewalk why dont you go after the people who own the sidewalk?its city or town property so it should be taken care of by city or town employees

    • Gma

      That’s another slant on the issue, too, timh

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