Snowy city walks pose problem for people using wheelchairs

City receives 350 complaints about sidewalk conditions

Nearly 350 complaints have come in to the City of Madison about slick and snow-covered sidewalks.

Under city rules, sidewalks are to be cleared by noon the day after a snowfall — cleared from edge to edge, and salted or sanded if there’s ice. But believe it or not, in the week since the blizzard of 2012, some property owners haven’t even touched their sidewalks yet.

With the recent snowfall, it’s a challenge for just about anyone to get around town on foot. But for people like Susan Wahl, who requires a scooter to move around, it’s nearly impossible.

“A person who walks can get through — but I can’t get through,” Wahl said. “I gotta go around, into the intersection — into the street. They have to realize that somebody in one of these needs a clear shot.”

Madison resident Pat Huber is a van driver for the elderly and disabled — and sees firsthand how bad sidewalks are.

“A lot of the streets are in decent shape and everything but the sidewalks [are not] and the general public aren’t getting out there to take care of it,” Huber said. “I hate to say it, but a lot of people don’t really care.”

WISC-TV and investigated the hundreds of complaints over the last week. Our search revealed some property owners were issued warnings, and others were cited — most of those were for property owners who made no effort to clear the walk.

Wahl said the number of complaints in the last week isn’t a surprise at all.

“I’ve been here almost seven years, and I’ve spent more time in the street — and there’s been a couple times I was almost hit,” Wahl said.

She said in some cases, she actually feels safer in the street, rather than risking getting stuck or tipped on trouble sidewalks. Wahl wanted to get a clear message out: that’s she’s relying on all of us to help her get around.

“We’re people too,” Wahl said. “We can’t get through.”

If you don’t follow the rules and get your sidewalk cleared, it could cost you $114 for your first offense. If it’s not cleared a day after that citation, the city will hire a contractor to take care of it, and you will get the bill. If you don’t pay the bill, it will be added to your property tax bill.

To report a problem sidewalk in your neighborhood, click here: