Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

A treacherous stroll in Janesville

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Greg Peck
Monday, January 13, 2014

Dear fellow Janesville residents:

I'm glad you have good liability insurance coverage. How else can I explain why you would spend all weekend ignoring that ice on your sidewalks?

Did you spend all weekend out and about having fun? Did you spend all weekend holed up inside? How could you not see the treacherous walkways just outside your doors?

I heard the forecast and went to a hardware store before heading to the office Friday to buy my second bags of salt and sand this season because my supply was running low. I hate to toss out any more salt than need be, so I apply sand when I can.

I got up late on Saturday and spread salt on the slick ice outside by 8:30 a.m.—and felt guilty about doing so that late. I needn't have fretted, judging from what I saw later in the weekend.

I strapped the ice traction cleats onto my hiking shoes before taking Molly for her morning walk. I was glad I did. We purchased two sets of these several years ago from Farm & Fleet, and they were money well spent. They're rubber with little metal cleats that cover the front half of your shoe. Stepping carefully, I still slipped several times, but the cleats kept me from falling during our shortened walk. Had I not had these on, I'm sure I would have wiped out several times.

In early afternoon, I spent a good hour using three types of shovels to scrape away the ice the modest amount of salt had loosened. We have a double-wide driveway and live on a corner, so I have twice as much concrete as many of you to clean up. I appreciated seeing three neighbors scraping ice off their sidewalks at the same time as I toiled. My shirt was soaked by the time I got back inside—no need to head to an athletic club this day; my workout was in the bag.

My wife didn't use her cleats, thinking the thawing temperatures probably meant the ice had melted when she took Molly for her second walk later in the afternoon. That was a bad move. Fortunately, Cheryl returned home without falling after a brief stroll.

Sunday morning was another adventure. Those of you who didn't shovel recently, or did a mediocre job of shoveling from slab edge to edge, left snow that melted, and the water on your walkways had nowhere to drain. I literally could have ice skated across perhaps half the sidewalks on my mile walk. It was obvious that the majority of homeowners in my neighborhood had ignored their sidewalks Saturday. Not only didn't they try to scrape away the ice, they never tossed down salt, sand or ice-melting material.

Before leaving for the day on Sunday, I sprinkled sand on the few slick spots that had frozen after snowmelt trickled across my sidewalks overnight.

Sure, temperatures were above freezing when I walked early this morning, but those with the biggest skating rinks on their sidewalks still had ice. I almost fell once, despite having the cleats. It was obvious that almost everyone who ignored their icy sidewalks Saturday didn't do anything about them Sunday, either.

You're not only breaking a city ordinance but being disrespectful and discourteous to anyone who uses your sidewalks—not just dog walkers like me but mail and newspaper carriers, exercise buffs, school children and even the elderly who no longer drive and need to walk on errands. By doing nothing, you're ignoring your responsibility of living in a city. If you're too feeble to handle the task, then hire someone to do it. You're risking a liability lawsuit should someone fall on that ice.

Snow is in the forecast for tonight. Maybe that covering will help make the ice less slippery. Or maybe it will hide those slick spots and make them even more hazardous tomorrow.

Not that most of you, apparently, will worry about it.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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