Winter Sidewalk Maintenance in Oxford: Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Partially cleared sidewalk in Oxford

Why shovel my sidewalks, if snow will just melt anyway?

Sidewalks are essential to how Oxford residents get to school, work, and shopping. For some walking is choice, but for many–children, the disabled, those without cars–it’s the only option. Safe and unobstructed sidewalks are as important to pedestrians as streets are to motorists. And though our winters are often mild, snow cover can last for weeks. Clear sidewalks are essential for keeping our community safe, accessible, prosperous, and welcoming.

Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks?

Sidewalks are part of the public right-of-way, but under the Ohio Revised Code their maintenance is not a municipal but an owner/occupant responsibility. Following ORC 723.011, Oxford Codified Ordinance 521.06 states “No owner or occupant of abutting lands shall fail to keep the sidewalks, curbs or gutters in repair and free from snow, ice or any nuisance.” It’s up to tenants and property owners to determine who assumes this responsibility.

Can’t I be liable in a lawsuits if I shovel and someone falls?

Ohio courts consider snow a natural hazard for which landowners aren’t liable, while ‘unnatural’ accumulations can expose owners to legal risk. Of course people could sue whether sidewalks are shoveled or not. But those who shovel and salt sidewalks in a reasonable (i.e. non-negligent) way likely would not be found liable.

What if I can’t shovel?

Failure to maintain clear sidewalks is a minor misdemeanor under Oxford code, but the City focuses on voluntary compliance. And while there is no deadline, foot traffic makes snow removal more difficult after 24 hours. Local service providers can shovel for those who don’t wish to. And able-bodied residents may be happy to assist their elderly or disabled neighbors.

If I do my part, will my neighbors do theirs?

Oxford is a very civic-minded community. Clearing our sidewalks not only benefits us as individuals, but is neighborly. Grabbing a shovel can inspire neighbors to do the same. If more residents “dig in” together, we will all enjoy clear sidewalks no matter the weather.

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