Westfield Residents Worry that Unshoveled Sidewalks Could Lead to Tragedy

Westfield mom Donna Canavan snapped this photo of a pedestrian walking in the street on Rahway Avenue where sidewalks remained uncleared Thursday. Credits: Donna Canavan

WESTFIELD, NJ — After Tuesday’s snowstorm, Westfield residents worry that  pedestrians walking in the streets due to unshoveled sidewalks are in danger of being struck by cars.

“There is a huge stretch of sidewalk that is unshoveled, causing all the high school kids to walk on Rahway Avenue,” resident  Lisa Goldenberg said. “All it takes is one distracted driver on Rahway Avenue and we have a catastrophe on our hands.”

Councilman Keith Loughlin, chair of the public safety, transportation and parking committee, said that officials are trying to be understanding, but at the same time, property owners need to take responsibility for their sidewalks.

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“This snowfall was especially difficult because it snowed, then the rained and then it turned into a big block of ice,” he noted.

One thing that homeowners might not be aware of, Loughlin said, is that the responsibility for clearing sidewalks falls on the owner of the abutting property — whether the sidewalk is in front of the home or behind it. After a snowstorm, property owners are required to shovel the sidewalk within 24 hours of the event.

Complaints about unshoveled sidewalks should be made to police, Loughlin said, because only the police can enforce town ordinances.

“We’re hoping for compliance without the need for fining,” Loughlin said. “It’s not our intent to fine people. It’s our intent to encourage people to clear their sidewalk so that pedestrians can walk on them.”

Westfield mom Donna Canavan hopes homeowners get the message soon.

“Here's the thing,” Canavan said. “Our kids should not be walking in a busy road to and from school and activities because the sidewalks aren’t cleared. Whose responsibility is it to clear the sidewalks along Rahway Avenue? Why are they never cleared? And why aren't fines or tickets issued? We had three or more days of warning that a snowstorm was coming – that’s plenty of time to create a plan to get those sidewalks cleared. Too many years of the same thing and it’s not getting any better. Our kids are forced into the street. Let’s fix this and avoid a potential accident.”

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