Winter Walking: Reporting Snowy Sidewalks

Earlier this month, we wrote about how pedestrian infrastructure like sidewalks are addressed when winter weather hits. But what if your neighbor or a business doesn’t clear the sidewalks?

Sidewalks are critical pedestrian infrastructure, as are crosswalks and curb cuts. Winter weather adds new challenges to all modes of transportation. Clearing pedestrian infrastructure of snow and ice has many benefits, including:

  • Preventing falls, which are dangerous, especially for seniors
  • Offering an alternative transportation option when driving or biking may be less possible
  • Making walking more comfortable, especially for those who rely on walking for free transportation. When sidewalks are icy and snowy, people who may not be able to afford better boots, wool socks, or snow pants will be less comfortable than those who can afford these options.
  • Improving accessibility for people who use wheelchairs, walkers, white canes, and other accessibility devices to get around

You can help by clearing sidewalks on your own property, volunteering to help others, and by reporting sidewalks that go uncleared.

Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks, and by when?

Property owners or occupants are responsible for shoveling sidewalks and applying sand or other materials to ice. This needs to be done within 24 hours after snowfall ends. For more details, check out our last post.

My neighbor didn’t clear their sidewalk. What can I do?

Try to speak with them first. They may find it difficult to shovel snow due to age or a disability; they may have been on vacation; they may not own a shovel; or they may simply be unaware of the requirements. Offer to help and be neighborly, if you can: not only is this the nice thing to do, but in many cases, will lead to better clearing in the future. The goal should be clearing the sidewalks for use, not punishing those who do not shovel.

However, if that is not feasible, you may need to report properties that have not cleared their sidewalks.

How do I report?

You can report a violation 24 hours after snowfall ends. You can report these requests online or by calling 414-286-CITY (2489). A contractor will then be sent to clear the sidewalk.

What are the fines associated with not clearing snow?

Properties in violation will be assessed a charge of $50. If the sidewalk is not cleared before the contractor arrives, the property owner will be charged for the cost of the clearing in addition to a service charge of $75. The additional charge is upped to $100 for subsequent violations in the same calendar year.

What about government-owned properties, such as parks and vacant lots?

It can be frustrating when government properties, such as those owned by the County or the City, do not have clear sidewalks. Report these as well; doing so can help the city staff and contractors who are balancing many priorities after a snowfall. If there are properties that are consistently not cleared, communicate with elected officials like your alderperson or county supervisor.

Milwaukee, like many cities, relies on individuals like you to clear critical pedestrian infrastructure. While therccessibility and equity challenges with this approach, those of us who can pitch in and keep our sidewalks, crosswalks, and curb cuts clear of ice and snow are doing the important work of keeping our community safe. People do still have to walk and roll all winter – do your part!

Got more questions? Want to get involved?

Look out for more Winter Walking posts as we provide more information about how winter impacts pedestrian comfort and safety.

Want to get involved in the MilWALKee Walks program by volunteering at crosswalk actions, becoming an Ambassador, or just have other ideas for promoting pedestrian safety? Reach out to Marybeth McGinnis (, MilWALKee Walks Program Manager. We would love to hear from you!