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Last week DC got its first "real snow" of the winter. The weather event actually reminded me of a few notable things about snow.

(from By bobistraveling on Flickr)

First, it's really not about how much snow falls, it's about how governments and citizens are able to deal with it. When I was in high school, I used to joke that kids in Florida got more snow days, on average, each year, than kids in Cleveland. For better or worse, as snow came down, life generally went on for us. So when three inches of snow falls and people freak out, it's not because it's a lot of snow, it's because they're not good at dealing with the situation.

Second, I think that if people feel safer or more comfortable staying in their houses, then by all means they should. When I wrote about winter bicycling last March, people thought I had an agenda to convince more people to do it. The truth is that it makes life easier for me if both motorists and bicyclists stay off the roads. It would be a lot more difficult for me to ride if there were tons of bicyclists out on the street.

Third, interestingly, many of the sidewalks in Arlington were salted and cleared while the streets were still a slushy mess. This is really the first place I've ever lived where the needs of pedestrians seemed to be considered at least equally to the needs of motorists. Now that I've gotten used to busy street-life, I can definitely notice when I go back home or to a place where it doesn't exist; but the snow really gave me a new perspective on walkable urbanism.


Greg Glockner said…
There are two issues here: terrain and preparedness. There is a big difference between 3 inches of snow in Chicago and in DC. Chicago is accustomed to snow, and its flat terrain makes it easier to navigate.
B. P. Beckley said…
DC's right on the snow edge ... they get it every year (pretty much) but there's a small enough amount that they never really get set up for having it around 100% of the time.

One thing that has occurred to me about the snow situation in DC is that the temperature tends to be right around freezing when they get snow -- result: slush, and a lot of melting/freezing problems that I don't think we really have here. Plus the snow removal really is much much better here, not just by the cities but by all the businesses/workplaces with parking lots.

That's interesting about the sidewalks in Arlington. Have you been able to gather whether the county is clearing them? In NE Ohio, clearing the sidewalks is very much the responsibility of the property owner, and there's some question as to whether you get more legal exposure from clearing or not clearing!

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