Snow Clearance and Botanical Obstructions

Unshoveled sidewalk

Snow and Ice

Snow and ice are arguably the biggest hazard that Cambridge pedestrians face. Collisions with motorists, or cyclists, which are relatively rare, are reported. Typically, falls on an icy sidewalk are not reported, though they can lead to chronic disability, and, especially for elderly people, complications from injuries can lead to death.

By law, property owners must remove snow from all sidewalks next to their property or business, including corner ramps, within twelve hours after snow stops falling in the daytime and before 1:00 P. M. when the snow has fallen during the night. All ice must be removed or melted within six hours of the time the ice forms.

DPW has detailed instructions and advice about Property Owner Responsibilities.

The fine for failing to comply with the sidewalk clearance ordinance is $50 for each day of non-compliance. The City has stepped up enforcement, with dramatic results, but continued education and enforcement are needed. Residents are encouraged to report uncleared sidewalk:

Go to the Uncleared Sidewalk Form.

The Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department’s parking control officers are deputized to issue tickets for uncleared sidewalks that they encounter on their rounds. Between these two efforts, enforcement has increased dramatically, and sidewalks are in much better shape.

DPW, which clears sidewalks abutting City property, also clears bus stops and intersections on some key streets. Often, curb ramps or crosswalks are not clear, even when the adjacent sidewalk has been dealt with. The MBTA is also undertaking to clear bus stops.

What you can do:

  • Make sure that your sidewalk is clear of snow and ice. 
  • Report uncleared or untreated sidewalks.

Botanical Obstructions

Botanical obstructions can also be a problem for pedestrians. While trees, bushes, and other plantings are highly desirable, low-hanging branches, tree roots, or bushes that intrude on sidewalk space can be hazardous, especially for people with impaired vision. Cambridge is full of old trees that compromise sidewalk space but add greatly to the quality of life. Recognition of the need for clear passage for pedestrians and the need to accommodate trees and other important vegetation should be the guiding principles. Some situations may require ingenuity to resolve.

For More Information

For more information contact Cara Seiderman at 617/349-4629 or