Sidewalk Snow Clearance and Botanical Obstructions

Unshoveled sidewalk

Snow and Ice

Cambridge property owners, residents, and businesses are responsible for removing the snow and ice from the sidewalks adjacent to their property. Snow and ice are among the biggest hazards to pedestrians, and falls on an icy sidewalks can lead to major injuries. Ice needs to be removed within 6 hours from the time it forms, per City Ordinance. Snow needs to be removed within 12 hours after snow stops falling during the day and before 1:00 PM if it snowed during the night, per City Ordinance.

The fine for failing to comply with the City’s sidewalk clearance ordinances is $50/day for each day of non-compliance. Even if you aren’t around, it is your responsibility to ensure someone clears sidewalks and ramps next to your property.

We all have a shared responsibility for keeping our community safe and accessible during winter weather. For you, your neighbors, people with strollers or using wheelchairs, and the many people in Cambridge who walk, please do your part. The City provides salt barrels in several locations throughout the City for residents to use. Please take only what you need.

A "cleared" sidewalk meets the following criteria:

  • Shovel your sidewalk and clear it of ice on all sides of your property, down to bare pavement.
  • Make the path wide enough for someone using a wheelchair, walker or stroller (at least 3 feet wide).
  • Clear snow to curb so that collection crews can access your trash barrels and recycling toters and they are not behind snow banks.
  • Clear ramps at corners and crosswalks.
  • Stock up on ice melter before a storm. Use ice melter with calcium chloride (CaCl2), which is the best choice for the environment and only a small amount is required to melt ice. Potassium chloride (KCl) is okay, too. Avoid rock salt (NaCl or sodium chloride), which kills plants and trees.
  • Do not use sand. It doesn’t help pedestrians; but it makes hard ice more slippery. It gets into street drains and is expensive to clean up in the spring.
  • Keep street drains clear of snow (to avoid ponding/ icing at the bottom of ramps)
  • Consider helping neighbors who may have difficulty clearing their walk. Keeping sidewalks passable is the neighborly thing to do, and it’s the law.

Click here to report an icy or unshoveled sidewalk.

If you are a homeowner on a low income and are elderly or have a disability, you may qualify for the City’s Snow Exemption Program, in which case the City will shovel your sidewalk. To find out whether you are eligible, please call the Cambridge Council on Aging, 617-349-6220 (voice) or 617-349-6050 (TTY).

If you do not qualify for an exemption, the Council on Aging can provide you with a limited list of professional snow removal companies and a list of students who want to earn money by shoveling – you contact the student yourself and negotiate a price.

Visit the City's Snow Center webpage for more information about snow clearance.

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.

Click here to report a botanical obstruction.

For More Information

For more information contact Cara Seiderman at 617/349-4629 or cseiderman@cambridgema.gov.