Snow and the Urban Pedestrian

Snow and Icy Conditions and the Pedestrian Realm – Update 2012 With all of the snow in the Puget Sound area, we de-iced some of the work that we had done as part of the Pedestrian Master Plan regarding snow and icy conditions and the pedestrian environment. We hope you enjoy and can glean some insights to share with others. There are seven topic areas: commercial and retail settings, frontages, placement of snow, corners, catch basins and drains, residential settings and ideas we suggest for further development.

Pedestrians to note:

Cars have difficulty stopping at crosswalks so be on alert in all directions and “give them space”.

Commercial and Retail Settings


Commercial and retail areas of the City are particularly attuned to maintaining activity on the sidewalks; providing access to retail offices and services; and providing access to transit.

Access to transit












Clearing for pedestrian travel


Snow and ice conditions may vary widely within the City of Seattle.  Each property owner is responsible to maintain access along their properties. Access will vary according to the storm event.

Property maintaining frontage

Property not maintaining frontage













Neighbors not participating create inconsistencies. However, even a few feet of clearing width can facilitate safer travel.  Shovel snow to provide a minimum of 4 feet clear along the entire frontage and the full width of each entry.  Ideally 6 to 8 feet would be cleared however it is more important to maintain a consistent path of travel.

Clearing travel path first

Cleared exit/entrance to parking garage could be improved with additional curbside clearing in the street.

Placement of Snow

Place shoveled snow between the sidewalk and the curb; do not shovel the snow into the parking or curb lane as this may impede cars buses, delivery vehicles.

Snow dumped into loading/ unloading zone causes problems

Access for loading/ unloading needs to remain clear

Piles of shoveled snow are barrier for bus stop.

Clearing curb ramp zones of improperly dumped snow improves pedestrian crossings

Snow scooped by plows can create obstacles for pedestrian


It is important to clear the corners so pedestrians and drivers can discern the traveled edge. Ideally the entire corner would be cleared but as a minimum clear the curb ramps with a 5 foot long landing area back of the ramps

Corner undefined

Corner and ramp clear

Catch Basins and Drains

Keeping the drainage structures free of snow will facilitate drainage as the snow melts preventing ponding at the intersections









Ponding in the street


Homeowners, property managers and residents should maintain a path of travel along their frontage. Maintaining access will assist both you and your neighbors in traveling to stores, buses or just out for a walk in the snow.

Maintaining at least a shovel width will assist but ideally clear about 4 feet.

Snow also causes vertical obstacles as branches bend due to weight of snow

Place shoveled snow on the edge of the walk.  Do not place the snow in the curb zone as that would impede vehicles.  Residents that live on corners should clear the sidewalk at the corner so neighbors can see the edge of the street. Neighbors can also assist the City to by keeping drainage structures free of snow and debris.

Ideas Under Development

Snow Removal Patrols:

  • Snow and Inclement Weather neighborhood helper patrol
  • Downtown and Urban Village Assistance Teams
  • Business Improvement Districts cost sharing for snow removal
  • Metropolitan improvement districts
  • Downtown Associations

Businesses/Residents will sign up to be in charge of their block or business district.  Every October the lead contact will receive 3 snow shovels; 1 flat shovel and three brooms and 6 green waste bags. They will arrange a fall block clean up and enlist or assign businesses to shovel snow in advance of an expected snow fall.



Arrange consistent leaf pick up day for downtown businesses and urban village commercial zones.









Isolated shoveling