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Peter Smith: Time to get serious about snow removal

She would have been hospitalized if I had hit her. “She” was a small, elderly woman. She was waiting at an NFTA bus stop on Route 25. I saw her when I was about to get off the bus.

The driver had made the bus “kneel” when he saw I wanted to leave. I had started to do so, but seeing the small, elderly woman almost stopped me in my tracks. I knew that if I slipped on the concrete-ice formation in front of both of us, I would knock her over; and if I knocked her over she would have to be hospitalized.

She and I are of the same generation, I think. I am a fledgling octogenarian. But I am pretty sure that I weigh twice as much as she does. What is certain is that if I had slipped when getting off the bus, I would have knocked her over. And if I had knocked her over, she would have been seriously injured. Depending on the way she fell, she might even have been killed.

This is in Buffalo in anno Domini 2015.

We all know that “everybody” leaves the sidewalk unshoveled after a snowfall. My own take is that many individuals do clear the sidewalks in front of their houses, but a lot of businesses and institutions do not.

My observations are based on the 11 winters I have survived since I moved to Buffalo. On the whole, I have welcomed those winters. I had a three-year stint in California when I was much younger, and one of the things that made moving back east an easy choice was that we missed the drama that comes with the change from one season to the next. “Drama” is not an exaggeration. Even a mere three years in a place where it’s warm and sunny on Christmas Day was a sufficiently long time to make us aware of how we were “deprived.” Walking on the beach on Dec. 25 was a lovely experience, but noting the precise October date when we saw that the leaves had begun to turn was better.

So I am not complaining about Buffalo winters. I am complaining, though, about the wretched anti-social behavior it uncovers. They say that it’s only in winter that you can tell which trees are evergreens; in Buffalo (and most other cities) it is only in winter that you find out who among your neighbors are the ones who, frankly my dear, give a damn.

Without exerting myself I could tell you, right now, who among my neighbors on Park Street in Allentown will remove snow, and who will not.

It would be insane to get the authorities to enforce the law that says sidewalks must be cleared. It would be almost as insane to ask City Hall to patrol the streets to check up on things. But it would not be insane – indeed it would be entirely appropriate – to ask the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to make sure that every bus stop gets completely cleared within 48 hours of a significant snowfall.

When I got off that Route 25 bus I had – literally had – no choice. I either had to risk a fall or stay on the bus. That is unacceptable. Please, NFTA, hire some unemployed people to remove the snow from bus stops. At least from the busiest 400 of them. The NFTA surely has the management skills to do it. If it can run the buses on time, it can take care of snow removal when the need rises to a dangerous level.

I feel sure that such a policy could be implemented before this winter is over. Come on, NFTA, just do it!