Do You Have To Shovel Your Sidewalk?

It’s the law in Chicago, and many suburban municipalities, that you must keep sidewalks shoveled. According to Chicago’s code, “Every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground abutting upon any public way or public space shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk.” Residents who do not follow this rule could face fines of $50. Businesses can be fined $250-500 per day. More details on Chicago’s rule and tips on how to keep your sidewalks clear are below.

When should I shovel?

If the snow stops before 4PM in Chicago, your sidewalk needs to be cleared within 3 hours, unless it is Sunday. After 4PM, or on Sundays, you’ll need to clear the walk by 10AM the following day. The municipal code recommends clearing a 5-foot-wide path, wherever possible. Both snow and ice need to be removed.

What should I use?

Compacted snow quickly turns to ice; timely removal is important. During a snowstorm, you should shovel the walks frequently to prevent build up. A sharp, metal snow shovel is the most effective tool for removing snow that has been walked on or otherwise compacted.

How much snow do I need to clear to comply with the ordinance?

The City of Chicago municipal code requires individuals to clear a 5-foot wide path along the sidewalk, where conditions allow. This width allows pedestrians in wheelchairs, people with children in strollers, students walking to school, and individuals with assisted devices mobility and access.

What is the best way to remove snow from the sidewalk?

  • Remove snow along ALL of the sidewalks adjacent to your property.
  • Move snow to your yard or the parkway adjacent to your property.
  • Do not push snow from the sidewalk into the street.
  • Do not cover the crosswalks with snow.
  • Do not block alley entrances with snow

What if a sidewalk is not cleared?

Chicago residents can report un-cleared sidewalks to the City’s 311 service line. This is only for snow on sidewalks, not on streets or in parking lots.

What if I am unable to shovel?

Chicago has a Snow Corps for helping seniors and people with disabilities. (Chicago Snow Corps is a new program that connects volunteers with residents in need of snow removal – such as seniors and residents with disabilities.) While winter can be hazardous for everyone here in the City of Chicago, it can be especially difficult for elderly and physically disabled residents who may not have the ability or resources to remove snow from their sidewalks and walkways. Chicago Snow Corps aims to help minimize potential heavy-snow emergencies by pairing volunteers on blocks where elderly and disabled citizens have requested help.

Keeping sidewalks ice-free is an important way to protect yourself and other pedestrians from injury. Safety is important; too many people have fallen on black ice this year and broken a hip or a hand; emergency rooms have been crowded. You don’t want someone to fall on your property and sue you for negligence.