Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit Module

The New 311 App Makes it Very Easy to Tattle

On unshoveled sidewalks, unplowed streets, and other civic dereliction

Photo:Chicago Tribune

If you’re bracing for another weekend of snow, you’ll be pleased to know the city’s mechanism for dealing with it just got a whole lot better.

Last month, the City of Chicago quietly rolled out a sleek new website and mobile app for submitting 311 service requests, replacing its decidedly hideous portal.

Before:

After:

And best of all, the app:

In addition to giving 311 a fresh coat of paint, the city also expanded the variety of requests you can make with it — everything from alley inspection to yard waste pick-up.

Among those new services? A form that makes it easier than ever to report unshoveled sidewalks.

Though the online form is new, the law isn’t. Two ordinances in Chicago’s municipal code dictate that able-bodied property owners, lessees, occupants, or “person[s] in charge of any building” are responsible for clearing snow and ice in front of their building.

If you’re cited for failing to do so, it could cost anywhere from $50 to $500. That’s not counting potential liabilities if someone bruises their tuchus on your doorstep.

So what would it look like to follow the law to a T? The city says sidewalks must be cleared to a minimum width of five feet, and that property owners must do so before 10 a.m. for overnight snowfall and before 10 p.m. for daytime snowfall. The ordinance also says that temporary fixes — spreading a gritty material like sand or rock salt to increase traction for pedestrians — is permissible.

Because the 311 site is so new, there isn’t yet data on whether the upgrades have led to more citations. It’s also unclear how complaints will be assessed to accommodate Chicagoans who are unable to clear their own sidewalks due to a disability or extenuating circumstance.

Which leads to our next gentle suggestion: Help out your neighbors who can’t shovel so they don’t get slapped with a fine. That’s part of an ordinance we call Being A Good Human.

Share

Edit Module

Advertisement

Edit Module
Submit your comment

Comments are moderated. We review them in an effort to remove foul language, commercial messages, abuse, and irrelevancies.

Edit Module