Snow Removal Etiquette

It only snowed about 9 inches in my neighborhood. So how did this car end up in a wall of snow 18-20 inches high?

Apparently this one’s really difficult for people to figure out

We all heard the news, right? Six to ten inches of snow expected in Southeast Michigan? Big snow storm? Schools closing? Yeah, we knew this was coming. And we knew, or should’ve known, that all that snow would have to go somewhere. With a bit of consideration and planning ahead, it’s possible to clear snow out of your way without turning it into Somebody Else’s Problem.

Let’s say it has snowed 9 inches. So, there are 9″ of snow everywhere. In the road. Around your car. On top of your car. You need to clear the snow on and around your car to be able to go anywhere. So you clear it. You take the 9″ of snow from atop and around your car and…throw it in the middle of the street. So now, in the street, are the 9″ of snow that originally fell, plus the 9″ you just threw on top of it.


But wait, Fed-up Neighbor! you say to me. When cars pass through, they pat down the snow!

But does each passing car make sure that it travels a different path such that the snow in the street is evened out? Or does everyone just do their best to travel in the previous car’s tracks? And most of the snow is still there anyway. The cars carry some off on their wheels (which means putting your snow in the middle of the street means you are adding to the problem of decreased traction…don’t you feel good putting others’ lives in danger! Yay!)

My delightful neighbors spent the storm snowblowing and shoveling their snow into the middle of the street. When the city plow came through, the wall it ended up building to either side of the plow was higher than it would’ve been had people not been being inconsiderate assholes looking out only for their own convenience. That is how my brother’s car ended up walled in on the side.

It ended up walled in on the front when the next-door neighbors hired a plow truck and had it clear the parking spaces in front of their house…by pushing all that snow toward my brother’s car. And these people had the nerve to say to me “It would’ve been nice if you’d moved that car so we could clean there too.” And I’m thinking, “1. You didn’t tell us you were going to hire a plow. In fact, I came out here because from my window it looked like your plow was going to completely ram my brother’s car, and the plow driver was hesitating, but your husband was egging him forward. So…are you sure you wanna say that right now? and 2. We didn’t ask you to plow in front of our house anyway.”

What I did because I have some sense and don’t want to have spin-out accidents on my conscience was park my car in the driveway behind the house on Thursday night since I knew the storm was coming. This way, we could pile excess snow into the spot where my car usually is, and my brother would be able to clear his car and the area around it easily. Granted, parking in the back meant I would have to shovel the alley from my house to the street, an area about 50 feet long by 12 feet wide. It would be a lot of extra work for me, since I knew I could only count on one of the neighbors adjacent to the alley to help clear the snow, but at least this way I knew I would be able to get in and out safely without making things unsafe for others. Besides being able to pile the snow into the backyard, I knew I would be able to pile it in an empty lot also adjacent to the alley.

Every house on this block has a front and back yard. The one building on the block has a side lot, and in any case, the sidewalk is wide enough that they could leave half of it for piling up snow and still have plenty of space for people to comfortably walk in.

I’ve been trying to find out what the laws are in Michigan for a while now but couldn’t find anything state-wide until now. According to this article from WWJ, “it is actually illegal under Michigan law (section 257.677(a) of the Michigan Vehicle Code) to shovel or plow snow or ice onto any road or highway, or to deposit snow on a road or road shoulder in such a way that it blocks motorists’ views of traffic.”

The City of Detroit website also says, “Residents and businesses are reminded that they are responsible for maintaining their sidewalks in a manner that makes its safe for pedestrians. Snow removal services and property owners are prohibited from putting snow from their property onto public roadways, as it represents a hazard to vehicle traffic.” (Source, emphasis mine.) While this comes from a 2015 press release, the regular Department of Public Works website’s section on “Snow and Ice Management” (updated for 2017-2018) also states that people shouldn’t be putting their snow into the middle of the road.

More than the law though…I wish people would just not do this out of basic decency and good judgment. After all, when you make the road adjacent to your property more dangerous, you’re increasing the chances that someone will crash into your car, your house, and/or your loved ones. Is that risk really worth saving yourself the physical exertion of pushing snow onto your lawn instead of into the street?