Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells reintroduced a bill this morning to set up fines for failing to clear sidewalks.

During last year’s storms, many residents and businesses toiled to keep their sidewalks clear, but some did not. The biggest offenders were commercial properties like this parking lot or this apartment building, where one tenant told us the property owner didn’t care much about clearing the sidewalk.

Not shoveling creates serious obstacles for people with even minor difficulty walking, and can make people with more significant disabilities unable to get around at all. One way or another, we need to make sure sidewalks get clear.

This bill lets DC impose a fine on a property owner of $25 for a residential property and $250 for a business. Under current law, DC has to clear the sidewalk, then bring a lawsuit to recover its costs, and can only recover $25.

By changing the penalty to a more simple fine, DC can more easily levy the penalty. And if they don’t pay the fines, Cheh wants to establish a collections unit (or are they bounty hunters? to go after them. But the real value will come if this actually entices property owners, especially the big company-run apartment buildings, large parking lots, and other large-scale operations, to take their shoveling responsibility seriously.

Then, on to the task of getting the National Park Service to clear sidewalks next to its own property.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.