That funny stretch of gray hard material in front of your home or business is known as a "sidewalk." Some people call them by just the term "walk"' as in what it is often used for and in, "please shovel your walk"
In colder months a variety of substances fall unexpectantly from the sky, and some of them accumulate in various thicknesses and become slippery. With proper planning, training and love of neighbor (and for businesses, the customers coming to your door) these substances can be readily removed.
Some are known to watch the weather forecast on TV, the "Web" or even out the window to determine if snow or ice has begun to accumulate. Most often they do this to allow more time to remove snow and ice from vehicles, driveways ( the place near a building where vehicles are parked and driven, also refered to as "the drive")' and to allow extra time to travel somewhere. Once one is accustomed to determining the conditions out of doors, one must simply ask themselves, "would I want to walk down my sidewalk in its current condition, or after the snow is turned to ice from people trampling the snow?"
We are aware that some people are not interested or skilled at making this determination, and therefore are in contact with a neighborhood teenager, friend, relative or sidewalk shoveling company who is, and who will do it as it is needed. Some will do it for free, others may do it for a small fee. To be sure though, it is certain that if the city has declared a "snow emergency", your sidewalk also needs some attention.
As to tools and technique, the snow and ice removal process is relatively straight forward, something that people of all ages have mastered satisfactorily for generations. The tools needed are relatively few, and include a shovel, some calcium chloride or sand, and a civic conscience. Optional equipment includes a snow blower, a phone to call someone to help, and a little bit of cash to pay someone if you cannot or will not do it yourself.
The art and science of reliable side walk clearance is simple, any 3rd grader can comprehend it. The science involves a fulcrum and lever, in the form of a shovel and your back, and the exertion of a small amount of effort. (please note, if your doctor has restricted your activity, do not participate in snow shoveling, as it can be aerobic in nature. This is where the phone and/or cash come in.) Due to the ingenuity of a few tinkerers, there are a wide variety of snow shovels available on the market, made of plastic, metal and wood, some designed with ergometric features, and some very light weight. Some prefer small, metal shovels often used in the garden, others, larger, grain shovels used on some farms, many own colorful plastic varieties that handsomely appoint the area near their driveway.
The art of snow shoveling has to do with knowing the appropriate time to shovel, the interval between clearings and the quality of the snow that influences both. Light snow of up to two inches can often be left in place, if the weather promises to be sunny in the 24 hours after the snow. Moisture laden snow, suitable for snowball fights and snow men, must be removed immediately, even if the accumulation is 1". The key element is to remove snow that looks like it will persist long enough to turn to ice, which can persist for days if not weeks, making your sidewalk impassible.
One of the more difficult judgement calls is when and if to use calcium chloride or sand to melt ice or reduce slippage. Basically if there is ice, it must be treated immediately, unless it will be above 70 degrees for more than a few days, and even at that, ice and sidewalks can be dangerous, and especially to people wearing shorts, flip flops and sun glasses.
A disturbing trend of the current day, common among those uninformed about the simplicity of snow and ice removal, is the so called "salt alone" technique in which a handful of salt is sown like cheap grass seed upon the sidewalks, therefore avoiding using a shovel at all. This can result in only a partial removal of the snow, and cause dangerous ice slickes under the snow and is to be avoided.
THE DONT TOUCH THE SNOW OR YOU'LL GET SUED URBAN MYTH
No "how to" about sidewalk maintenance would be complete without adressing the urban myth that it is best to let mother nature create an ice slick on your sidewalk so you wont get sued. This myth appears to have been perpetrated by lawyers that interpreted a court case (Gober V Applebys) in which an expert witness indicated that snow inadequately removed from steps melted, became ice, and caused injury. Previously in the Brinkman and Ross Case, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that one cannot sue a property owner due to the natural accumulation of snow or ice. In their infinite wisdom some have combined these together to say that you are better off, from a liability perspective, to do nothing.
Of course, if life were reduced to liability, one wouldn't get out of bed in the morning, and our communities would become even less livable. It is simple to keep a sidewalk clear of snow and ice, so are we not morallaly obligated to maintain our property? Saying that it is "my land lords responsiblity" is also a big time cop out we often hear in our town. Really people? Are those of us who you share your town with reduced to "liabilities?"
Unless you have a deep desire to injure pedestrians by turning your sidewalk into a skating rank, the 468 people who walk to work in Kent, the thousands of students that walk to school, and the many who walk to places of business are asking that you simply love us more than the few minutes or few bucks you save by ignoring the snow and ice on your sidewalks.