Campus sidewalks are dangerous

The University does not put enough resources into winter ice and snow removal.

Connor Nikolic

All I wanted was a relaxing workout after stressing all week because of a midterm exam. After leaving the University Recreation and Wellness Center, I approached an ice-laden stretch of sidewalk behind Shepherd Laboratories.

I skidded out in my tennis shoes, my feet flung out behind me and I landed front-first. I ate it. Although I was lucky enough to not sustain physical injury, the fall left my ego bruised.

We have all been in similar situations at one point or another. This winter has had the lowest temperatures in decades, which piled up layers of ice without end. Whether it was a stranger or a friend, just about every student can tell a story about how someone had an ungraceful moment on the ice sometime in the past few months.

Should this be the norm? Should students, faculty and staff just have to be careful on the miles of sidewalks covered in ice on and around campus? We should hold the University of Minnesota accountable when sidewalks become dangerous in order to limit future accidents.

To be fair, just last week I saw crews breaking ice and pouring salt on Washington Avenue on campus. On the whole, ice has been removed from several of the more trafficked areas around campus, or snow has melted naturally. But even with the mass melting over the weekend, there is still some risk in using some sidewalks where an unaware person could take a painful fall.

The problem only gets worse in neighborhoods surrounding campus. Dinkytown, Marcy-Holmes and Southeast Como have some of the area’s most intimidating pedestrian spaces. The city of Minneapolis requires property owners to shovel sidewalks within 24 hours of snowfall, yet the nearby renter-heavy areas have been icy.

After establishing that the University and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul should do more work to make sidewalks useable, they have to find a way to make this happen.

I understand that the University has likely been more focused on new bus routes during this winter, preparing campus for the light rail and other ways students can get to class without braving the cold will of Jack Frost. In future years, poor sidewalks may not be as much of an issue. More resources should be available for the annual snow and ice removal work.

Last month, state officials forecasted that the state would have a $1.23 billion budget surplus. Gov. Mark Dayton’s office has stated that several hundred million will be going to the schools, some of which the University should see. How much would it cost to pay a crew to clear ice around campus? While there are several budget items to focus on, a drop in the bucket could go toward keeping the campus safer.

There is no reason — other than that insignificant cost — not to address the icy sidewalk issue. The expectation of the students of the University is that it will make sure campus sidewalks are clean and safe to walk on. The Gopher Way is not an alternative to get to many campus buildings efficiently, and people with disabilities may not be able to traverse parts of the tunnel system. After a snowstorm, the first thing Minnesotans seem to think about is road safety, but for college students who don’t drive as much, sidewalk safety is equally, if not more, important.

We may laugh at bruised egos, but broken bones and crippling injuries are not a joke, and unfortunately, the present state of campus could be at fault.