On ice

Snowplow-2The calls started coming in Sunday before the sun had reached high noon. Constituents who live on what’s known as “tertiary streets” phoned me because they knew I’d understand their cabin fever. All of us were iced in, and our good humor had begun to fray.

Tertiary streets are those out-of-the-way neighborhoods that are the last to get salted, sanded or plowed. My own tertiary neighborhood is a very hilly one, and on snow days, kids and parents turn the streets into a series of sledding runs. Even if I were able to get my car out of the driveway, I would not venture to drive on our neighborhood’s streets for fear of wiping out the next generation.

Except during ice storms, living in a tertiary neighborhood has many advantages. It’s quiet and safe. The only cars that come by belong to people who live here or are lost or are delivering newspapers. Kids regularly take over the streets for tag football, basketball shoot-arounds and skateboard stunt courses.

But when those winter storms roll through, I’d gladly trade my private Garden of Eden for an apartment with a super on a bus route. That rutted power easement that separates us from the flat parking lot of the apartment complex next door might as well be the Great Wall of China. Watching people leave their apartments and drive out onto the plowed MLK Jr. Boulevard sends pangs of jealousy through those of us who have had too much down time. I’ve been known to shovel a path down the middle of my cul-de-sac street while waiting for the plow to work through to the bottom of its priority list. But the ice this time was too thick.

I wondered, as I watched my husband slide down the driveway into what I was sure would end in a broken hip, whether I’d be able to load him onto the sled and haul him out to the main road to wait for an ambulance. I hoped that my 90-something-year-old neighbor would not have a medical emergency. And I worried whether the people who drive our snowplows but can’t afford to live in town would be able to travel safely along the rural roads they’d have to traverse to get to work.

Which is yet another example of why we need to create more workforce housing in town. Gov. McCrory can caution all he wants that people need to work from home during bad weather, but not everyone can. When the streets are unsafe for motorists not used to driving on ice, we rely on buses. If the transit drivers have to commute several miles over unplowed roads, chances are we all stay home.

Town Council meets tonight. I hope the drivers of the NS route are able to get to work.
– Nancy Oates

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. BikesBelongInCH

     /  February 3, 2016

    Hmmm… Bikes thought Bikes made some reasonable suggestions. (note: Bikes is experimenting with self-referencing in the third person)

    In many snowy places the homeowner is indeed responsible for clearing the snow off their sidewalk. Failing to do so would result in a ticket. Reasonable.

    Bikes doesn’t think the city should be responsible for clearing every sidewalk. The southern slICE from heaven is relatively infrequent. On the other hand there were real problems for pedestrians and bus riders (many of your low income constituents who do not own a car) walking on critical public sidewalks. These lasted many days after the streets were cleared. Perhaps the gentle readers did not experience this, but it was real none the less.

    Bikes appreciates the ability to have a discourse with our new councilwoman and others in her blog space. How cool is that?

    But so disheartened at how shallow the CHALT manifesto of “leadership that listens” now rings. There seemed to be no attempt to address citizen input, no attempt to seek a compromise or common ground. Instead… the T-word was used (Bikes cannot bring itself to repeat it, but instead refers to the not much less vulgar term “the donald”)

    Bikes’ hyperbolic and inflammatory conclusion is: Livable Town means “clearing the streets of snow so the Prius/Subaru can make it to Whole Foods to stock up on Fair Trade Coffee… Public sidewalks? Bring your shovel and watch a Matt Damon movie”

    Bikes apologizes for being hyperbolic and inflammatory. Bikes is still pretty upset at watching Lord Grantham projectile vomit blood over all of Downton Abbey and very concerned that Lady Mary will “out” Edith and Marigold.

  2. Terri

     /  February 3, 2016

    I don’t disagree that citizens and shop owners should clean off their little bits of sidewalk. But if they don’t (didn’t), those of us who depend on the sidewalks and buses are unduly penalized. Why is that so hard to understand?

    Nancy, I’m sorry but you ran on a platform of listening and you aren’t doing so. The snow fell on Friday, continued on Saturday. I paid to use the park and ride on Monday and Tuesday, knowing the sidewalks would be unpassable. When I got to the Columbia/Rosemary bus stop on Monday around 11:00 am, I was pleasantly pleased that the sidewalks were clear. Then I got down to Noodles and they weren’t. Nor were they on Tuesday. When I parked in my regular place in Carrboro on Wednesday, I still had to climb a small hill of ice to board the bus. The older lady with the cane who was waiting with me was unable to board.

    Because the snow plows piled the snow up on the sidewalks/curbs, it was at least Friday before the sidewalks were free of ice/snow (especially around the tall buildings shaded from the sun).

    Now you can say that it’s not your fault as our government representative and that people should take responsibility for themselves, but that isn’t the platform you ran on. You said you wanted government to be more responsive and to listen. In this thread, you’ve heard there is a problem. And we’ve heard you say there isn’t money to solve the problem, but nor is there the political will on your part. All I can say is that it seems like your campaign pledges have flown out the window.

    (and yes, Pluribus, I did get hyperbolic. It was intentional.)

  3. plurimus

     /  February 3, 2016


    “When I parked in my regular place in Carrboro on Wednesday, I still had to climb a small hill of ice to board the bus. The older lady with the cane who was waiting with me was unable to board.”……this sounds like you are complaining to the wrong town council

    So your Snow/ice complaints boil down sidewalks by noodles.

    Your complaint about engagement rings hollow because *you are engaged in the conversation*, no? Just because you don’t like the answer does not mean government is not being more responsive or not listening, nor does it mean that “campaign pledges have flown out the window”.

    Further i still do not understand how you got to Donald Trump from there……

    So intentional or not, you are still being unnecessarily hyperbolic from my perspective.

  4. Nancy

     /  February 3, 2016

    Terri, I differentiate between listening and agreeing. I have heard many people tell of hardships getting around on foot or by public transportation for days after the ice storm. I disagree on the solution that some people have about the town spending taxpayer dollars or diverting town personnel to chip ice off the sidewalks. As I told one of the reporters who interviewed me right after the ice storm, maybe the question isn’t who should clear the sidewalks but how to get the mobility impaired where they need to go while ice still is piled on street corners. You mentioned the woman with a cane unable to board the bus. Presumably she had an important appointment that could not be rescheduled. Could someone from an organization or religious community she belongs to or a friend or neighbor give her a ride? Could we institute a temporary emergency list of people who have to get to medical appointments who could access EZ Ride for a day or two? Or does she value her independence and not want to ask for help? We become a stronger community if people feel they can ask for help.

  5. plurimus

     /  February 3, 2016

    Bikes, Perhaps you could design, manufacture and sell “Make Chapel Hill Great Again” hats.

    IMO a ordnance spelling out sidewalk responsibility is a not a bad idea. Asheville has a reasonable one.

    Reading the thread again there are areas where the problem manifests itself and areas it does not and an inventory of these areas and a small investment in rock salt could make the difference between full sun and shade.

  6. Terri

     /  February 3, 2016

    Jeez Nancy–you probably could set up the infrastructure and support services to provide custom transit. But it would be a lot easier to adopt a policy about clearing the sidewalks and public spaces (like bus stops) and enforce it. It would probably cost less to.

    Pluribus–Nancy was the one who introduced Trump into the discussion.

  7. plurimus

     /  February 3, 2016

    Terri, I stand corrected.

  8. Nancy

     /  February 3, 2016

    The infrastructure is there, Terri. EZ Ride is already funded and operating. The Orange County Dept. on Aging is setting up neighborhood groups to connect neighbors to one another and services so people can age in place. We need to know who needs help in emergency situations such as getting to critical appointments while the sidewalks are still icy. I and the rest of the council have heard some of the stories of people needing help, and staff are working with the mayor to come up with some solutions. Then we’ll decide the best course of action. What would your preference be on how to solve the problem?

  9. BikesBelongInCH

     /  February 4, 2016

    Bikes welcomes the council-iatory tone. One still wonders that enforcement of aforementioned existing(?) ordinances might also be effective and not so costly at all. Perhaps the Parking Police can Pause from Peering at Poorly Parked Prius’s or, in Parallel, Patrol snow Packed Places and rePort Problems. (Bikes has a new found love of alliteration since reading here about T****’s Narcissist Nation). It’s just an idea, something to start brain-snow-storming over.

  10. BikesBelongInCH

     /  February 4, 2016

    David, regarding the ratio of trails paved vs unpaved. Bikes feels your accounting and assumptions are questionable, and feels a more reasonable approach would be to account for all nearby public trails, whether maintained by the town, UNC, Botanical Gardens, etc. Don’t forget Mason Farm, Battle Branch etc.. Likewise, there are currently large paved trail stretches along major thoroughfares (e.g. NC54) that you surely would not count as depriving you of a natural experience.

    Bikes absolutely feels that many trails should remain unpaved. It just might not be the trail in your neighborhood (assuming it is public property).

    The simple question comes down to, does CHALT (or yourself? or councilwoman Nancy?) support the town’s Greenways Master Plan Adopted May 2013? Based on your feeling that connectivity is an abstract goal, Bikes wonders….

    Bikes was delighted to see a major proponent of connected bike routes and paved greenways exalted by CHALT’s website chalt.org. Enrique Penalosa, mayor of Bogota, is a rabid supporter of a network of segregated bicycle routes. Quoting Mayer Penalosa…

    “When we build very high quality bicycle infrastructure, besides protecting cyclists, it shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally as important to one in a $30,000 car”

  11. Bikes,

    1. My neighborhood lies in the lower Booker Creek floodplain, and a paved trail along the sewer easement behind my house, paralleling the creek, would be most welcome, though it’s not likely to ever be built because the area is prone to flooding.

    2. I do indeed support the greenways master plan and look forward to its implementation. Our discussion about paved vs unpaved trails focussed specifically on the upper Bolin Creek portion of the trail network. Here’s what the master plan says about the section of the Bolin Creek trail between Estes extension and Village Drive (upstream of Estes the trail lies in Carrboro):

    “The exact type and location of the trail in this area should be coordinated with the Town of Carrboro. At the time this report was adopted the Town of Carrboro had not decided the exact type and location of its Bolin Creek Trail upstream of Estes Drive Extension. The trail could range from a natural surface trail with an at grade crossing of Estes Drive Extension to a Class 6 trail following the stream corridor, with an underpass crossing below the Estes Drive Extension.”

    Thus, it seems a natural surface trail along Bolin Creek from Village Drive to Estes and then beyond into Carrboro is fully consistent with the master plan.

    The master plan also recommends that the town “acquire large enough easements so that the trail can be built as far from the creek as possible.”

    It seems to me there is no conflict between the master plan’s recommendations and what Friends of Bolin Creek are advocating.

  12. BikesBelongInCH

     /  February 4, 2016

    David, sorry I misunderstood. I too think the master plan holds great promise.

    1) Being prone to flooding has not deterred the Town’s Bolin Creek plans… the town seems to feel it is just a matter of not using it during flood times, and some minimal expense for post-flood cleanup. Perhaps Booker Creek is even more so prone to flood. I would welcome a pedestrian/bike-friendly crossing of Fordham that an improved Booker Creek trail would surely bring.

    2) It would be nice if the Bolin Creek stretch between Village Dr and Estes were at least bike-friendly, regardless of the surface…. connecting into the Wilson Park bike path would give access to Carrboro. I am all for locating the trail as far from the creek as possible.