Starts & Stops

Calls, photos, texts get quick action

At Clarendon and Columbus, snow blocked a handicapped-parking spot.
At Clarendon Street and Columbus Avenue, snow blocked a handicapped-parking spot.

The storm that struck the region just after the new year plastered city streets and sidewalks with snow, but it largely melted away within a few days.

In most places, that is.

I received a photo after the storm of a handicapped-parking spot on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Clarendon Street . The problem: It was unparkable. Gritty and brown, a pile of snow had been plowed into the spot, preventing the space from being used days after the rest of the parking spots on the block were obstruction-free.


“It’s outrageous that a wheelchair spot is used as a snow pile dump,” wrote the reader who, it bears noting, uses handicapped spots when she drives.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Not cool, city of Boston.

I contacted Kate Norton, spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh, explaining the problem and sending a photo of the spot. She jumped on the issue, contacting Michael Dennehy, interim commissioner of the Department of Public Works. Later that night, the pile of week-old snow had been removed.

“This one happened to slip through the cracks,” Norton said. She maintained that city staff would pay particular attention to that spot after future snowstorms.

And for similarly blocked spots or problematic sidewalk accumulations, Norton offered some advice: Sound the alarm!


There’s Citizens Connect , the smartphone app that allows residents to report problems in their neighborhood and send a photograph from their phone’s camera. Then there’s the good old telephone: The 24-hour constituent services line that came to fruition under Thomas Menino is still very much in operation under our new mayor at 617-635-4500, and it alerts city staff in real time.

“They work hard to ensure that every single space is cleared, but we do often rely on residents and business owners to be an additional set of eyes and ears,” Norton said.

Citizens Connect had one other related snow cleanup concern from this past storm: A resident reported on Jan. 11 that snow had been plowed over a sidewalk cutout, those ramps that allow wheelchairs to access the street, on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. Three days later, the problem was fixed.

A quick perusal of Citizens Connect brings to light some other vestiges of the snowstorm. In the Fenway, a snow pile blocking the sidewalk. A call for additional salting after melting snow froze over on Hillside Avenue in Forest Hills. And my personal favorite, from Brighton: “This person has put out ANOTHER traffic cone spacesaver, despite the fact that his last one was taken away. Can’t you issue him a citation?? This is ridiculous!!! . . . Sincerely, Mother of 2 small children who can never park near her own house.” Which brings us to a similar note . . .

A quest to ban parking-spot savers

Southie (and Cambridge, and Allston, and Somerville, and Dorchester), take note: When it comes to post-snowfall parking spot savers, it doesn’t have to be this way.


A Chicago woman made news earlier this month with an unusual approach to digging her car out. Jamie Lynn Ferguson, 29, had grown tired of the space-saving wars that erupted on her street every time a snowstorm came through. So she came up with a solution: She blocked off her schedule for the day to shovel out every car on her block. That way, none of her neighbors could claim a spot as “theirs.” No cones. No folding lawn chairs. No slashed tires. The snow-free spots, she declared, belonged to everyone.


Ferguson documented her travails on Twitter, where she used the hashtag #NoDibs to explain why she sought to shovel out her neighbors.

“I see all these big brawny guys shoveling out their spots, making their claim with mini-chairs in the snow and then going back inside, while the elderly woman across the street, and young girls like me, struggle to park into snow-packed spots every night when we get off work,” Ferguson said in an e-mail to RedEye Chicago, the news outlet that first reported the story. “If everyone who was physically capable made sure all the spots were clear, it’d make for a better day for everyone on our block.”

A forum to answer all those burning bike questions

And though the wintry weather makes it nearly impossible to contemplate the day, still a few months away, when balmy temperatures will bring cyclists out in droves again (though plenty ride right through the winter) the city’s Boston Bikes department is looking for people to respond to a survey about bike habits.

The survey asks respondents to document instances in which they have witnessed transgressions of all types: cars double-parked in bike lanes, pedestrians jaywalking into the path of oncoming bicycles, cyclists running red lights and riding on sidewalks, drivers yelling or gesturing inappropriately at bike-riders.

Really makes you count down the days until warm-weather bike season commences.

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.