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Seattle urging residents to clear their sidewalks during winter weather

SDOT says shoveling your sidewalk is not only the law, but the right thing to do.

SEATTLE — The porch of Erin Musser's home is about as far as she can travel right now. 

"My husband took a week off for a staycation to actually go out and do things and this happens. So now I'm stuck in the house again," Musser said. 

She's in a wheelchair. Because of the weather, she can't safely leave her house. Though her husband shoveled their driveway and sidewalk, the rest of the block is covered in snow and ice. 

"It is really frightening," Musser said.

She lives a few blocks from public transit. She's used to traveling around in her wheelchair, but right now getting to the bus or Link Light Rail station is a dangerous challenge. 

There are more than 2,400 miles of sidewalks in Seattle. Legally, it's a business or homeowner's responsibility to shovel the sidewalks around their property. The fine for ignoring a warning to shovel sidewalks is $50 for homeowners, and $250 for businesses for the first violation. Businesses would be fined $500 for the second violation and $1,000 for the third.  

However, the Seattle Department of Transportation said right now it's not enforcing penalties. 

"Issuing citation is really a blunt force instrument and it's difficult to do that in an equitable way," said SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson. 

Instead, Bergerson said SDOT is focusing on education. The department is encouraging neighbors to communicate and create a plan to keep the neighborhood clear and snow and ice. 

"There's a legal responsibility, but it's not just the law, it's the right thing to do. We're all in this together when there's a snowstorm," Bergerson said.

"We can't do it ourselves. I'd love to be able to take a shovel and do it," said Musser. 

With more snow on the way, Musser hopes people learn, consider her situation and choose to do the right thing. 

"Pay attention to how what you're doing, or not doing, may effect someone. Just think about that a little more and I think that would make things a little better," Musser said. 

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