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Blizzard Dispatch: What Is It Like Walking Three Miles To Work In The Snow?

By Melissa McEwen in News on Feb 2, 2015 7:00PM


In hindsight, I'm not sure what possessed me. Probably the fact that my bus was 30 minutes away, the train I could take was also delayed and it normally takes 44 minutes to walk to work from West Town to Greek Town. Plus I like the snow. Spoiler: it didn't take 44 minutes. It was at times fun, and at times frustrating, reminding me that our city doesn't always handle snow all that gracefully.

West Town: a tree covered in snow, and walking down Erie Street

At first the snow was just pretty and I thought my neighborhood looked a bit like Narnia.

Thanks snow pants- those are my knees covered

But it quickly became apparent that wearing snow pants was an extremely good decision, as I encountered large unploughed sections full of snow drifts going up to my waist. It was hard to tell where the sidewalks begun and ended. You know they have machines that can clear snow? I'm not sure why we rely on individuals to clear snow, and then don't even enforce it. From an economics perspective it would make more sense to devote machinery and specialists to the problem than having bartenders, lawyers, teachers, etc. spending time on snow instead of their jobs, when specialists could clear it in half the time.

Racine and Fulton

I also started to regret my long underwear. Walking through snow is apparently quite a workout. I shed my hat, gloves and scarf, but I was still sweaty. I also regretted not bringing sunglasses as I started to suffer from mild snow blindness.

Where did the sidewalk go? At Racine and Lake.

Luckily the city did a horrible job plowing most of the roads too, if they even did it at all. So I was easily able to walk in the road because I was about as fast as the cars.


Another problem with relying on people to clear sidewalks is there are tons of empty lots like this one on on Randolph and Peoria, where the property owners don't clear the sidewalks and the city doesn't seem to care despite the fact that this stretch is increasingly busy.



At this point I was very hungry so I stopped at Little Goat for some coffee and a delicious cinnamon roll. Not surprisingly, I didn't have to wait for anything and there was a staff to customer ratio of about 5:1.


Then I made another mistake: I thought Halsted would be more clear because there are a lot of businesses there and stuff. It was not. The worst stretch by far was the Halsted bridge where the UIC-Halsted Blue Line CTA stop is, something I would have had to contend with even if I had not chosen to walk. Isn't the CTA supposed to clear it? It was wet and slippery and kind of actually scary because if you slipped you could fall on to the busy road. It was definitely the worst part of my walk.

Snow cake

Luckily I didn't die and I found what I want to think is an adorable snow cake in the field off Halsted, but it could be a snow poo for all I know. My Jawbone band reported the walk took 3.2 miles, but it definitely took more than an hour even without the pit stop for coffee and pastry. It was an adventure for sure and I'd do it again, but I hope the city will consider improving the way snow is handled for the sake of intrepid pedestrians. Only about 6 percent of Chicagoans walk to work according to Census data, but that number has been increasing. However, since the drivers, who are the majority of commuters, seemed to be having a bad time too (I spotted at least 5 cars stuck in snow), I'm not sure the city handles snow well for anyone.