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Snow and ice revives debate over who should clear pavements

Illustration shows a person sweeping the snow, Monday 08 February 2021, in Brussels. Snow fall and cold temperatures are forecast for the rest of the day. The Royal Meteorological Institute KMI-IRM has issued a Code Yellow warning for slippery conditions. (BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ)
06:23 09/02/2021

The pavements are currently icy and covered with a layer of snow, and – as many of us already know – can lead to slips and falls. When it comes to the pavement outside your home, the ‘guardian’ of the house is responsible for clearing the path. Failure to do so, which results in an accident, can lead to a fine of either €150 or €350 in the Brussels region, depending on the level of neglect and injuries caused.

The responsibility for clearing the pavements becomes a bone of contention for some whenever the snow falls. However, the communal regulations clearly state that when the ground is icy, it is up to the citizen to ensure that the sidewalk in front of its entrance is cleared, not the commune.

"The pavement is the responsibility of the caretaker, and the caretaker can be the owner, the co-owner, the tenant or the concierge on the ground floor of the building, and who must ensure that the pavement is clear", explained Vincent Dewolf, the mayor of Etterbeek.

However, if an accident occurs, the responsibility could be shared, according to Wautier Robyns, spokesman for Assuralia, the federation of insurers. “For a pedestrian, for example, running to catch a bus, it could lead to a share of responsibility, as much as that of the resident who did not clear his piece of pavement."

It is always up to the victim to assert their rights in the case of an accident on an uncleared path. They can use witnesses to prove the location of the fall, as well as a police report for the injuries.

The best way to avoid this is to clear the snow from the entrance to your home and then use de-icing salt on the path.

You can choose to do this the conventional way or be inspired by the city worker from the Walloon town of La Louvière who took a more artistic approach to salt spreading on Monday.

In a video taken from a following car, the worker can be seen joyfully spreading the salt on the road from the back of a truck in such a theatrical style that the short clip of his moves has since gone viral on the internet. Standing in the bed of the salting truck, the worker flamboyantly spreads the salt on the icy road behind from his gloved hands.

While the video has raised many smiles, it has also raised questions about safety and protocol. The worker’s enthusiasm cannot be doubted but his efficiency at spreading the salt, without a shovel, and the fact that he is standing on the back of a moving vehicle has led to a rebuke from the authorities.

"I think this worker wanted to do well, there was a good intention behind his initiative," said Jacques Gobert, mayor of La Louvière. "However, we stopped it as soon as we were notified. The worker had endangered his safety and that of others, with this practice dating back to the last century. We are not at a point of sanctions, since the worker acted in the public interest, albeit clumsily. Our spreaders are on their way every day at this time of year and they have to manage some 425 kilometres of road."

Written by Nick Amies



Nice to see a beneficial super-spreader for a change.

Feb 10, 2021 11:04