Freedom of movement is an essential human requirement. Cities and towns that best accommodate this are places people want to live and enterprises can flourish. This matters not only in summer, when most of us visit and take our pictures of bustling streets and squares.
"Bustling streets and squares" in North America are invariably in neighborhoods established before 1940, when buildings and circulation were oriented to pedestrians. When we don't clear snow from sidewalks, we force those worried about slipping and falling cooped up inside. We also keep disabled people inside. To the degree that it is hard and unpleasant to walk on unshoveled walks or narrowed paths, we all stay inside or drive to a plowed parking lot in a strip mall. That hurts people and hurts traditional neighborhood shopping- and gathering places and undermines public health.
That just kills traditional neighborhoods. The evidence is all about us in Buffalo.
Not all North American cities ignore the needs of pedestrians and traditional neighborhoods in winter. Montreal and Quebec City don't. As the collection of postcards below shows, Montrealers are proud of their city, how romantic and neighborly it can be to be out and about in winter, and how they handle snow. Photographers even run out and take pictures before the snow is cleared away. I've seen this happen, and seen a phalanx of snowblowers, dump trucks, and sidewalk tractors go into action.
Virtually the entire City of Buffalo was built out by 1940. A big reason the city's neighborhood shops were undermined was anti-pedestrian bias in transportation. It manifests itself to this day in impassable public sidewalks that radically reduce pedestrian flows past businesses for five months a year.
It is time the city clears all sidewalks on bus routes, commercial areas, and near schools. Montreal does it, Quebec City does it. They thrive in winter. Why not Buffalo?