The Complete Guide to Philadelphia Snow Etiquette

What you should do to make things easier for everyone during our next big snowfall.

City Hall snowfall

After two seasons without much of a winter at all, the Philadelphia region has battled snow several times already this winter. And, as you may have heard already, more snow could be on the way.

It’s a fact of American life that no one can remember what happened last Tuesday, let alone memories of winters past. It really has been a while — okay, a few years — since we’ve had a winter like this, and in the last few weeks I’ve noticed that no one has any idea what to do in the snow anymore.

Of course, I myself could be forgetting that no one in Philadelphia had any idea what to do in the snow several years ago, either. Either way, it’s time for a primer or a refresher: The complete* (*not-at-all complete) guide to Philadelphia snow etiquette.

1. Shovel your freaking sidewalk.

Look, I know it’s not going to all look like this.

sidewalk.pristine

But if the residents of this group of rowhomes on Bainbridge Street — Bainbridge Street, people! — were able to clean off their sidewalks this well, surely you can at least do a half-assed job at it.

snow.okay

Like, this is pretty bad. Why didn’t these people shovel the entire sidewalk? But there is at least some sort of attempt here. That’s all I’m asking. Don’t leave it like this:

snow.awful

If not for my cat-like reflexes, I would have fallen on this ice last night! (Okay, maybe I just walked around it.) But you have to shovel your sidewalk. And if you have neighbors who are frail or elderly, you shovel their sidewalk for them! I know we all live in a city so we can be as close as possible to one another without ever actually interacting. It’s tempting to stay a shut-in when it’s cold and snowy outside, but make it a point to talk to your neighbors for once and shovel for them if they need you to.

You don’t want to be like this:

city.shovel

Bang-up shoveling job outside the free clinic at Broad and Sansom. What if someone fell after finding out he or she has chlamydia? Think how tragic that would be. This is why you should shovel your sidewalk.

(And shovel the snow back onto your own property! Don’t toss it on a neighbor’s sidewalk, silly.)

2. Walk through the snow to let others pass if you can

No matter what I write, obviously, some sidewalks will go un-shoveled. (I guess I could actually solve the problem by going around and shoveling everyone’s sidewalk, but that seems a little extreme.) And you’ll end up with little pathways next to larger piles of snow. If you’re an able-bodied person and someone older, or someone who is having trouble walking approaches, it’s up to you to move into the snow and let them pass.

Yes, this advice is basically “Hey, be nice to people walking around when it’s snowing.” This seems obvious, but normally in Philadelphia the only way to traverse the sidewalks is to move as quickly as possible, darting in and out of walking lanes in order to shave two minutes off your commute time. In the snow, it’s time to suspend that thinking and let people walk by for once.

3. No snowball fights with people who aren’t your size.

I’m 30, and yet I still can’t resist throwing a snowball or 10 at a friend when it starts to snow. But that’s OK: We’re friends — at least until the fifth snowball toss — and my friends will hit me back with snowballs when necessary. But don’t go around just throwing snowballs at anyone. Are you over the age of 14? You should only be throwing snowballs at friends. But, if you must be a mischief-maker, no throwing snowballs at kids. Adults vs. adults. It’s only fair.

If you’re under the age of 13, you have more freedom. But you shouldn’t be throwing snowballs at kids too much younger than you — let’s say, two years. A 13-year-old throwing a snowball at an 8-year-old? That should be beneath even the worst bully.

4. Follow the rules of your neighborhood with spot-saving.

Yeah, yeah, we get it. Shoveling out a space and then saving it with a traffic cone or chair is illegal, and annoying.

But who am I to tell you to go against the standard rules of your neighborhood? If the Don of your ‘hood deems that you get to save your spot after shoveling it out, then feel free to save it. Just make sure he’ll fix your ticket if you get one.

5. Clean off your car before hitting the highway

Seriously, this is just as important as shoveling. You could easily kill someone if you don’t clean off your car. It takes a minute. Don’t drive around with a giant pile of snow on your roof! This isn’t hard, people.

There you have it. Five easy tips to make your life and the lives of your neighbors better next time it snows.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.

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