Given the issues of clearing snow on sidewalks, why not conduct a multi-site investigation of snow clearance and collective efficacy? I could imagine two different kinds of research proposals:
-A lot of researchers across the United States commit to walking their neighborhoods for a week after major snow storms in the United States to see if the sidewalks are clear. They do a visual check and take some pictures to document conditions. This is all uploaded to a single site where patterns can be compared, mapped, and discussed.
-Scholars use more indirect observation, whether it is from Google Street View images of places after a snowstorm or camera feeds that are publicly available or even observations from above. Again, they could compare across locations and write up results.
With this data, researchers could look at how different characteristics of neighborhoods affect snow removal including all sorts of demographic data available through the Census, housing type and stock, and local regulations regarding snow removal.
But, perhaps what is most interesting is this question of whether snow removal on sidewalks indicates something about the collective efficacy of neighborhoods and communities. Do people help others clear sidewalks? I think of the example in Chicago of the dibs system where individuals clear out street spaces and then claim them. This system is touted as one where residents overcome the weather odds – and their neighbors – to secure their own parking. This is not a story of communities coming together to help each other. Or, I think of some of the unshoveled sidewalks I have observed around schools in my community. If property owners will not clear snow for kids, when would they?
Across three posts, this is the question that could be answers: what are the kinds of communities that collectively come together to clear snow from the sidewalks?