Sidewalk Safety Program
Sidewalks represent a major investment by the citizens of Cincinnati and are an important part of a balanced transportation system.
Used by all facets of a diverse pedestrian population that ranges from young to old, physically fit to challenged, they connect our homes, neighborhoods, parks, recreational facilities, schools, churches and businesses. They provide pathways for our elderly and bikeways for our youth.
A safe and aesthetic sidewalk space promotes neighborhood interaction and enhances property values.
The Cincinnati Municipal Code (CMC) §721-1-S defines sidewalks as "the portion of a street lying between the established or presumable curb line and the adjacent property line; the portion set aside for pedestrian use."
Generally, sidewalks are made up of three elements: walk, driveway, and sod space. These components vary in width and location. Business districts normally do not have sod space and may have fewer driveways. Unimproved streets typically do not have walks.
The type of walk and driveway construction varies. For example, in the Central Business District, structural slabs cover basement areas extending into the public right-of-way; recent construction has placed a "topping " of clay pavers on these slabs. In neighborhood business districts, unistone pavers have recently been used in lieu of concrete. However, the vast majority of walks and driveways are of plain concrete construction.
While no comprehensive inventory currently exists, we estimate there are 1,700 miles of improved sidewalk space (frontages with paved walk and driveway surfaces) within the City of Cincinnati.
To bring the size of these facilities into perspective, we estimate there are 2,000 acres of walks, sod space, and driveways throughout the City. This compares with the 1,472 acres of Mt. Airy Forest, the City’s largest park.
Based upon current replacement costs, the value of these improvements exceeds $215 million. On average, it costs more than $130,000 to construct one mile of walk and driveway on each side of a street. Due to many factors, these facilities must be periodically replaced to promote public safety.
Responsibility for constructing and maintaining sidewalk space is shared by property owners and the City. According to CMC §721-147, abutting property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk space and keeping it free from nuisance.
In cases where the sidewalk space is not properly maintained, CMC §721-149 directs that abutting property owners be notified of necessary corrective action. CMC §721-163 makes owners of abutting property responsible for funding construction and maintenance relating to sidewalks. The City Engineer is responsible for supervising sidewalk construction, reconstruction or repair.
City Capital funding is used to repair walks at intersections, bus stops, and abutting property controlled by General Fund City agencies. Capital funding is also used to construct curb ramps to improve accessibility.
In Cincinnati, as in most major cities throughout Ohio and the nation, property owners are responsible for keeping the sidewalks in the Right of Way safe, accessible, and in good repair (Cincinnati Municipal Code CMC §721.147 – Owners of Abutting Property to Maintain Sidewalk). City Capital funding is used to repair walks at intersections, bus stops, and abutting property controlled by General Fund City agencies. Capital funding is also used to construct curb ramps to improve accessibility.
The City works with property owners to promote safe and accessible sidewalks by inspecting and identifying sidewalks and driveways that are in need of repair.
Annual Sidewalk Inspections
Every year, the Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) Sidewalk Safety Program inspects sidewalks in one or two neighborhoods.
The streets in these neighborhoods are chosen based on a high number of hazardous sidewalk complaints received through the Cincinnati Customer Service Request data base or identified by Neighborhood Community Councils.
Please click on the communities listed below to open the map indicating the areas in those communities where sidewalks have been included in the Sidewalk Safety Program from 2008 to the present:
Notice To Repair Condemned Sidewalk Or Driveway
When defective sidewalk is discovered, in a neighborhood inspected for the Sidewalk Safety Program, the abutting property owner will be sent a "Notice of Repair" that identifies the estimated quantity and cost of the required repairs.
The property owner is given options to complete the required work within the stated timeframe.
Once a property has been included in the Sidewalk Safety Program, the only acceptable method to repair condemned concrete is a full-block replacement from joint to joint.
Property owners have the following options when repairing a condemned sidewalk or driveway:
- Hire a Licensed Street Contractor.
- An unlicensed property owner may acquire a permit to replace condemned sidewalk provided the work is performed to City Standards, and the sidewalk area is under 65 square feet. This option does not apply when condemned concrete includes areas over which a vehicle travels (driveway, apron, etc.). This work must be completed by a Licensed Street Contractor.
- The City contractor will complete the required work if the property owner chooses this option or if the work is not completed by the date stated on the Notice to Repair.
If the property owner chooses to have the City contractor complete the required work, they have the option to assess the balance due to their property taxes in a 3-year, 5-year, 10-year or 20-year time period (20-year assessments have qualifiers of having obtained a Homestead Exemption from Hamilton County OR having a bill that exceeds $2,500).
After the billing statement is sent, if no payment is received or no assessment option is selected, by the due date, the balance due will be automatically collected with the property taxes at the 3-year semi-annual assessment option.
Sale Of Property Where Sidewalk Work Has Been Required Through A Notice To Repair
Unfortunately, new home buyers are often surprised by the bills for sidewalk work that was required and performed before they purchased their property.
While notified sellers have a legal duty to disclose such information, new owners sometimes indicate that they weren’t informed. Legal remedies oftentimes are more expensive than the bills themselves, leaving new homebuyers frustrated with the seller, their realtor, and the City.
If you are contemplating purchasing property in the City, please refer to the above maps where the Sidewalk Safety Program has completed or is currently completing required sidewalk work.
If you have questions as to what the "real-time" status is of any location (work required, work completed, billing underway, or the balance due for an assessment) please contact the Sidewalk Safety Program at 513-352-4503.
Guidelines For Selecting A Contractor
The following guidelines should be considered when hiring a contractor to complete your sidewalk repairs.
Before work can begin, the contractor or property owner must obtain a permit from Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE). Any Contractor working in the Right-of-Way must be licensed with the DOTE.
A list of current Licensed Street Contractors can be found at the Permits and Forms page.
Before accepting a bid, make sure the contractor is aware of the following DOTE regulations:
- Sidewalk blocks must be saw-cut prior to removal.
- Area under sidewalk and driveways must be compacted.
- Proposed sidewalks must be 5” thick. Proposed driveways and aprons must be 7” thick.
- Truck-delivered ODOT Class “C” Concrete must be used for all work in the Right of Way. Hand mixed concrete shall not be used.
- Full depth expansion joint material ½” x 5” or ½” x 7” must be used where the new concrete meets the old, and at approximate 30 foot intervals.
- Curing/sealing compound must be applied to the fresh concrete.
- Unless special provisions are coordinated through DOTE, work hours are between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Concrete trucks must not be washed out in street or storm drains.
- Excavated walks must be barricaded if left unattended.
Follow these purchasing guidelines before signing a sidewalk replacement contract.
- Verify that the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, and knows the above rules.
- Ask to see some past work references. Please note that the City is not allowed to recommend contractors.
- Get a written quote that details the scope of work.
- Do not pay all the money until after the contractor has completed all the work.
- A sum of at least 10% should be held back until the grass seed and straw has been completed. It is common for the property owner to be required to tend to the newly planted grass.
Other good business practices/guidelines that should be followed:
- Obtain several quotes from different contractors.
- Do not pay more than the minimum amount in advance.
- Do not make final payments to contractors until after City has inspected the work and signed-off on the permit.
Cincinnati Municipal Code
Please see Section 721 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code for more information.