The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kocoras, District Judge.
In a paroxysm of hyperbole, the plaintiff has described this as
a case which "shocks the conscience [and] is fundamentally
offensive to civilized society." Complaint ¶¶ 17, 23. He is right
in a very limited sense, but not at all in the way he thinks.
Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 95½, ¶ 11-1007(a). Newman's entire lawsuit
rests upon his allegation that the sidewalk on which he otherwise
should have been walking was "obstructed by and rendered
impassable from large amounts of snow which had previously fallen
thereon during the previous twenty-four hours."
9. This accumulation
of snow, he argues, deprived the policeman of probable cause to
stop him for unlawfully walking in the street under the amended
version of the statute.
The 1976 amendment was enacted, in the words of Illinois State
Senator Hall, as one of a "whole series of bills that have to do
with the safety factor." H.B. 2210, 79th Ill.Gen. Assembly, 1st
Sess., 1975 Senate Debates June 19, 1975, p. 205. The overarching
purpose of this legislation was thus to increase the safety of
pedestrians, not to enhance their convenience.*fn9 By inserting
the phrase "and its use is practicable" into the statute that
requires pedestrians to use sidewalks where they are provided,
the Illinois legislature did not intend to give pedestrians a
license to take to the streets after every snowfall.
"Practicable," as used in this statute, means "performable,
feasible, possible," Black's Law Dictionary 1055, or "capable of
being put into practice, done, or accomplished," Webster's Third
New International Dictionary 1780; Random House College
Dictionary 1040. When the distinction between this word and
"practical" is kept in mind, see, e.g., H.W. Fowler, A
Dictionary of Modern English Usage 469 (2d ed. 1965); H. Shaw,
Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions 187-88 (1975);
Houghton Mifflin Company, The Written Word 282-83 (1977), it is
apparent that a natural accumulation of snow on a sidewalk is not
the type of obstacle the legislature contemplated as entitling
pedestrians to walk in the street. In contrast to a sidewalk that
is torn up or barricaded because of construction work, for
example, a sidewalk that is merely covered with snow may still be
used, albeit with some difficulty if the snow is deep and has not
been packed down. But while it may be inconvenient in some
instances to walk on a snow covered sidewalk, it is nevertheless
"practicable," and it is obviously much safer than walking in the
street, where only a narrow lane may have been plowed to
accommodate vehicular traffic and what little roadway is
available may be covered with ice.
Accordingly, since it was "practicable" as a matter of law for
Newman to use a sidewalk that had only a natural accumulation of
snow lying on its surface, he had no right to walk in the street,
and the policeman had probable cause to stop him and issue the
ticket. The fourth amendment claim against the policeman is
therefore without merit, and the derivative claims against the
police chief and the village also melt away.
For the foregoing reasons the defendants' motions to dismiss