Twin Tiers communities should follow the example set by the city of Fremont, Ohio. The northern Ohio city is threatening to ticket property owners who blow or dump their grass clippings in the road. Government leaders in the Twin Tiers should issue a similar warning and then enforce New York statutes already on the books that prohibit placing grass or leaves on our roadways.

Fremont Mayor Danny Sanchez cited the danger to motorcyclists when he posted the warning to residents on the city’s Facebook page, but grass clippings are also a danger to bicyclists.

Current city code in Fremont says dumping grass clippings in the roadway is illegal, defining it as “placing injurious material or obstruction in the street.” The city’s zoning code enforcement officer is tasked with responding to citizen complaints.

In the Twin Tiers, many people think distracted drivers and bad roads are the biggest dangers facing motorcyclists and bicyclists, but those are the most obvious dangers.

What many homeowners don’t realize is that they could be responsible for one of the most overlooked types of roadway hazards: yard waste like grass clippings and leaves blown into or dumped on city streets and rural roads.

Grass clippings are slippery when dry and feel like you’re riding on ice or grease when wet. In the fall, leaves are slippery, wet or dry, but they hide other dangers, too, by disguising potholes and other hazards in the road that can shred tires and worse. Large leaf piles raked into streets and roads send bicyclists into the path of cars. The grass clippings and leaf piles also clog the storm drains, leaving more water on streets and roads – another danger.

New York State has two different statutes that prohibit the blowing or placing of grass clippings and leaves on roads:

  • Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 1219(b) requires that any person who drops, or permits to be dropped or thrown, upon any highway any material which interferes with the safe use of the highway shall immediately remove the same or cause it to be removed.
  • Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 1220(a) provides that “no person shall throw, dump, deposit or place, or cause to be thrown, dumped, deposited or placed upon any highway, or within the limits of the right of way of such highway, or upon private lands adjacent thereto, any refuse, trash, garbage, rubbish, litter or any nauseous or offensive matter.”

Homeowners, if you blow your grass into the street or road, blow it back onto the curbing or into your yard. It won’t hurt your grass – it’s actually good for it. If you fail to do so, you are in violation of the statutes listed above and could be sentenced to a fine, community service or both.

More importantly, if your yard waste is responsible for a cyclist or biker losing control and crashing, you will be personally responsible for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering associated with their injuries. These damages could easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a serious injury.

No responsible homeowner would ever intentionally place bikers or cyclists at risk of harm. By following the laws requiring you to keep yard waste out of the street, you’re doing your part to ensure motorcyclists and bicyclists can safely pass your property.

Many landfill operators no longer accept bagged leaves or grass, so mulch or compost your grass and keep your leaf piles out of the street or road for easy pickup by your municipality. Many homeowners rake their leaves into piles in the street to ensure that they get picked up, but don’t break the law to make it easier for your municipal employees.

Remember your responsibility to share our roadways with motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Thank you for reading,

ZiffLaw Attorney
(607) 733-8866