Neighbor can't tell kids to get off the sidewalk

When my children walk in front of our neighbor's yard, on the sidewalk, the lady comes out and tells them they can't be there.

I know she's mistaken. What city codes can I use to prove this to her so she stops bothering my kids?

— Jason S., Medford

She is mistaken, and it's up to you to present the following information in a neighborly manner.

Sidewalks are designed for public use even though they are to be maintained by individual homeowners, Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said. (There are a limited number of homes with private sidewalks installed for personal use or aesthetic reasons, but that is not generally the case.)

"Many property owners may feel they own that section of the property, but that is actually public right of way, and while they have to maintain it, they cannot close or restrict it," Budreau said.

According to Medford Municipal Code 5.280, neither your neighbor nor your children can physically obstruct the "free passage of pedestrians or vehicular traffic" on any street, street crossing or sidewalk.

"She may argue the kids are obstructing it, but that's only the case if someone is trying to walk by and can't," Budreau said. "She can yell all she wants, but the persons on the sidewalk have a legal right to be there."

Jason, help your neighbor understand this, and also remind your children to be courteous and to limit the chalk drawings, noise and cookie crumbs to the front of your house.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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