Snow job for citizens?City to consider requiring residents to keep sidewalks shovelled
The burden of clearing snow from city sidewalks may soon fall onto the shovels of Winnipeg homeowners.
Residential walks are currently cleared of snow by the city, but support is growing at city hall to follow the practice of most other Canadian cities, which force homeowners to shovel the city's walks and fine those who refuse.
"We typically look at it annually during the budgeting process," said Brad Sacher, director of public works, adding the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every winter clearing sidewalks.
"We're asked to look at what kind of efficiencies we can find, and this one sticks out like a sore thumb because so many other cities do it this way."
Coun. Janice Lukes, chairwoman of the public works committee, said if Sacher doesn't raise the issue in a pending cost-benefit analysis of snow clearing, she will make sure it becomes part of the public debate.
"We should put the facts on the table about what it costs," Lukes (St. Norbert) said. "We're one of the very few cities that do it."
The issue surfaced after it was discovered it was included as part of a 20-year pedestrian and cycling strategy. Buried in the 344-page report was a recommendation the city end its practice of clearing residential sidewalks and instead require homeowners to do it and fine those who don't.
Residential sidewalks "should become the responsibility of every owner or occupant of any building abutting the public sidewalk," the recommendation in the pedestrian and cycling strategy report states. "These sidewalks should be cleared within 24 hours of end of snowfall and should be shovelled to bare pavement...
"Penalties should be imposed on residents who fail to clear their sidewalk."
Public works acknowledges some people -- particularly seniors and those with mobility issues -- may not be able to clear their own sidewalks in winter, and recommends initiatives to assist those individuals, including a "snow angels" program -- neighbours and volunteers who shovel works for those physically unable.
Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt told the committee the recommendations on sidewalk snow clearing should be removed from the strategy document, but the committee accepted the report in its entirety and it now heads to council for consideration.
In addition to sidewalk snow clearing, city streets are cleared down to the bare pavement, from curb to curb.
There was a public uproar when a consulting firm reviewed the public works department operations and said city hall could save money if it didn't clear the streets from curb to curb. The suggestion was never adopted.
Sacher said the sidewalk snow-clearing issue found its way into the strategy document after it was raised by residents during the public consultation process.
Sacher said some residents said they'd prefer to shovel the walk in front of their homes instead of waiting for city crews to do the work a week after a snowstorm.
*Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2015 B1*
JUST TO BE CLEAR...
WINNIPEG isn't the first Canadian city to consider DIY snow clearing for public sidewalks. The Ontario cities of Hamilton, Kitchener, Waterloo and Windsor have all left residents responsible for sidewalk snow clearing. Here are six other cities that have also gone that way:
- *Vancouver:* Residents and business owners are expected to clear sidewalks by 10 a.m. the day after every snowfall, seven days a week. The city encourages residents to adopt the sidewalks of neighbouring seniors or people with mobility issues and keep them clear all winter long. Failure to keep walks adjacent to residential homes can lead to fines of $250 per offence, while apartment blocks and business can incur fines ranging from $750 to $2,000. - *Calgary: *Since 1974, property owners in Calgary have been responsible for clearing the sidewalks adjacent to their properties within 24 hours of snow or ice accumulating. The city has also been promoting a Snow Angels campaign for more than 10 years, encouraging able-bodied residents to help seniors and others in need by adopting sidewalks to clear. Residents nominate their Snow Angels annually for special recognition letters from the mayor, and Snow Angels are given free parking passes from the Calgary Parking Authority. If property owners don't clear their sidewalks within 24 hours, the city gives them notices to shovel and scrape their walks within an allotted period of time. Fines vary based on the length of sidewalks and the amount of snow and ice accumulated. - *Edmonton: *A community standards bylaw requires property owners shovel their adjacent walkways -- sidewalks and driveways -- within 48 hours of a snowfall. Those who violate the bylaw are given one warning notice per season before being issued a ticket. Tickets are $100, and if a contractor has to be sent to remove snow, the property owner will be invoiced again separately. The city recommends residents sprinkle salt or gravel on the ground to give pedestrians traction and provides free boxes of sand at community drop points for citizens to use. - *Regina: *The City of Regina also provides sand to help residents keep their walks safe. Regina requires downtown businesses to clear their walks within 24 hours of a snowfall, while businesses, apartments and vacant lots outside downtown are given 48 hours to clear the snow. - *Saskatoon:* Residents are required to clear their private walks within 48 hours of a snowfall, while some commercial properties are only given 24 hours. When reports of uncleared sidewalks are filed to the City of Saskatoon, a bylaw inspector investigates and doles out 48-hour warnings to residents. Those who don't clear adequately can expect fines ranging from $100 to $2,000, depending on the severity and number of infractions. - *Toronto: *City crews clean the snow and ice from much of Toronto but aren't able to do so in core areas. Residents and business owners in the city's core are asked to clear adjacent walkways within 12 hours of every snowfall. Violating the bylaw can result in a $100 fine, with $25 surcharges. People needing snow-clearing help in Toronto's core can submit special requests to the city.
*-- Jessica Botelho-Urbanski*