Pushing for winter of clean-scraped sidewalks


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Some Winnipeg sidewalks could be cleared right down to the pavement this winter, if a new motion winding its way through city hall succeeds.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/09/2022 (207 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Some Winnipeg sidewalks could be cleared right down to the pavement this winter, if a new motion winding its way through city hall succeeds.

The motion calls for city crews to clear all sidewalks that have been rated in good condition to “bare pavement” during a pilot project next winter.

“When you compare it to icy, slushy or irregular services that we get at times, especially in the spring, I believe bare pavement… would be a much better level of service,” said Coun. Matt Allard, who raised the motion.

Winnipeg’s snow clearing policy calls for sidewalks along major routes, non-regional bus routes and collector streets to be cleared to a compacted snow surface following five centimetres of snow. Such sidewalks in the downtown are cleared to a paved surface “whenever conditions allow.”

Allard has publicly complained about his own treacherous winter walks in the past, including slips and falls that occurred while he was wearing winter boots.

“If you’re a pedestrian in this city, you know that there’s a time in the spring where things can become quite treacherous, with uneven sidewalks and uneven ice… That is not a level of service that allows a person to get to their bus stop, for example, without having a certain level of risk,” he said.

If the pilot project is approved, it would apply to sidewalks repaired in 2021, the only ones the city has recently assessed to be in good condition. The city says about 33 kilometres of sidewalk and cycling paths fall into that category, while there are about 3,400 km of sidewalks throughout Winnipeg.

City spokesman Ken Allen said only the walkways known to be in good condition are suited for clearing ice and snow to the bare pavement.

“In order for a plow to clear a sidewalk down to the pavement, it requires the operator to put down-pressure on the plow blade in order to scrape off the snow and ice from the surface of the sidewalk, and a sidewalk in poor condition would likely be more difficult to clear due to a potentially uneven surface, and be harder mechanically on the snow-clearing equipment. As well, it is expected that clearing sidewalks down to the pavement would take longer to achieve as sidewalk plows would likely have to make multiple passes to get it done,” Allen said in a written statement.

Temperature, snow amount and snow storage capacity could also affect the city’s ability to meet a bare pavement standard, he noted.

The condition of sidewalks that weren’t recently repaired isn’t clear because the city doesn’t regularly rate them, Allen said, adding the public service plans to assess other sidewalks soon, with the first round of city-wide ratings expected by December 2024.

With that work still underway, Allard stressed the city should test snow-clearing improvements on every sidewalk that can handle it next winter.

“The best study… is to send the plows and to plow to pavement. Then we’ll know how much it costs, how much staff time it takes,” he said.

A seniors’ transportation advocate hopes bare pavement clearing can ultimately become the city-wide standard.

“Sidewalk clearing, for us, is really important because we know many seniors, especially in downtown and core areas, need those sidewalks to get access to daily resources… Actually having fully cleared sidewalks is truly (offering) independence,” said Samantha Rodeck, executive director of the Transportation Options Network for Seniors.

Current clearing standards can leave people unsure if all sidewalks they require to complete a trip will be clear enough to make it possible, Rodeck said.

“When that ice builds up it just continues to build ruts. Imagine trying to push a wheelchair or a walker … on (a walkway) that isn’t (cleared) down to the pavement. It’s very challenging,” she said.

The change could also prevent slips and falls, preventing injuries and making it less scary for those with reduced mobility to leave home, Rodeck said.

“With us changing this one little (thing), we’re enhancing a person’s quality of life and potentially decreasing health-care costs,” she said.

It’s not clear how much more it would cost the city to clear “good condition” sidewalks to a bare pavement level, Allen said. Te pilot project likely won’t require council approval, unless the effort is deemed to change the snow-clearing policy, he said.

Council’s public works committee is expected to debate Allard’s motion on Sept. 7. ^


Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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