Street-clearing crews leave some sidewalks impassable for pedestrians, mobility-challenged


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A hill of snow and ice blocked the sidewalk at one point of Daniel Rempel’s on-foot commute to work earlier this week, an active-transportation hazard he says has grown far too common.

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A hill of snow and ice blocked the sidewalk at one point of Daniel Rempel’s on-foot commute to work earlier this week, an active-transportation hazard he says has grown far too common.

The sizable pile is believed to have been dumped by road plows onto the walkway at St. Matthews Avenue and Garfield Street Thursday morning, triggering complaints on social media.

“It’s just majorly inconvenient… my options are either to scale the mound or to go around via the street, which puts (me) in danger of (getting too close to vehicle) traffic,” said Rempel.

He said such barriers have been common this winter, creating hazards that make some Winnipeggers less likely to choose active-transportation options after the snow falls.

“This year, the problem is when the roads are cleared (these snow piles) end up on the sidewalks. It just doesn’t seem fair to those of us who have chosen to… try to use our vehicles less,” he said, adding it’s a much bigger problem for people with mobility challenges.

”It’s ultimately an issue about accessibility. That intersection in question seems to be a regular dumping ground. It’s not the first time that it’s happened there.”

The pile of snow and ice was cleared by Friday afternoon, area residents said.

Rempel said he would support the city spending more tax dollars to promptly clear both roads and sidewalks and speed up the response to such complaints.

“I think this is a valuable place to invest both time and money into our city,” he said.

Such impediments can seriously affect winter travel options for people who rely on mobility aids to get around, said David Kron, the executive director of the cerebral palsy association of Manitoba.

“It doesn’t take much of a mound… or block of snow to make a whole street or a whole block impassable,” said Kron, who uses a cane. “We really do count on the city to do their best to clear out the snow.”

Kron is also part of a group that is helping the city update its snow-clearing training manual to remove such barriers. While the city has strong snow-clearing standards, a quicker response is needed to address trouble spots that remain after crews clear thousands of kilometres of roads and sidewalks, he said.

“It’s even more (of a concern for) someone (who) uses a manual or power chair to get around the city. I have members that just don’t go out in the winter,” he said.

Kron said the city should also implement a notification system that informs residents when their sidewalk will be cleared.

Coun. Cindy Gilroy said snow piles dumped across sidewalks have proven a frequent obstacle in her Daniel McIntyre ward.

“This is a common occurrence. This isn’t just a one-off, so this is something I’ve been struggling with,” she said.

“Another concern is how high they’re piling the snow. Now it becomes dangerous because people that are trying to cross the street at those locations can’t even see around the snowbanks to be able to safely cross.”

The councillor said she’d like the city speed up inspections of road-clearing operations, enhance standards for hauling snow away from streets as they’re plowed and better co-ordinate the timing of snow removal between roads and sidewalks.

“What’s frustrating is I’m seeing (these sidewalks being blocked) all over…. It’s such a common thing that it’s not done correctly that we’re getting a lot of complaints,” she said. “I’d like to see a more proactive approach to making sure it’s done correctly the first time.”

In an email, city spokesman Ken Allen said plowing crews are “instructed to avoid storing snow from the plowing operation on sidewalks as much as possible.”

“That said, in some areas of the city, snow storage capacity may be limited with little or no boulevard space that can be utilized, which can sometimes be problematic,” wrote Allen.

The city tries to address blocked sidewalk complaints “as quickly as possible” — within four days for sidewalks along main routes, bus routes and collector streets and within eight days for those adjacent to residential streets, he added.

Allen said work is underway to ensure sidewalks and paths are more accessible for all Winnipeggers throughout the year. That’s expected to improve snow-clearing standards in time for next winter.

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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