When I read the article this morning on our new Mayor’s viewpoint on sidewalk clearing, I was very sad. Two very crucial points stood out for me.
Whether or not our Council decides that clearing sidewalks is right for our City, or if building a new arena is the answer, or investing more into the economy or the arts, these decisions cannot be decided upon by the costs of the LRT. I feel a sense of deja vu, back to the RIM Park days when our City Council was held hostage to the RIM Park financing costs and were reluctant to move forward on any other spending for fear of the public backlash.
Trust me, I know that Council should always consider spending and how it will affect the tax payer, but it should not, and cannot be the only consideration.
The second point that stood out for me, was the Mayor’s comment that we can’t move forward because there is little public interest. The following is from the City of Waterloo’s own Transportation Master Plan:
‘From a Complete Streets perspective and developing a “City that is accessible to all”, there is a fundamental need to ensure that public sidewalks are accessible to all through timely and consistent removal of snow and ice. Winter maintenance has been an issue raised by the community under this TMP and the number one issue raised by the Grand River Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Expanding the City’s current sidewalk snow clearing program would promote and enhance safe and accessible pedestrian movement, encourage greater pedestrian and transit use and help make the shift to alternative modes of transportation. This would ultimately reduce the negative impacts and costs to widen more roads and intersections. A phased approach to implementing an expanded program would assist in the budgeting of this program, therefore the focus would be on higher
pedestrian and transit routes. Recommendations of this TMP include reviewing current city practice to identify efficiencies in service, an increase in the existing sidewalk snow clearing program of $100,000 per year over the next five years, subject to the 2012-2014 budget process, and develop a mid to long term strategy to expand the program where necessary. ‘
4 years ago, public input showed that clearing sidewalks mattered and should be considered in order to make our city more accessible. And that public interest, as far as I can see, has only grown in the last four years. not waned. It is an important piece for accessibility when we live in Ontario, and snow is a reality for upwards of 5 months out of the year.
Sorry Mayor Jaworsky, it is time for our City to embrace this change.
Janice Moore is the former chair of the City of Waterloo Recreation and Advisory Committee, and a current member of Waterloo’s Active Transportation Committee.