Our cities need to understand the extent of the problem that uncleared sidewalks pose to mobility and safety in winter. Unfortunately, the things they focus on give about as much clarity as a blizzard.
Nearly two years after City Council’s request, Kitchener staff have finally brought forward a report on winter sidewalk clearing. Their recommendation?
Do nothing. (more…)
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.
Last year, we surveyed municipal election candidates on a number of questions regarding transit, walkability, bicycling, and development. Below are what some of our current representatives had to say about keeping sidewalks usable in winter. If you’d like to get in touch with your councillors to talk about winter sidewalk maintenance, you can do so with our contact form.
“As our community ages, and from an accessibility improvement point of view, I am also prepared to engage our community and again look at city-wide snow clearing of sidewalks as a possible future service enhancement.”
– Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener
Democracy isn’t just for elections. Two weeks ago, we told you about how you can help the Region set its priorities for the next few years. But the Region isn’t the only one listening – there are opportunities to engage with your governments at all levels. Below are just a few:
Snowed out sidewalks
Momentum is building for municipalities to clear sidewalks in winter. In yesterday’s Record, Professor Alejandro López-Ortiz made a strong case for snowplowed sidewalks.
You can lend your voice to the growing chorus by contacting your representatives through our councillor contact form. You can also add your support to having sidewalk clearing (currently under the jurisdiction of area municipalities) considered as a strategic priority for the Region through the StratChat forum.
The provincial government is also seeking input as it prepares its budget for 2015. They’ve set up an online forum where ideas for service delivery, investments, and efficiency can be proposed, rated, and discussed.
One idea we’d like to highlight is funding for #CycleON infrastructure. #CycleON is the province’s cycling strategy, but investment in bicycle infrastructure is needed to carry it out.
Other provincial surveys and public input opportunities:
- Lowering default speed limits within municipalities (Ministry of Transportation)
- Climate Change Discussion Paper (Ministry of the Environment)
In early spring, the possibility of protected bike lanes with Uptown streetscape redesign is expected to come to council. Let your councillors know this project has your support with our contact form.
Even more opportunities…
To stay in-the-loop on opportunities to influence transportation-related decisions, you can join our mailing list, subscribe to our calendar of public meetings, like TriTAG on Facebook, or follow TriTAG on Twitter.
Headline photo credit: waldopepper on Flickr, 2012. Licensed under CC-BY-NC.