Walk Toronto calls on the City of Toronto to extend snow clearing to every sidewalk in the city

Walk Toronto is calling on the City of Toronto to commit to clearing the snow from every sidewalk in the City.

While the City ploughs sidewalks in suburban areas, 1,100 km of sidewalk in the parts of Toronto most heavily used by pedestrians are not cleared of snow by the City. Instead, in this “No-plough zone” residents are required to do so, with inconsistent results. As a consequence, ice and snow makes sidewalks throughout a large part of the City dangerous during the winter, especially for seniors and the disabled. Some may be unable to leave their house, and others may suffer life-threatening injuries. Meanwhile, the City pays out millions of dollars in insurance claims and struggles to enforce its own sidewalk clearance bylaws. The current policy simply does not meet the basic standards for creating a fully accessible city.

The full consequences of this City policy are laid out in a comprehensive report by Walk Toronto, “Keeping Sidewalks Safe in Winter” (PDF).

A new report from City of Toronto Transportation Services (PDF) claims that it is impossible for the City to clear narrow sidewalks in the “No-plough zone.” However, the Walk Toronto report demonstrates that in fact many cities already clear narrow sidewalks, and shows the kind of equipment that the city could purchase or contract to do so. Doing so is affordable as well – while Ottawa and Montreal’s budget for snow clearing comes to $0.44 per capita for every centimetre of snowfall they receive, Toronto only spends $0.27 per centimetre of snowfall per capita. Even the most expensive option would only bring that up to $0.30, and the cost should be much less.

The Transportation Services report will be discussed by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday April 9. Walk Toronto is calling on the committee to direct Transportation Services staff to come up with a plan and a realistic budget to clear every sidewalk in the city. It is important for the City to act now, as the contracts for snow clearing will be coming up for renewal in 2015.