Sidewalk Snow Clearing


I believe that there is a general attitude that considers snow as just something that we need to live with. “We live in Thunder Bay, what are you going to do…?” But many of the situations that make some sidewalks impassable for weeks at a time are the result of planning decisions.

The photos above were taken mid-February along Oliver Road in Thunder Bay. Oliver was widened to it’s current configuration sometime in the 1980’s as far as I can tell from historic air photos. When the road was constructed to accommodate a larger volume of vehicular traffic the curbs were placed within 30 cm from the sidewalk in some places. Now after the sidewalk plow comes by, the road plow often moves the snow from the road back onto the sidewalk, as can be seen in the photo on the left. The middle photo was taken on the same day but beside the Lakehead University campus where there is sufficient snow storage for this volume. Even after the sidewalk plow returns a day or two later, the sidewalk is now a valley  between two constructed snow banks that accumulates a deep, soft, slushy mess whenever the weather warms that then becomes a bumpy, slippery, dangerous surface when it gets cold again. The sidewalk plow can seldom remove this mess and it persists until the final spring melt.

Moving the road edge close to the sidewalk also subjects pedestrians to the threat of being splashed with a dirty, icy slurry during the winter and dirty water when it rains during the summer. This is not an act of God, or just an inevitable result of our climate. It was a choice made to improve the transportation network for vehicles, at the expense of pedestrians. When planning decisions such as these are made, contingencies must be considered to at least improve snow clearing along the route. The excuse of excessive expense is not acceptable. The City assumes that increasing the amount of asphalt will increase costs for road repair/rehabilitation, painting lines, maintaining intersections and clearing snow from the road; the extra costs for properly maintaining the sidewalk must also be “baked” into the cost of widening the road. No excuses.

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