Who Should Clear the Snow on Sidewalks?

March 19, 2019, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Bicycle on Snow Covered Street As the seemingly never ending winter is winding to a close the issue of sidewalk clearing in the Region is still a touchy subject. The responsibility of shoveling snow on the region’s sidewalks falls on either the municipality or the individual depending on where you live. Kitchener made the headlines this past fall and winter by beginning to charge property owners for the cost of clearing their sidewalks if they had not been cleared within 24 hours of snowfall.

Waterloo also charges the cost of clearing sidewalks back to the landowner. In Ayr (North Dumfries) the Township charges a special levy to the tax payers of the village an provides the service. The cost is around $85 a year which is well worth it to most people you talk to.

It is an interesting double standard that clearing the roadways of snow and ice is a non-negotiable priority for the government but sidewalks (pedestrian safety) seems to be of little concern to many politicians.

There is a movement afoot though, seeing more and more municipalities taking on sidewalk snow clearing. Sidewalks are a public thoroughfare, and they should be accessible and safe for people to walk on in all seasons. While there is no real way of keeping them from being a bit icy or slushy during the winter, having them covered in snow and slush is not acceptable either.

As we face an ageing population who are walking more and driving less, and policies intended to keep seniors in place in their homes as long as possible, snow shoveling becomes a priority for safety and health. Without a consistent clear path there is little point in attempting a walk in the winter. There is also no point in expecting that the 82-year-old lady next door can manage the shoveling.

When spread across the tax base the cost of municipal snow removal is a manageable one and it provides safety and security to people out walking.

Some cities are doing remarkable jobs of clearing the snow. Ayr is a good example in the Region. Looking beyond the Region Rochester, New York plows more than 1400 kilometres of sidewalk when it snows more than 6 cm. They hire mostly private contractors who tend to be farms and then add the annual cost to the tax bills of the property owner based on sidewalk length. It costs about $60 (Can) per homeowner per year. Burlington Vermont clears all sidewalks with their municipal staff.

Some cities actually have heated sidewalks in their downtown cores and the pedestrians (and property owners) love it. In Reykavik they harness thermal energy from hot springs running the water in pipes underneath he sidewalk. In Montreal they use electric elements. In other American cities they harness the ‘waste’ heat from HVAC systems in the downtown skyscrapers to run hot water through pipes under the sidewalks.  The initial cost of installation of these systems is high, but the long-term benefit is huge.

It may be time for a cohesive review of snow clearing policies in urban areas in the Region to make our sidewalks safe and accessible in the winter months.

 

Posted under Accident Benefit News, Slip and Fall Injury

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit www.deutschmannlaw.com or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

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