'Prison of ice and snow'

News Jan 04, 2018 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

A new study by a local grassroots group of volunteers has found that residents who walk a distance as short as 50 metres in winter are more likely than not to encounter a sidewalk or corner obstructed by ice or snow.

Members of the TriTAG Transport Action Group monitored sidewalk conditions on about a dozen streets in Kitchener and one in Waterloo between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16, 2017.

Committee member Mike Boos said volunteers attempted to collect the data on a variety of streets, both “urban and suburban,” including some with public transit and some without.

Unsurprisingly, the probability of encountering obstructions increased not only along with walking distances, but also with varying amounts of snow accumulation up to three days prior.

“Even during counts where there had been no snowfall for the previous three days, we observed an average of 13 potential obstructions per kilometre of sidewalk — or one obstruction every 77 metres,” the summary of findings states.

Some might question the relevancy of such a grassroots study, given its unscientific methodology.

“At this point, I would say it’s better data than what we’re seeing from the city,” Boos said. “The city is only getting numbers when people complain and there’s a whole host of reasons why people do or don’t complain, which don’t actually tell you how well people actually get around.”

According to a city spokesperson, Victoria Raab, there have been 267 sidewalk “violations” lodged with the city since the first snowfall this past autumn. That’s down from 484 last year at this time.

Even though it’s been much colder this winter, Raab said the city had issued three “snow events” by this time last season, compared to only one this year.

She noted that there are no and low-cost services available to people who are unable to clear their sidewalks. Residents can visit the city’s website or call 519-741-2345 for information.

Last year, city staff presented a report to council that said it would cost the average taxpayer an additional $26 to have the city take responsibility for sidewalk shovelling. While other municipalities in Ontario currently provide the service, Kitchener council decided to hold off on making a decision until the province releases its revised maintenance standards.

“We expect those to be released sometime soon (though we don’t know an exact date, we hope by February) and staff will report back to council once the impact of those changes can be quantified,” Raab said.

“So, at this point, the city’s approach to sidewalk snow shovelling remains the same as it has been — property owners are required to maintain sidewalks along their property within 24 hours of the end of a snow fall. This is enforced through our snow bylaw.”

According to the city’s website, when a complaint is received, staff will inspect the property and issue a notice to the resident. If the sidewalk is not cleared upon re-inspection, city staff will remove the snow and invoice the resident.

But, Boos said Kitchener’s “do-it-yourself” sidewalk clearing policies do not uphold the Pedestrian Charter’s promise of safe and consistent walking conditions throughout the city.

TriTAG volunteers encountered problems outside the same properties over and over again. Some actually experienced slips and falls, he said.

As a homeowner with two young children, Boos believes the $26 annual cost of sidewalk clearing to be well worth it. Short of that, he’d like the city to establish better regulatory standards in its bylaw and consider more proactive enforcement.

As it’s written, even if it snows for several days straight, people aren’t required to shovel their sidewalk until 24 hours after the last flake hits the ground.

“For many of our neighbours, uncleared sidewalks means they end up staying indoors to feel safe, rather than participate in everyday tasks or social interactions,” said Boos. “Our cities’ approach to sidewalk clearing should not confine anyone within a prison of ice and snow.”

Some municipalities that currently provide sidewalk clearing give priority to those in high traffic areas and set out accumulation thresholds for the service, Boos added.

Raab said staff is aware of TriTAG’s study and has asked to meet with them to review their report and understand the findings.

The full report can be found online by going to tritag.ca and following the link.

'Prison of ice and snow'

Study aims to highlight frequency of winter sidewalk obstructions

News Jan 04, 2018 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

A new study by a local grassroots group of volunteers has found that residents who walk a distance as short as 50 metres in winter are more likely than not to encounter a sidewalk or corner obstructed by ice or snow.

Members of the TriTAG Transport Action Group monitored sidewalk conditions on about a dozen streets in Kitchener and one in Waterloo between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16, 2017.

Committee member Mike Boos said volunteers attempted to collect the data on a variety of streets, both “urban and suburban,” including some with public transit and some without.

Unsurprisingly, the probability of encountering obstructions increased not only along with walking distances, but also with varying amounts of snow accumulation up to three days prior.

“Even during counts where there had been no snowfall for the previous three days, we observed an average of 13 potential obstructions per kilometre of sidewalk — or one obstruction every 77 metres,” the summary of findings states.

Some might question the relevancy of such a grassroots study, given its unscientific methodology.

“At this point, I would say it’s better data than what we’re seeing from the city,” Boos said. “The city is only getting numbers when people complain and there’s a whole host of reasons why people do or don’t complain, which don’t actually tell you how well people actually get around.”

According to a city spokesperson, Victoria Raab, there have been 267 sidewalk “violations” lodged with the city since the first snowfall this past autumn. That’s down from 484 last year at this time.

Even though it’s been much colder this winter, Raab said the city had issued three “snow events” by this time last season, compared to only one this year.

She noted that there are no and low-cost services available to people who are unable to clear their sidewalks. Residents can visit the city’s website or call 519-741-2345 for information.

Last year, city staff presented a report to council that said it would cost the average taxpayer an additional $26 to have the city take responsibility for sidewalk shovelling. While other municipalities in Ontario currently provide the service, Kitchener council decided to hold off on making a decision until the province releases its revised maintenance standards.

“We expect those to be released sometime soon (though we don’t know an exact date, we hope by February) and staff will report back to council once the impact of those changes can be quantified,” Raab said.

“So, at this point, the city’s approach to sidewalk snow shovelling remains the same as it has been — property owners are required to maintain sidewalks along their property within 24 hours of the end of a snow fall. This is enforced through our snow bylaw.”

According to the city’s website, when a complaint is received, staff will inspect the property and issue a notice to the resident. If the sidewalk is not cleared upon re-inspection, city staff will remove the snow and invoice the resident.

But, Boos said Kitchener’s “do-it-yourself” sidewalk clearing policies do not uphold the Pedestrian Charter’s promise of safe and consistent walking conditions throughout the city.

TriTAG volunteers encountered problems outside the same properties over and over again. Some actually experienced slips and falls, he said.

As a homeowner with two young children, Boos believes the $26 annual cost of sidewalk clearing to be well worth it. Short of that, he’d like the city to establish better regulatory standards in its bylaw and consider more proactive enforcement.

As it’s written, even if it snows for several days straight, people aren’t required to shovel their sidewalk until 24 hours after the last flake hits the ground.

“For many of our neighbours, uncleared sidewalks means they end up staying indoors to feel safe, rather than participate in everyday tasks or social interactions,” said Boos. “Our cities’ approach to sidewalk clearing should not confine anyone within a prison of ice and snow.”

Some municipalities that currently provide sidewalk clearing give priority to those in high traffic areas and set out accumulation thresholds for the service, Boos added.

Raab said staff is aware of TriTAG’s study and has asked to meet with them to review their report and understand the findings.

The full report can be found online by going to tritag.ca and following the link.

'Prison of ice and snow'

Study aims to highlight frequency of winter sidewalk obstructions

News Jan 04, 2018 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

A new study by a local grassroots group of volunteers has found that residents who walk a distance as short as 50 metres in winter are more likely than not to encounter a sidewalk or corner obstructed by ice or snow.

Members of the TriTAG Transport Action Group monitored sidewalk conditions on about a dozen streets in Kitchener and one in Waterloo between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16, 2017.

Committee member Mike Boos said volunteers attempted to collect the data on a variety of streets, both “urban and suburban,” including some with public transit and some without.

Unsurprisingly, the probability of encountering obstructions increased not only along with walking distances, but also with varying amounts of snow accumulation up to three days prior.

“Even during counts where there had been no snowfall for the previous three days, we observed an average of 13 potential obstructions per kilometre of sidewalk — or one obstruction every 77 metres,” the summary of findings states.

Some might question the relevancy of such a grassroots study, given its unscientific methodology.

“At this point, I would say it’s better data than what we’re seeing from the city,” Boos said. “The city is only getting numbers when people complain and there’s a whole host of reasons why people do or don’t complain, which don’t actually tell you how well people actually get around.”

According to a city spokesperson, Victoria Raab, there have been 267 sidewalk “violations” lodged with the city since the first snowfall this past autumn. That’s down from 484 last year at this time.

Even though it’s been much colder this winter, Raab said the city had issued three “snow events” by this time last season, compared to only one this year.

She noted that there are no and low-cost services available to people who are unable to clear their sidewalks. Residents can visit the city’s website or call 519-741-2345 for information.

Last year, city staff presented a report to council that said it would cost the average taxpayer an additional $26 to have the city take responsibility for sidewalk shovelling. While other municipalities in Ontario currently provide the service, Kitchener council decided to hold off on making a decision until the province releases its revised maintenance standards.

“We expect those to be released sometime soon (though we don’t know an exact date, we hope by February) and staff will report back to council once the impact of those changes can be quantified,” Raab said.

“So, at this point, the city’s approach to sidewalk snow shovelling remains the same as it has been — property owners are required to maintain sidewalks along their property within 24 hours of the end of a snow fall. This is enforced through our snow bylaw.”

According to the city’s website, when a complaint is received, staff will inspect the property and issue a notice to the resident. If the sidewalk is not cleared upon re-inspection, city staff will remove the snow and invoice the resident.

But, Boos said Kitchener’s “do-it-yourself” sidewalk clearing policies do not uphold the Pedestrian Charter’s promise of safe and consistent walking conditions throughout the city.

TriTAG volunteers encountered problems outside the same properties over and over again. Some actually experienced slips and falls, he said.

As a homeowner with two young children, Boos believes the $26 annual cost of sidewalk clearing to be well worth it. Short of that, he’d like the city to establish better regulatory standards in its bylaw and consider more proactive enforcement.

As it’s written, even if it snows for several days straight, people aren’t required to shovel their sidewalk until 24 hours after the last flake hits the ground.

“For many of our neighbours, uncleared sidewalks means they end up staying indoors to feel safe, rather than participate in everyday tasks or social interactions,” said Boos. “Our cities’ approach to sidewalk clearing should not confine anyone within a prison of ice and snow.”

Some municipalities that currently provide sidewalk clearing give priority to those in high traffic areas and set out accumulation thresholds for the service, Boos added.

Raab said staff is aware of TriTAG’s study and has asked to meet with them to review their report and understand the findings.

The full report can be found online by going to tritag.ca and following the link.