Big snowstorms have been bypassing Toronto and hitting regions to the north and south — but get the shovels ready.
For cities to be walking-friendly and accessible, we all have to take responsibility for keeping sidewalks free of snow and ice. Governments clear much of the white stuff, but not all — and not immediately.
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Depending on where you live, the municipality plows roads and sidewalks within specified periods of time after a snowfall. In the past, roadside transit stops were a low priority for GTA cleanup crews, but that may be improving. For example, Mississauga recently committed to clearing the areas where buses load and unload within 24 hours, down from 36.
Toronto’s time limit for bus stops is 72 hours. Senior transportation manager Peter Noehammer says most are done within two days.
If you think municipal authorities have forgotten to clear a transit stop — including near train stations — please report it.
Alas, getting to transit from one’s front door is even tougher when owners along local streets haven’t done their bit. This is especially critical in parts of 416 where sidewalks are too narrow for civic plows to reach.
Before being amalgamated, the old City of Toronto reminded residents of their duty to clear snow from the front walk so neighbours could pass safely. See YouTube for “Clear Your Ice” commercials.
Now, city hall barely mentions the topic, and thereby fails its citizens. Navigating slippery sidewalks is no simple task, particularly for the elderly and those who use mobility aids. A heavy snowfall forces some to stay at home for long periods.
Claiming tight budgets, Noehammer says a new “Clear Your Ice” campaign is a good idea, but costly. And yet the city does spend money on advertising and has in-house publicity tools — such as free poster space in bus shelters.
I’ve asked Toronto officials about this for years. Last week, Noehammer said of the shelter ads: “We didn’t do it this year, but it is something we will be putting forward” as a communications priority.
Instead, official statements about timelines for clearing your walk (within 12 hours of a snowfall) and fines for not doing so ($105) are buried in press releases or the official site toronto.ca — search under “snow.”
Toronto, it’s time to get off your tush and make sidewalks safer.
Toronto-based transport writer Ed Drass covers transit issues every Monday; firstname.lastname@example.org.