Snow Job?

We get a lot of snow here in Regina and, so far, this year we seem to have already received a winter’s worth – and it’s not even the end of December yet.

The thing is, a lot of it doesn’t get removed. And then it sporadically melts. And then it freezes. And that’s when it gets really ugly. Think about how many senior citizens don’t drive and wind up taking their lives in their hands just heading out for a carton of milk. Why just last week, I witnessed a septuagenarian walking down the middle of 13th Ave. just to avoid the sidewalks. I can only imagine how it is for anyone with serious mobility issues. To put it plainly, for many, Regina is more or less impassable for a good four months out of the year. And that’s because our sidewalks aren’t cleared.

So why isn’t there a bylaw requiring everyone to shovel their walks? At present, Regina has no bylaw that requires individual homeowners to shovel their walks. Commercial building owners (including landlords of multi-unit residences) have between 24 and 48 hours to remove snow and ice on walkways abutting their property, depending on where in the city they are located. Failure to do so can result in a $110 fine.

To compare, most other cities do have snow removal bylaws that apply to individual home owners. Edmonton, for example, has a snow removal bylaw that requires snow be removed from sidewalks within 48 hours with a $100 fine for non-compliance.

For the past few years, the City of Regina has cited a high compliance rate as the reason to not impose a bylaw on this issue. And, in yesterday’s Leader-Post, in response to Saskatoon’s recently implemented snow removal bylaw, Mayor Michael Fougere cited that compliance rate again.

 According to the City of Regina, 72 per cent of our walks are kept clear in winter.

Does that number seem right to you? When you walk around your neighbourhood or place of work, does it seem like 72 per cent of the walkways are cleared? Because it sure doesn’t to me. In fact, yesterday afternoon, as I passed through the intersection of Victoria Ave and Albert St, I took a few pictures. Three of the corners had hard-packed snow on them – and the walkway along the southeast corner was almost treacherous. This wasn’t recently fallen snow either – it looks like it hasn’t been cleared at all since our first snowfall this past November. Check it out:

Walking along side streets is generally even worse.

So I asked myself “where did they come up with that number?”

According to a 2009 report: “An independent survey done in March 2007 by UMA Engineering found 75 per cent of sidewalks were cleared. They did this by dividing the city into 20 areas, selecting three arterials, three collectors, and four local roads at random to be surveyed.” The city says they also regularly send out staff to survey the sidewalks, and they found a 72 per cent compliance rate over 2010/2011. “This involves randomly selecting streets throughout Regina and literally counting the number of houses where sidewalks have been cleared,” they said.

So I put it to you, dear reader – do you think Regina’s sidewalk snow removal compliance rate is 72 per cent?

Author: Wanda Schmöckel

Wanda Schmockel is just trying to get by without shoving. You may follow her on twitter @vschmo

20 thoughts on “Snow Job?”

  1. On my block, 2 of the 8 houses regularly shovel their sidewalks. 25%

    Walking to the downtown, the eight blocks I walk along have similar compliance rates. Certainly none of these blocks come close to 72%. Several commercial/business properties along Victoria Avenue, who are obliged to clear their sidewalks, have not done so all year.

  2. As you’ve noted, and as anyone with half an eye can see, businesses, multi-unit residences, and the City itself are often very slack about clearing their adjacent walks, so quite naturally, private homeowners would like to see those folks pull up their own socks before a wider mandate is brought in. That’s just one issue. One of the current problems with mandated snow removal is, where do you put the snow? For a park/green space, there should be no problem; for apartment blocks with a yard, there should be no problem. For a mall, current practice is to shove all the snow into a corner of the parking lot; you lose significant parking space and create a liability nightmare if unsupervised children elect to play on the piles, but at least you’ve made an effort. For on-street businesses with no yards, however, it’s not that easy. Putting snow in the street is illegal (though it happens everywhere), so does that mean hiring a truck and paying a dumping fee? And getting away from businesses, let’s look at a high-density neighbourhood like Cathedral, with little or no off-street parking. Those front yards are tiny, and you can only load up the equally tiny boulevards so much, even if you were allowed.
    Shall we also bring up the issue of the City’s scraping the streets and redepositing hardened lumps of ice onto the sidewalk, with no guarantee of removal? I’ve lived in my neighbourhood since 1995, and only this year have I seen machines brought in to clear the plough piles off the sidewalks – but only the sidewalks at or in the near approach to a bus stop. (At least the City seems to have quit ploughing bus stops in, which they regularly did for years.) The rest of the time, homeowners are expected to clear the City-deposited crud (an apt name for the salt-and-sand-tainted snow) onto their yards. Most say “Nnuh-unh”, and I don’t blame them.

    I’m fortunate: although I live on a corner lot, which means twice the sidewalk clearing, I have 2 yards and a garden to pile the snow in; I also have off-street parking, so I never interfere with street clearing (I do have to shovel the driveway). My point, though, is that lots of other people don’t, and before we put forward a more comprehensive by-law, let’s be sure it takes into fair and just consideration what’s to be done with the snow after it’s cleared from the sidewalks.

  3. Maybe their definition of “clear” is different than most. Hardened, packed down snow that produces a clear walk way could be interpreted as cleared. Not saying that’s right.

    Brought to you by Bad Idea T-Shirts.

  4. You’re right that getting around is tough for folks with mobility issues… but so is shoveling snow, right?

    Are fines the best way to ensure better compliance? Call me utopian, but this kind of civic responsibility stuff would be better accomplished by creating a culture of looking out for your neighbours (by shoveling your own, and maybe their, sidewalks) than by encouraging folks to complain so buddy will get a fine (and you’d better believe this would be enforced on a by-complaint basis, like so many other civic bylaws).

  5. The downtown is a little different in that ALL sidewalks should be clear of snow, not just 72 per cent. There is a bylaw that requires businesses, including the City of Regina to clear their sidewalks. Call the city (777-7000) if any business or parking lot has not cleared their snow. There should be some effort to clear all transit stops as well. No use having a somewhat good transit system if you can’t get to the bus stop.

  6. Well Piffle (if that’s in fact your real name), you’re not a Utopian, indeed, your idea of fostering a civic culture that acknowledges responsibility to one another in clearing snow from our sidewalks, is exactly the policy that the City of Regina, those cockeyed optimists, have pursued with their SnowFighters contest. It really seems to be working.

    Why does the city force us to cut our lawns and cover up graffiti when our property is tagged, but we’re not expected to keep the sidewalks passable?

  7. 72 percent? Maybe, at best. Regardless, it’s just a number. The fact is that sidewalks are not maintained enough for the mobility challenged and certainly do not encourage people to walk in the winter. I think we need to do better than however we’re doing now. It’ll probably take some effort to get there, or at least acknowledging the problem exists would be a nice start.

  8. The only way to get stubborn ppl to do anything these days is by publicly shaming them. Do it.

  9. I live on a corner lot on a busy street and I actually try to keep the city walk clear, not down to the concrete but as close as I can get without getting ridiculous. Then the snow plows will come for the busy street. They’ll leave a two foot high ridge of hard pack chunks right down my clear sidewalk. I’m not going to try and move it, first because I’d need a pick and a shovel and a stronger heart and second because I’m not throwing that sanded, salted, hard pack in my yard.

    The worst walks in my neighbourhood, by the deep part of winter, will be in front of a city park, and on the other side of the street, a drainage ditch. Both city properties.

    It’s pretty easy to say they should create a bylaw, get neighbours to rat each other out to enforce the bylaw and fine those people who don’t comply, but the city better get their own house in order first.

    And Barb raises a good point on where businesses are supposed to put the snow. Snow trucks regularly charge about $120 an hour, and the skidsteer to load it is going to be another $80 or so, and they’ll be charged for the time it takes them to drive it to the snow dump and unload it as well. It’s not cheap. Aside from the cost, just finding someone to do it, who isn’t busy cleaning the box store parking lots for a living, is going to be tough.

    Anyway, it’s not as simple and as cut and dried “comply or get fined” as people seem to think.

  10. My 1st point of CoR Retoric , Is that 0 street drains were swept out after the fucking glorious elm tree leaf fall again this past October before the 1st snowfall.

    Snow as we know has a chance to melt occaisionally, but can’t down into the sewer system, because frozen leaf filled drains are pretty fuckin useless.

    3.4 Billion idiot dollars spent

  11. I was under the impression that the designated places where the City dumps snow are off-limits to private snow removers. Is that the case? If so, that’s another complication.
    I might add here that my neighbourhood is very good about sidewalk clearing – not to the concrete, because we’ve learned what happens when we get freezing rain – but well enough.

    By the way, the graders were out at midnight, and we now have an encroached sidewalk again.

  12. @2 – Barb, I think you’re absolutely right. There are too many commercial buildings with impassible sidewalks. The downtown seems to have more cleared sidewalks than other parts of the city, but once you get out of the area bordered by Albert/Victoria/Broad/Saskatchewan Drive, all bets are off.

    I’ve been told by the city bylaw manager that the city has a total of 5 bylaw officers that respond to all complaints – from graffiti to unkempt yards to noise complaints to overgrown lawns (which, by the way, they do have a bylaw against). This can’t help matters when trying to make sure all commercial businesses in the city keep their walks clear. And officers typically only get called out after a complaint is made. I think it’s safe to say they’re spread a bit thin in a city that gets as much snow as we typically do. I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe people should start calling the city to complain more? Maybe they’d hire a few more people to do the job?

    @3 – Bronymous, my (personal) problem with graded walkways (that have been cleared to a level surface) is that at several points over the winter these too become treacherous – when there’s a thaw/freeze. And I can’t see anyone getting a wheelchair over that kind of a surface.

    @4 – Piffle MacHoobledooble, in other cities, an elder person (or anyone physically unable to shovel) can call the city and they’ll come out to clear their walk. The current system – the Snow Busters campaign – already asks that we all be good neighbours and help each other out. And we can see how that’s working. I think the only proven incentive in the dead of winter is a hefty fine. Nothing gets you out the door and into your favoured snow clearing attire like the threat of a $120 fine. Also, it could be an extra source of revenue for the city. They already collect revenue through parking tickets and this isn’t so different. Yeah, it’s a drag. No one wants to remove their snow for the hundredth time in a month, but we live in a place that gets a lot of it. Oh well.

    @10 – anonymous, No, it’s not that simple. But it could be if the city had a more comprehensive approach. Yes at some point snow removal (off site) is necessary, but I wonder if at some point in the future there might be better road clearing as well. just last night (as luck would have it) the trucks came and cleared my street – and took that snow away with them. All gone! Where it goes, only the city knows. Part and parcel of any initiative to get private home owners and businesses to clear their walks should be the transportation of said snow somewhere else. And private individuals (and probably most businesses) don’t have the means to do that. Enter the city (I hope).

    @11 – Thanks, Pat!

  13. The snow dump is open to residents and businesses alike, according to the city web site. Since it’s illegal to shovel snow into the street, and all.

  14. Last night the city had a team of vehicles out doing our street. They went up and down the street for hours. The end result? The road surface is clear, and every 50 meters or so of the sidewalk, including directly in front of our house, there are mounds of hardpacked snow and ice, whereas before there was a shoveled sidewalk.

    Why does this city treat pedestrians with such contempt? We need to push a button to get a light to cross at intersections, we have to navigate ice fields rather than sidewalks for five months of the year.

  15. We could try contacting our councillors, but taking our concerns to the City of Regina Facebook page would be easier, faster, and more likely to get a response.

  16. @15 – Yeah, but how do you get it there?

    @16 – Mine too! Now I’ve got a frozen mound on my doorstep where it used to be clear. Ugh.

    @17 – Good suggestion, Barb.

    Here’s the facebook page, should anyone be interested.

    It’s a good source for info on lots of city stuff and an easy way to offer feedback.

  17. #17 I will disagree a little bit, just email your alderperson or just phone them at their house, as well.

    # 18
    If all of the city council & his worship
    really wanted public input, they would “brand”, themselves much better as to thier avaliability , & everything that the city does would be live streaming.

    Forgery said the other day that he’s going to hire another consultant, for the water treatment plant, or for another Lorne St. upgrade.

    Why are certain CoR employees needed,if ” we “, continuosly hire consultants that aren’t even from SK, let alone Regina..

    Bed Pan Field designed by a firm from England?

  18. @19: You can contact your councillor as a courtesy, but if you want something actually to be done, use the City of Regina Facebook page. Some councillors of long standing are not good at acknowledging constituent communications, or acting upon them. Just saying…

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