Friday, December 11, 2009

Time to Step Up

"Accessibility" is one of those words people bandy about as an objective they want city planners to follow. At public forums, it is invariably the case that the public says they want a downtown that's "walkable," "accessible," "a people place."

Then it snows and the ideals go to shit.

Today I saw two very frail-looking, slow-moving elderly people pushing their walkers in traffic on Bridgeport near the intersection of Erb. Why? Knox Presbyterian Church hadn't ploughed the sidewalk on their property along Bridgeport Road. There was lots of traffic and cars were slipping in the snowy street; it was incredibly dangerous to be walking in the road. My guess is that the couple had gone to the library and were trying to get home.

Most winters the sidewalk clearing around uptown Waterloo is so poor that many elderly people in the uptown area are housebound for months. The uptown is ringed by seven residences for elderly people, from the full-care facility at King-William to the high rise Water Park apartments. The Adult Recreation Center (ARC) is also in uptown.

It's not just people with walkers, but anyone who's a little unsteady on their pins who can't get through the snow drifts that are left all winter in front of many properties. And it's not just home owners. The city often doesn't clear the pile of snow in front of the crosswalk at Erb and Peppler, so people trying to cross the street have to climb a sizable hump of snow. The sidewalk beside the city lots of Caroline are never well shovelled; at best we get a narrow track. The empty lot at 32 Alexandra, owned by the Auburn company, is rarely if ever ploughed.

The Waterloo city by-law "Snow and Ice", #82-12, states that sidewalks must be cleared 24 hours after a snowfall. This applies to occupants as well as owners, to vacant land as well as occupied. It applies to houses, apartments, churches, public land, schools, and every other type of property. Failing to adequately clear your sidewalk of snow and ice can result in a $2,000 fine, as well as the cost of the city clearing it.

The city mostly acts on uncleared sidewalks when they receive a complaint. We can all contact the city about uncleared sidewalks by calling 519-747-6280 or by filling out this form, which goes to the by-law enforcement department.

Fair warning: I am planning to rat on everyone in uptown Waterloo who breaks the by-law this winter.

(If requested, the city will help clear the sidewalks of the physically disabled or people over 65. Call 519-579-6930.)



Michael D said...

If we were serious about accessibility, we would have the city do the plowing. It's reliable, not at all expensive, and is also heaps more efficient.

Really, how in hell are a city's sidewalks supposed to be usable if property owners/occupants are allowed 24 hours to shovel the snow?

Yappa said...

I don't know if it's true, but someone told me that it would only cost the city $300,000/yr to clear the sidewalks. When I lived in Peterboro years ago they had little sidewalk clearing machines. A bonus with them is that they cleared a wider swath, and a uniform one, which made it easier to walk. It was also a lot quicker.

Michael D said...

Guelph is probably getting rid of most of their sidewalk clearing in the 2010 budget -- with a whopping savings of $100,000. So that figure seems in the right ballpark.

Yappa said...

By the way, I didn't mention the city-clearing thing in the post, although I support it, because as long as we have to clear our own sidewalks, I think there's an issue of personal accountability that would be side-lined by arguing for a government plan. In other words, in the current system, people better damn well start doing a better job of making their property passable.