Seeking your feedback: Snow clearing

Icy sidewalk in downtown.
Icy sidewalk in downtown.

I’ve received numerous calls and emails regarding snow clearing, particularly for sidewalks in the downtown. There have been several exceptional weather events recently that have complicated snowclearing, however the situation provides an opportunity to review existing snowclearing policies and ask whether we need some enhancements.

Snow plowing on primary and secondary roads begins when the accumulation of snow reaches 50 mm (2”). Residential streets are only plowed after the main roadways have been cleared. The City of Burlington aims to have all roads in the city cleared 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling.

The plowing of sidewalks begins when snow accumulation is 50 mm (2”). Sidewalk salting and sanding is performed on primary and secondary road sidewalks when extremely slippery conditions exist.

The city’s level of service for local sidewalks for storms up to 30 cm is 72 hours following the end of the storm. Plowing of roads is normally completed ahead of the sidewalk clearing due to the windrow filling in the sidewalks with snow. The level of service for storms over 30 cm is as soon as the city is able.

Paths and trails (like the Spencer Smith Park walkway and the Centennial Bike Path) are plowed last, and only during regular business hours. By that time, so many people have already walked in these areas, snow is packed and icy so plowing can be ineffective.

Residents who have contacted me have suggested earlier clearing of sidewalks, particularly on streets with high pedestrian traffic, as well as on the Centennial bike path and walking paths along the waterfront which are heavily used even in winter.

Others have suggested eliminating city clearing of sidewalks in residential areas, and asking homeowners to do that. Most of my street already clears our own sidewalks well before the city has an opportunity to do so, but that’s not the case with every property owner. Many (but not all) downtown businesses also clear in front of their stores.

City staff are currently working on a report that would outline options for enhanced snow clearing, that will be discussed during our 2014 budget cycle.

For more information on snow clearing in the city, visit here.

My Take: I welcome a review of sidewalk clearing policies, especially when we are trying to encourage more people to walk. I would also consider redirecting some of our snow clearing budget from residential areas – and asking residents to clear their own sidewalks – to focus our snow clearing efforts on heavily travelled pedestrian sidewalks throughout the city.

Your Take: Do you want enhanced snow clearing? Should residents clear their own sidewalks? Leave a comment below or email me at marianne.meedward@burlington.ca.

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.


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  1. As I have said in the past Plowing curb faced sidewalks in other than main streets is usually unnecessary as they are seldom used by residents. The costs are very high and often fruitless when plows are forced to move snow back onto the already cleared sidewalk. From what I have observed most people walk on the street and in many cases clear the sidewalks themselves. A more beneficial practice might be to plow one side of residential sidewalks streets instead of both..

  2. It’s important to remember that cars can generally get through the snow while keeping their occupants relatively comfortable.
    The same thing cannot be said for pedestrians, especially those with disabilities or with children.
    Despite this, the overwhemling majority of the budget is spent on salting, sanding and clearing the road for cars, and other users are once again relegated to an afterthought. What you are saying is “We’ll get to those unimportant people later”.
    If we really believe the things we say about making walking, cycling and active transportation a priority, we would at least make an effort to clear the paths. And don’t get me started on bike lanes – very few of which in the city were cleared a full 6 days after the storm. The road crews are supposed to clear curb to curb – but that is not what is actually happening.

  3. I understand this is an article focused on sidewalk clearing, however I have a gripe concerning the sidewalk-less street I live on. Ours is a secondary street that doesn’t get plowed after the lighter snowfalls, but at least once a year we have have circumstances similar to last weeks weather.

    What happens is, the snow from multiple falls accumulates, leaving several inches of snow on our street, then a light thaw occurs, making the slush almost impossible to drive in much less walk on. Next, it freezes leaving it a dangerous, icy mess.

    As I mentioned, we don’t have sidewalks, making it quite treacherous for those who don’t drive, or need to walk their dogs in the neighbourhood.

    Finally, my question here is: how can we get the snow clearing policy amended so those of us who live on these kinds of roads can get around safer when the temperatures fluctuate as they often do this time of year?

What's your take?