Dangerous sidewalks

Accessibility concerns persist annually

Winnipeg has had to deal with brutal winters for its entire existence, but city hall still can’t seem to properly maintain sidewalks. (Photo by Daniel Crump)

There is no question that Winnipeg is known for its winters. Winnipeggers acknowledge it as an unavoidable part of their existence and something to go through every year. This is what has led many to ask why the City of Winnipeg is so poorly prepared for winter. Specifically, why does “Winter-peg” have so much difficulty, year after year, adequately maintaining its sidewalks to ensure safety and accessibility for all?

This year, as usual, many took to social media to express their frustration. @julespenner tweeted: “I am so tired of this. Do the people who plow Winnipeg’s streets ever walk on its sidewalks?” @ChelseaBreanne cheekily noted that the “best leg workouts are wearing slippery boots on uncleared Winnipeg sidewalks.” @ltwpg made a stellar marketing pitch: “winnipeg sidewalks rebranding as slide-walks.”

Comic relief aside, properly cleared roads and sidewalks are extremely important, especially for people with mobility issues. It is especially frustrating since roads are regularly cleared, likely at the expense of sidewalks. David Kron, executive director of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba, says this problem isn’t anything new.

“We have this conversation – and I get interviewed – every year ... after the first snow (about) how poor the snow clearing is for folks that have a mobility issue or just aren’t the most steady on their feet,” he says.

Coun. Matt Allard represents the St. Boniface ward. He holds various other positions, including council liaison for intermodal connectivity, chairperson of the Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works and member of the Executive Policy Committee.

“I believe strongly (that) we need to improve our snow-clearing level of service for active-transportation users,” Allard says in an email to The Uniter.

“Over the last two years, I have moved and supported multiple motions seeking new resources, new equipment and prioritization of accessible snow clearing, with some success in bike lanes and more work to do on slippery sidewalks.”

Kron says the City of Winnipeg must do much more to address this issue.

“They’re the ones with the equipment and the plan to make active transportation active year-round,” he says.

“I can deal with minus-40 and clear sidewalks, but when it’s minus-1 or 2 and just ice, it’s practically impossible to move around,” Kron, who uses a cane, says.

“It’s not just folks with disabilities. This affects everybody,” he says.

Allard acknowledges that more needs to be done.

“Pre-emptive sanding, plowing to pavement surface on sidewalks and specialized sidewalk equipment are just some of the tools we need and which I’m committed to pursuing,” he says.

The City of Winnipeg has created two online forms which try to address this issue. The first is for requesting sanding on slippery roads or sidewalks and can be accessed at bit.ly/3f0cIvM. The second is for requesting snow removal and can be accessed at bit.ly/3t5jLvq.

Published in Volume 76, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 13, 2022)

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