Install heated sidewalks

Kevin Legge

How could Winnipeg be improved? The Uniter put together a list of ideas… To view the next article click here.

In a city that’s seen some 160 centimetres of snow pile up on streets and sidewalks this winter, it’s little surprise Winnipeggers demand a certain level of service to keep those pathways more or less traversable.

Whereas cities like Regina and Edmonton have bylaws holding homeowners and shopkeepers responsible for clearing sidewalks in and around their properties, the City of Winnipeg budgets between $25 and $30 million each year to plow everything from roads to sidewalks to park pathways and active transportation trails.

However, the policy has drawn the ire of the Winnipeg Free Press’s Gordon Sinclair Jr., who recently took the city to task for the “treacherous” state of downtown sidewalks that have remained relatively unplowed, from Market Avenue to Chinatown to Millennium Library.

Similarly, Minto Street residents in the West End chastised the city in early March for leaving five-foot high snow ridges on the sidewalks in front of their homes following a street-clearing operation.

In the city’s defence, we’ve seen about 10 centimetres more snow so far this year compared to the winter of 1996-1997, which helped the city spend nearly half its snow removal budget for 2013 in January alone.

So, should officials start turning their gaze down south and across the pond for ideas in the perennial war against snow?

In Oslo, Norway, the city has been able to keep blocks of its downtown sidewalks clean and dry by using a system of electric radiant heating, subsequently drawing the amusement of many a traveller and travel magazine writer.

Other Nordic cities like Luleå, Sweden, have heated sidewalks by redirecting wasted heat from a nearby steel mill, while Holland, Mich., has 120 miles of heated piping underneath its downtown sidewalks.

In Idaho, inventors Scott and Julie Brusaw are using federal money to build a prototype glass-surface roadway that would use solar power to keep itself heated and clear of ice and snow in winter, among a list of other electronically controlled goodies the Brusaws are hoping to deliver.

The two hope to perfect the system first for parking lots before moving on to residential roads.

And engineers at the City of Richmond in British Columbia are working with a local company on a pair of pilot projects using thermal rods to keep sidewalks free of ice.

Meanwhile, back in Winnipeg, poor sidewalk conditions have even caused city councillors to fall and break their hips - as Coun. Harvey Smith did in early 2012. That led Smith, who chairs the city’s safety committee, to pitch and launch SureFoot, a daily bulletin ranking the general conditions of city sidewalks as being either easy, moderate, difficult or hazardous.

As they say, baby steps.

Part of the series: The Urban Issue 2013

Published in Volume 67, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 28, 2013)

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