Timely snow clearing from sidewalks is essential for safety and accessibility. Winter maintenance often leaves Calgarians out in the cold, or, worse still, forces many people indoors. Inconsistent clearing means that many seniors, parents pushing strollers, and those who rely on mobility devices cannot navigate our city, leading to increased inactivity and isolation.
The failure of our snow clearing procedures is borne out through statistics: Alberta has the highest slip and fall injury rate in Canada, second only to Saskatchewan. Albertans are three times as likely as Ontarians to be injured from slips and falls. Winter maintenance plays a major role in these statistics. Ontario cities devote a much higher percentage of their winter maintenance budgets to walking—they clear more sidewalks faster.
Calgary’s strategy on clearing sidewalks in winter is inconsistent at best, and, at times, non-existent. Some residents do not do their part to shovel sidewalks in front of their properties within the required 24 hours. At the same time, the City’s clearing can take even longer and often misses key connections.
In late January, I brought forward a motion to Council to improve the accessibility, safety, and equity of walking in Calgary. Council strongly supported this motion. My motion asked City staff to consider the following, and report back with options for improvement:
- Fines for failure to clear your sidewalk with the existing 24-hour requirement.
- Updating clearing policies to be consistent with the recently approved Pedestrian Strategy.
- Identification of a high-priority network for clearing so that Calgarians can reach transit, shops, schools, offices, and other major destinations.
- Increased coordination between City departments.
- Improved timelines for City responsibility clearing that would bring them more in line with expectations on private property owners.
- Options to provide winter maintenance for Calgary’s 78 kilometres of engineered walkways.
- Guidelines for clearing wheelchair ramps, curb cuts, and sidewalk crossings of laneways.
- Improved 311 phone, website, and mobile app reporting options.
- Identification of winter maintenance funding for City departments whenever new infrastructure is built.
- An updated strategy to assist Calgarians who are unable to clear abutting walking infrastructure themselves.
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