Pilot project could clear some Winnipeg sidewalks to pavement, not just hard snow

David Kron puts spikes on the bottom of his cane in an effort to avoid slipping on icy Winnipeg sidewalks, but he still takes a fall sometimes.

“And I don’t bounce like I used to. I used to get up really easy,” said Kron, who is the president of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba.

Many members of his organization simply don’t go out in winter due to the condition of sidewalks, he said.

“Or they have to arrange for a private carrier to take them door to door, where they can’t just wheel down the street. It is a real issue.”

The City of Winnipeg’s snow clearing policy only requires it to clear residential sidewalks down to a hard snow surface. Only downtown sidewalks are plowed to bare pavement.

A proposal at city hall would create a pilot project to test out clearing one sidewalk in each of the city’s 15 wards, and plow those to the same level as downtown sidewalks.

The pilot project was proposed by St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard, who said he became concerned about the quality of sidewalk clearing in Winnipeg after falling while walking.

“I was wearing all the right stuff and really noticed that the levels of service for sidewalks left [a lot] to be desired,” he said in an interview.

Allard doesn’t think the project would require additional spending.

Second attempt at proposal

This is the second time Allard brought forward a proposal to clear sidewalks to the pavement.

The first time last September was in response to a report on sidewalk clearing. Council voted down the proposal after city officials said it could lead to greater damage to machines due to the poor condition of many of the city’s sidewalks.

This time, Allard included a second city report that identified numerous sidewalks that the public service deemed to be in good enough condition to not need replacement. These sidewalks would be ideal candidates to test out a more thorough snow clearing method, Allard said.

“I think if there’s a will, we could do this. Even if it were four sidewalks across residential neighbourhoods in Winnipeg. And we need to move in this direction,” he said.

Clearing sidewalks to the pavements would not only benefit people with mobility issues, but it would encourage more Winnipeggers to get out of their cars and use active transportation, Allard said.

Kron, meanwhile, believes the pilot could highlight existing issues for city officials.

“I think it would probably let them know what the barriers are. Not all of our sidewalks are nice and smooth. And even,” he said.

“It would be a good aspirational goal to have. It would be good to find out, and actually have a report, and see where we can mitigate the problems that we have.”

The public works committee will vote on the proposal at a meeting on Feb. 7.