Residents voice concerns on sidewalk snowclearing

Andrew Robinson
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Public meeting presents city’s new plan; calls made for further changes

Pedestrians navigate a snow-covered sidewalk at the intersection of Topsail Road and Columbus Drive. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Residents who spoke during a public meeting where the City of St. John’s unveiled its new sidewalk snowclearing program commended the city for taking an active interest in improving the service.

That said, all speakers appeared united on the following point — the city can do even more to enable residents of St. John’s to safely walk its streets.

Camille Fouilliard was among the latter. Fouilliard said walking should be a basic right year-round. Attempting to do so during the winter has proven problematic for her family.

“If anybody walks in this room, they know the streets in this city are not safe to walk on.”

Fouilliard was almost hit by a car last week while walking, and she said her daughter avoided serious injury by a split second in a vehicle-pedestrian incident last year.

The city hopes new investments will reduce those incidents.

With a recent $450,000 purchase of three new sidewalk snowclearing vehicles and a new $250,000 investment for providing service, an additional 47 sidewalks will be cleared as part of an enhanced program.

The additions, which came into effect two weeks ago, include extra coverage for Elizabeth Avenue, Topsail Road, the Stavanger Drive area, Empire Avenue and Torbay Road, among other streets.

Clearing and salting service is now offered to four routes covering 133.7 kilometres. Previously, two routes covered 101 kilometres of sidewalk.


Sherwin Flight, executive director of the Essential Transit Association, questioned why the city devoted so much new coverage to streets where one side was already looked after. He suggested it would be in the city’s best interest to focus on streets where no sidewalk snowclearing is offered instead of clearing two sides of the same one.

Coun. Danny Breen said the move was made in response to feedback received during last year’s Metrobus strike, when sidewalk snowclearing practices were adjusted to help affected users.

Flight questioned why people were not invited to meet with the city prior to the new plan’s finalization. Breen said the plan was informed in part by many of the concerns raised by residents and city staff over time. Breen also pointed out the city is already re-evaluating some aspects of the new program and will continue to do so as it receives feedback.

On new vehicle purchases, Flight wondered why a doubling of the sidewalk snowclearing fleet would only allow for an additional 32.7 kilometres of coverage. Director of public works Paul Mackey said in the past, crews were challenged handling the two routes. Under the new four-route system, he said it is expected crews will respond more rapidly.

Fouilliard also questioned why the city would opt to introduce sidewalk snowclearing to Stavanger Drive given there is almost no pedestrian traffic in the area.

Resident Anne George said the city should alternate the sides it clears to be more fair to taxpayers, some of whom never have their sidewalks cleared while neighbours across the street do.

Mackey said focusing on one side makes more sense, as alternating would leave sides untouched for lengthy periods of time and make them impossible to clear during colder periods.

Multiple concerns were also expressed about the quality of sidewalk snowclearing in the downtown core. The Downtown Development Corp. administers the service and funds it jointly with the City of St. John’s, contracting the work to another service provider.

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Essential Transit Association, Downtown Development

Geographic location: Elizabeth Avenue, Topsail Road, Torbay Road

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Recent comments

  • John
    December 19, 2013 - 17:17

    Make the people that owe money in fines ans the ones that are soaking the well fare system shovel snow

  • yo mama
    February 10, 2012 - 14:53

    $450,000 for 3 snow clearing vehicles? Who makes them, Bugatti? For that price they ought to be able to clear every sidewalk in the city in a day.... I wonder what fool approved that purchase with taxpayers money?

  • Anne Rose
    February 07, 2012 - 14:59

    I agree with those who say that businesses and even homeowners should be responsible for providing safe clearing of sidewalks in front of their property. I understand not all homeowners are healthy enough to shovel or can afford to pay someone to do it. But the more who do, the safer pedestrians can move around. My family makes the effort to clear our sidewalk and walkways to the street, and even go as far as clearing the sidewalks of some of our elderly neighbours. Unfortunately, every time we do, the snow plow shoves it all back in again. It doesn't stop us from trying or reshovelling until it remains that way. We live in a downtown area where walking on the street is very hazardous. Someone earlier made a point that city-cleared sidewalks were often difficult to walk on because so much snow and ice is left in the wake of the small plows and snowblowers. Another person told them to suck it up and get good boots. Obviously the person who was critical of the comment has never tried to walk any distance on sidewalks cleared in that manner. It's a callous comment and shows the disdain and disregard shown towards pedestrians by many (not ALL) drivers. I have noticed a difference in the way streets and sidewalks are cleared now than, for example, 10 years ago. I believe that a difference in equipment, drivers and their training could be part of the problem. It seems like some (not ALL) drivers can't use the equipment efficiently. And, other city equipment operators just don't seem to care. I think all sidewalk clearing personnel should be made to walk a mile of their handiwork. Perhaps then there would be some empathy for those who must walk.

  • That's what you get for trying to help
    February 07, 2012 - 14:45

    The teacher tries to help and gets suspended for it??? Was it the best kind of help?? No. Can anyone name an instance where the teacher called for a parent to pick up a kid because they smelled?? Grow up people - I like how everyone here is suggesting that yet has never seen it happen before during their school days. I highly doubt the MUN department of education has a course dubbed – dealing with smelly students. But since the mother has created a media circus maybe she can convince MUN to create a course like that for students in the education faculty. This mom is out for blood plain and simple ruin, not to mention is out to ruin the livelihood and career of someone else. I truly hope this woman finds herself in a similar situation someday. Was this kid in mortal danger? What this kid in a life or death situation? Was this teacher trying to physically harm the student?? Was the student phsyically assaulted?? In my opinion, the teacher should face some sort of discipline, maybe even some kind of sensitivity training. In return the mother needs to go to anger management. Let this be a lesson – don’t bother helping anyone because that person you end up helping, might end up suing you.....Or the mother might end up calling the press and turning it into a media circuis for the entire country to read about.

  • Jane
    February 07, 2012 - 13:51

    My advice is that if you see or have to walk on a sidewalk that has been "plowed" but is still left buried with a foot or more of tire treads and excess/ potentially hazardous snow call 311, or your counselor and report it. Take a picture if you have to. The problem is, that way of clearing has become the new standard because although people are complaining in general, not enough people are reporting it to the city. They'll think it's fine and the guys doing the work think it's fine because they don't have to walk on it. It is a matter of public safety and perfectly valid reason to call. Remind them. Often. Eventually some one will get the point.

  • Snow Way
    February 07, 2012 - 12:55

    Just want to say that there is really no need for the driver vs. pedestrian mentality that is being trumped up by some in the media and perpetuated by some users on forums like this one. It’s a distraction from what really matters. No driver wants to hit a pedestrian and no pedestrian wants to be hit by one. Duh. Common sense, right? Most of us are drivers and pedestrians (joggers, bikers, dog walkers etc) who use common sense and err on the side of caution and safety. There are a small percentage of people who do not but there always are, it can’t be avoided. We can bitch and blame, create “sides” all we want but it solves nothing. The main concern should be to see that the city has a snow-clearing plan that works, and which will ensure safe access to essential services for all of us.

  • Boots
    February 07, 2012 - 12:17

    Highly agree Jennifer!. In cases like your example ( which is not isolated but happens everywhere and constantly) it is not a "lack of resources" issue but how those resources are being used and how the so-called strategy of the city is being executed ie. not effectively! To expand the budget and increase equipment and hours is great but more of the same will not help! Clear and safe routes to schools, hospitals, grocery stores, bus stops and crosswalks are much needed year round and we currently don't have them. We need the city to use its budget/planning effectively and for residents to remain actively involved in order to achieve that. To those of you who are just unloading and whining about what you feel you don't have or what you think someone else does not deserve: you do realize you're not being constructive right?

  • Old Salt
    February 07, 2012 - 12:07

    Suggestion for sidewalk clearing. Divide the city into work zones. Ask for bids from private citizens in each zone who can then buy a privately owned sidewalk plough. Let the work under contract based on measured sidewalks. The whole city would be cleaned at once... accidents/fatalities avoided, pedestrians and motorists all wearing broad grins. Be the first in Canada to solve a nagging municipal problem.

  • Mom with Small child
    February 07, 2012 - 11:46

    I'm more concerned about having my street plowed decently! I live on Empire Avenue and on Sunday the snowbanks were 13 feet out from the edge of the sidewalk! There is barely enough room for two cars to pass, but yet the cul-de-sac off Empire (that has 2 city workers living in it) is cleaned beautifully and right back to the curbs on both sides. I guess it all depends on who you know!

  • R
    February 07, 2012 - 10:35

    It doesn't matter if they clear them or not - on Sunday I seen more than a dozen people walking ON THE ROAD next to the plowed sidewalk. No matter what the city does it is not going to be plowed right to the concrete. You are walking in the winter in Newfoundland....put on a good pair of boots and get over it!

    • Anne Rose
      February 07, 2012 - 14:24

      Only people who don't actually WALK on the "cleared" sidewalks would think they could be navigated without difficulty. They are often left with a thick pad of snow which is usually quite slipper and awkward to walk upon. I know that from a vehicle they appear cleared. They are actually quite hazardous to walk on.

  • Mary
    February 07, 2012 - 09:55

    The complaints are not about our OWN sidewalks,it's about the people that don't DRIVE A CAR,and have to walk to the supermarket,school, church,etc, I shovel my own sidewalk,most of my neighbours do, too.What some people don't realize is not EVERYBODY drives, so do we have to stay at home all winter,because there are no sidewalks?

    • Steve
      February 07, 2012 - 10:44

      Mary, I agree with you. If more people followed your lead, this would not even be an issue, but unfortunately 99% of the world's population are lazy who live by the slogan - can't someone else do it??? The City of St. John’s needs to make a law requiring all residential and business sidewalks to be clear – people would be held accountable. If you chose not to clear – a simple $100 fine would change their mind. This is not rocket science. It’s not as if snow in Newfoundland is a new a problem.

    • JT
      February 07, 2012 - 12:04

      Okay Steve, if the city agrees not to pile snow on the sidewalk in front of my property, I will ensure it is kept clear of snow, otherwise you can forget it. Right now on the side of the street along my property, there is a minimum three foot high by approximately sixty foot long bank consisting of snow, ice, road salt, sand etc., that would take me about a week to remove, providing I didn't drop dead from a heart attack while attempting to remove it. We live in a climate where snow is a reality. To expect every sidewalk to be cleared down to the surface of the concrete seven days a week, 24 hours a day is simply unrealistic.

  • Here is an idea - pick up a shovel
    February 07, 2012 - 09:53

    The City of St. John's needs to grow a pair to make business AND homeowners accountable for their sidewalks. Enough of this whining.

    • P
      February 07, 2012 - 10:52

      That wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have to shovel 8 feet of snow on the street first to even get to my sidewalk and then shovel that. My front lawn is just not big enough to attempt that and my back wouldn't be able to handle it as well!

    • Make 'em work
      February 07, 2012 - 12:27

      Here's an even better idea. Why doesn't the Government make the lazy good for nothings and crooks who keep racking up the fines up into the tens of thousands of dollars get out on the streets with shovels and make them pay back some of the monies they owe in O/S fines by clearing the sidewalks. I suspect that would cover a good portion of the city sidewalks, thus saving them money to invest in some badly needed new infrastructure work.

  • Mr.Mom
    February 07, 2012 - 09:47

    @KENT- couldn't have said it better myself. said "as I was driving around" and then you said "there were no tracks on the sidewalks which lead me to believe those particular sidewalks are not used very much." You must have a keen eye to see tracks on a sidewalk while driving by and trying to keep your eyes on the road....or were you really walking....or biking ?

  • L.
    February 07, 2012 - 09:41

    I highly agree with M! I also think many areas that are checked "cleared" at the end of the day are not done so sufficiently nor do they necessarily leave behind safe routes for pedestrians once "completed"....They may appear cleared to some degree or less congested to drivers passing but it's quite another thing to hobble over and around them, much less with a child or as an elderly person, anyone with limited mobility. In cases like these, it's not necessarily a lack of funds and/or resources that is the problem, but how they are being allocated and of course how the so called planning is being executed. New equipment and an addition to the snow clearing budget are great but only if they are used effectively. Also, I appreciate the concerns of all residents and taxpayers alike but I really don't think the bulk of resources need to focus on residential areas, people in many of these areas should consider clearing their own if they don't already. I understand that some may not be able to do so; it's not them that I am addressing. I always clear the sidewalks, as do my neighbors in our downtown neighborhood. We still battle with parking and where to put the snow but we make it work!. It's called taking responsibility for our safety, that of our children and how we want to live. Nothing comes without work. There has to be a balance. It is a community issue and as members of the community of St. John's at large we are equally responsible to do what we can in our respective neighborhoods.

  • Jennifer McCreath
    February 07, 2012 - 09:04

    i don't understand why they bother to drive over the sidewalks with these huge tractors. while this may clear some of the snow, it still leaves a bumpy 2-3 inches of slush, which turns into ice. no way you can move a wheelchair on this stuff.

  • james
    February 07, 2012 - 08:54

    As long as there is snow plowing as opposed to snow removal the sidewalk issue will always remain. I try and keep the sidewalk clear in front of my home. It becomes tiresome when the plow fills it in with knee high slush / snow multiple times each day. And today, due to no snow removal I have nowhere to shovel any new snow.

  • Sheila Corbett
    February 07, 2012 - 08:27

    I lived in St. John's until 1998 and wonder why residents are not responsible for clearing their sidewalks as in Hamilton, ON. It seems to me that it is the responsible thing to do. In Hamilton if there is in injury on your sidewalk the person can sue you and if you do not clear your sidewalk in a timely fashion the city can and will fine you. This simple thing would work wonders towards a safe walking environment in winter.

    • dontgetmestarted
      February 07, 2012 - 10:09

      I doubt if any of the cities quoted requiring the homeowner do the shovelling get half as much snow as we do in St. John's

  • Robin Stagg
    February 07, 2012 - 08:20

    I see that nothing has changed since I left almost 20 years ago! I spent eight years in St. John's attending university and cursed the city each winter for their inability to clean the sidewalks. I would have been happy even with one side of a street with one cleared sidewalk but no, memories of trying to walk from downtown to MUN, clinging for dear life to icy snow banks hoping not to fall into traffic; being soaked when a mild snap took place by cars speeding through the slush; being hit a few times by a car because the piled up snow created a blind spot; and the joy of slipping on one of the downtown hills, falling to my butt and sliding right back down a hill that took me about 10 mins to try and get up! Love my home province, but certainly do not miss those winters at all. Good luck to you all for a safe winter!

  • e m
    February 07, 2012 - 08:11

    It should be the responsibility of homeowners to shovel their sidewalks. as in other cities, like Halifax, if a homeowner does not clear their sidewalk, they are fined. The city can't shoulder the responsibility alone. It is a basic human right to mobility. I have lived here a year and I am appalled by the lack of duty of citizens and lack of services in this so-called city. St. John's, you have a long way to go.

  • sammyh
    February 07, 2012 - 08:09


  • Driver-walker-biker
    February 07, 2012 - 07:17

    Driving around the city yesterday I noticed some sidewalk clearing (or some attempt to make it look like sidewalk clearing). The people I saw walking weren't walking on the sidewalk and there were no tracks on the sidewalks which lead me to believe those particular sidewalks are not used very much. I don't blame walkers for not using the sidewalks because they weren't fit to walk on anyways. The poor attempt to clear sidewalks and the laughable attempt to dab a few bike lanes here and there to shut people up is rediculous! If you can't do it right, then don't bother! You are helping no one! What the City has done is put the lives of the bikers, walkers and the drivers in a more dangerous situation. Bikes lanes are accidents waiting to happen and the sidewalks are pathetic for walkers. Try to get these issues right for the safety of all concerned!

  • Peeved
    February 07, 2012 - 07:12

    Welcome to the Goulds! After over twenty years as part of the city two of three schools don't even have sidewalks yet alone cleared sidewalks. Stay where your at Mt. Pearl & Paradise.

    • West ender
      February 07, 2012 - 09:14

      @ the Gouds I live right in the city of St John,s Southside Rd as a matter of fact and we don,t have side walks it's a 30km zone and not enough room for two cars to get though not alone a place for our kids to even jump out of theway of a passing car,so before you cry fowl you are not the only one that don,t have a place to walk,as for having side walks cleared I passed the city hall and mile one on Friday it was that clear you could roller skate on it.Elizabeth Ave was cleared three days ago for the children at MUN,but waterford bridge Rd with two schools one Elem,and one JR High wasn,t cleaned until yesterday in to last night.I have to drive my young kids to school if not they would be under a car some where.I agree home peers should take action and clear their side walk,some shop owners do clear their side walk in front of their store but pile the snow at the curb,how do you expect the person to get to your store when the passager can,t even open their door.Love of god put your now in by your foundation.Come on Mr. Mackey the snow storm was last Thursday don,t you think the side walks should have been cleared by Friday,can,t wait until it stops snowing,it snows everyday here.

  • M
    February 07, 2012 - 06:46

    Unfortunately, I do not see this new plan making any difference. While I agree with the city on clearing both sides of a street, and clearing main Metrobus stops, there is still the issue of downtown. The snow clearing will still be piss poor. I have one primary and one pre-school child and we walk to to school. I have been forced to take cabs due to the fact that the sidewalks are blocked with snow. I cannot take a stroller and have to walk on the street along main routes to with both kids. I think they should look at the school issue - if you can't get transit for your child inside a 2kmradius, then the sidewalks should be clear inside that boundary. Most people in the downtown core and surrounding area walk. I've grown up in this area my whole life and have never seen more foot traffic anywhere else. It's ridiculous that for the amount of taxes residents pay to the city, after all these years, the city still can't seem to get it right!

  • Kent
    February 07, 2012 - 06:42

    In the summer, fall and spring I see a number of walkers in my area who absolutely refuse to walk on the side-walk. Rather, they always walk on the street about 2 feet from the curb. These are the same people who complain about teh side-walks not being accesible in the winter! Even when it is available they refuse to walk on it.