St. John’s failing at snow

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I type this letter with a throbbing shoulder, after having slipped and pirouetted onto a rail on Solomon’s Lane in downtown St. John’s.

Having moved back to the province in June, I was aware of the city’s abysmal record of keeping the roads and sidewalks safe for all our citizens, including the elderly and those with mobility issues.

I was not ready for the fact that even major pedestrian laneways and steps in downtown St. John’s are not cleared of snow and ice. The laneway in question is used by many shoppers and workers in the area.

But the day I fell, there was downward sloping ice on every step. I am 51 years old and fairly agile, and yet I fell and hurt myself, despite going slowly and carefully.

Worst yet

The city claims to not have enough money to properly clear sidewalks, yet this year appears to be worse than any other, with the downtown core especially neglected.

Yet the mayor and council want to add more buildings and workers to the downtown core.

There is a big disconnect here, and the savings from sidewalk clearance may be lost from lawsuits from those who fall and seriously hurt themselves.

If this city is to grow and prosper, and attract immigrants and in-migrants from other provinces, they will need to work on keeping the sidewalks cleared, as this is a huge quality-of-life issue.

It is about being an age-friendly city, one that cares about those with mobility issues, and one that is trying to encourage people to walk or run throughout the year.

As it currently stands, from December to April, the good pedestrians of St. John’s are forced to walk in traffic, or if older, become a shut-in.

And for those who have the ability to chose where they live, this might be enough reason to move to a city that cares more about its citizens.

David Coish

St. John’s

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Recent comments

  • Jacob Allderdice
    January 03, 2014 - 11:38

    The reality of this city's policy of plowing street snow onto the sidewalks should be seen as an opportunity, not a crisis. The fact is, it offers a rare opportunity to study "in the field" the experimental and contentious theories of one of the most radical of urban designers, the Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman (1945-2008). His claim was that traffic works best on "Naked Streets," streets where pedestrians, cars, bicyclists, including the elderly and infirm, swirl in a mish-mash of contested space. In this environment, where road signs, kerb edges, sidewalks, and other markings are banished, it remains up to the "human beings" involved to make meaningful contact--(hopefully eye contact, not bumper-to-knee contact), to safely share the available space. As for me, I plan to start "wearing" an inflatable raft for my walk to the bus, toward the end of claiming my rightful share of the road.

  • Sharon
    January 03, 2014 - 10:57

    Like Mr. Coish, I moved to St.John's last year. Since December I feel like I've been robbed of the simple pleasure of being able to walk safely in the city. Walking to school with my daughter is dangerous. I would gladly pay higher taxes to have the snow and ice removed from the sidewalks. Better yet, why not ask the residents here to undertake some civic responsibility and clear or salt the sidewalks in front of their house? What will happen in 2015 when mail delivery stops?

    • Mike
      January 05, 2014 - 10:44

      Sharon, I'm a resident of the down town area, and 100% agree with you that residents should share some of the responsibility keeping the sidewalks in front of there property clear, and have always taken pride in the facet that my sidewalk was always clear and salted. This year however I have run out of any space to put the snow, and my street itself has been reduced to a slim trail barely wide enough for one compact car to fit. The city has failed it's residents this year and Mr. Mackey has been almost insulting with his excuses. I understand we have a lot of snow on the ground, but that doesn't mean the city can just operate snow clearing as usual. I myself work in essential services and when things get busy, sometimes we have to work 24 straight hours, it's not ideal and nobody likes to do it but when it happens we do it, because ultimately we work for the people and have a responsibility and at the end of the day my coworkers and I can take pride in what we do. Mr. Mackey it's time you did something you can take pride in instead of telling us to shovel our own fire hydrants out.

    • Mike
      January 05, 2014 - 10:45

      Sharon, I'm a resident of the down town area, and 100% agree with you that residents should share some of the responsibility keeping the sidewalks in front of there property clear, and have always taken pride in the facet that my sidewalk was always clear and salted. This year however I have run out of any space to put the snow, and my street itself has been reduced to a slim trail barely wide enough for one compact car to fit. The city has failed it's residents this year and Mr. Mackey has been almost insulting with his excuses. I understand we have a lot of snow on the ground, but that doesn't mean the city can just operate snow clearing as usual. I myself work in essential services and when things get busy, sometimes we have to work 24 straight hours, it's not ideal and nobody likes to do it but when it happens we do it, because ultimately we work for the people and have a responsibility and at the end of the day my coworkers and I can take pride in what we do. Mr. Mackey it's time you did something you can take pride in instead of telling us to shovel our own fire hydrants out.

  • Betty Pickens
    January 01, 2014 - 13:19

    I agree with David Coish. He has stated the problems with poor sidewalk clearing from snow here in St, John's. Money spent to court big business to come here and build bigger office hi rises. Could better be spent taking care of the city's needs! I am sure these corporations want to establish their business in places that care about people.! The city should care about safety issues. That IS GOOD business!

  • rick
    January 01, 2014 - 08:58

    nobody cares,the people who run this city,business owners,homeowners etc..nobody cares about anybody,ive lived all over the country and this city is by far the worse ive seen at snow removal.god forbid you get your asses out to shovel the snow or spend a few dollars on salt to melt the ice. we nflders have a reputation of being a giving helpfull people.peoples perception would change quite quickly if they lived here in st.johns(in the winter esp.)

  • Elizabeth Hall
    December 31, 2013 - 16:11

    I was on Hamlyn road to day not walking but in a car and saw that the crosswalk on the road was not cleared and thee is no place to walk in the road it is a hazard to walk on the road near the crosswalk on Hamlyn road near the crosswalk something needs to be dune about it before someone gets hurt or worse killed .

  • Ben
    December 31, 2013 - 06:14

    Oh here we go again with snow clearing! It's hard to clear the sidewalks when there's so much snow that the plows have to spend all their time just clearing the roads. And Linda the Hearts Content Barrens are slippery at times because it's so windy no salt or sand will stay on it. I was behind a plow on the Northern Pen one day and saw the truck putting out salt/sand...but then heard someone complaining 1/2 hr later saying there was nothing put on there. If I didn't see it myself I might not have believed it but the salt/sand will not stay on where it is very windy. It has nothing to do with outports. In reality the government does too much snow clearing in outports, including virtually peoples driveways! If u went to Ontario or Alberta you would certainly be complaining.

  • Ed Flynn
    December 30, 2013 - 19:34

    Like the writer of the letter I have recently moved back to St. John's after 20 years away. A few random thoughts: - A lot if snow has fallen - city snow clearing efforts are poor, as is the execution by the plow operators - the city needs to adopt and/or enforce alternate side parking downtown and perhaps elsewhere. It boggles the mind why rapidly narrowing streets are full of double-parked cars. - shops and restaurants need to be held to higher standards of cleaning steps and sidewalks. I'm a fit 40 year old and fell outside Basho on the 27th. Going inside to wash blood off my hands after catching myself (I wasn't injured more than scrapes to my hands) my suggestion to better salt and clear the steps was met with blank stares. A better job can be done by the city and some basic rules should be better enforces. "That's good enough" isn't good enough.

  • m
    December 30, 2013 - 19:03

    "But the day I fell, there was downward sloping ice on every step." So, why, in the name of whomever, would you attempt walk down those steps? We have had a lot of snow, some freezing rain and drizzle and some cold temps - that makes for icy conditions. Common sense must be used.

  • Anna
    December 30, 2013 - 14:35

    Every winter this is a problem in St.John's and every winter council is going to study it. When are they going to realize that having cleared sidewalks in a timely matter is not a privilge to us but a right as tax paying citizens. They need to hire more resources and they need to get this done now. Forget spending money on fences and Bannerman Park, we need to have sidewalks cleared so the citizens can walk and be safe.

  • Robert
    December 30, 2013 - 14:18

    YAWN! What is all that noise! Oh, just the townies complaining about winter yet again! Sure wish I was a ground hog so that I could sleep through all that noise! YAWN!!

  • L.hibbs
    December 30, 2013 - 10:31

    I just read this article this is so true, after the first big snow fall I fell on New Cove RD, when I rang city hall I didn't get much sympathy and the side walks crosswalks and bus stops are still not done I have to use walking as my means of transportation, when are they going to do something I think I'll move to Mt. Pearl. This is one of the reasons I didn't vote this time around.

  • Ed Power
    December 30, 2013 - 09:41

    I have also lived in cities and towns where residents are required to clear the sidewalk in front of their property. Just one question, Thomas - where, exactly, are the residents and businesses in downtown St. John's going to put all this snow that they just removed from their sidewalks? As of yesterday, Duckworth Street was reduced to one lane with the other lane and curbside parking spaces on both sides already filled with snow. Most properties downtown have doorways that open directly onto a sidewalk that is, basically, the storage area for all the snow pushed from the street. Residents of these homes are lucky to be able to tunnel a pathway through this frozen slop and snow to their front doors. Are they to be required to chuck all this snow back onto the street to clear the sidewalk, so that the city can return it again in a cycle to be repeated for the length of the winter? Great exercise, I'll admit, but it will get tedious after a few weeks. Perhaps the only thing to do downtown is ban all automobiles between December and April and require the use of skis and snowshoes for the duration of the winter. That would be great for the downtown residents, but it would add a few minutes to the commute from CBS or Paradise .

  • dontgetmestarted
    December 30, 2013 - 08:25

    December is the forgotten month in this city. Council waits for the new budget year to start before clearing snow. By the end of the winter the budget is gone . Because we have had more snowless Decembers recently, they expect to get away without having to do any. Increase the budget & do the job.

  • Linda W
    December 30, 2013 - 07:24

    As bad as it can get in St. John's - it is equally as bad when you live out around the Bay. The Heart's Content Barrens are so bad right after a storm and days after - they are slippery beyond belief and no sign of salt or sand at all. I often wonder if the Government thinks less of Outport people

  • Thomas
    December 30, 2013 - 07:05

    I'm sorry you fell and injured yourself. Welcome to Atlantic Canada in the winter. I have resided in several Canadian and American cities - Montreal, Quebec City, Chicago and Halifax. The snow clearing plight that St. John's faces is similar to the mentioned cities and the removal of snow in a timely manner is on par with these cities. No better, no worse. St. John's should adopt and enforce a sidewalk clearing policy as with other cities that puts the onus on residents and businesses to clear the sidewalks in front of their properties. And yes - city fire breaks that are now stepped walkways (as in your unfortunate fall) should be either well cleared and salted or avoided altogether. The growth of the city is too rapid for good manageable snow clearing based on the budget presented.

    • Jay
      December 30, 2013 - 11:27

      Thomas, The city won't adopt a sidewalk clearing policy because then their own snowplows won't be able to dump all of the heavy ice and snow back onto residents' recently cleared sidewalks. Look around the next time it snows. You'll see conscientious residents clearing their sidewalks and driveways throughout the city. The residents are not the problem. Then the plows come around and dump the snow back into the sidewalks without any regard for the work which the residents have done. The city has to stop praying for rain and develop a snow clearing strategy for the safety of residents.