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Editorial: Dealing with the snow

Water Street, downtown St. John's after a heavy snowfall.
Water Street, downtown St. John's after a heavy snowfall.

They were out sometime overnight on Monday into Tuesday: tires hissing in the snow, blue lights flashing on their roofs.

The green City of St. John’s parking enforcement cars were making their rounds as light snow filtered down, a warm-up for the weeks ahead.

No, they weren’t writing tickets. Not then. The green SUVs would crunch to a stop next to snow-shrouded cars parked on city streets, and the enforcement officers reached in through the snow for the windshield wipers with a folded five-and-a-half by eight-and-a-half-inch stiff white cardstock warning notice.

Winter is here, and tickets are coming, regardless of the weather. The warning reads, “Tickets will be issued to vehicles parked in violation of the On-Street Parking Ban continuously throughout the winter season, regardless of weather or street conditions. This action is necessary to avoid interference with snowclearing operations in the event of an unexpected snowstorm or drifting conditions.”

Yes, that means you can get a ticket for blocking the plows even if there’s no snow whatsoever.

(It’s hard to imagine an unexpected snowstorm just now. The current fashion of weather reportage is to announce any possibility of a storm days in advance, and to cast all impending weather in the most cataclysmic terms possible.)

In other snow news, the City of St. John’s seems to be ready to continue its bizarre approach to winter pedestrian safety: sidewalks on quiet, semi-suburban streets like Strawberry Marsh Road are plowed to the pavement, sometimes on both sides of the street, while main thoroughfares like Thorburn Road are left for later, with pedestrians forced to struggle through four lanes worth of greasy castoff slush from the street plows, or risk life and limb by walking on the street.

Perhaps it’s time for the city to do an analysis of what sidewalk plowing pattern makes the most sense for the sidewalks that are actually used, especially when it comes to how busy streets actually are: right now, the city starts immediately adjacent to schools, and works outward, taking four to seven days to do its entire route pattern (a pattern that starts anew if there’s fresh snow).

And while we’re on the topic of sidewalks, if you live on a street where the sidewalk is plowed, and you decide the best place to put the snow from your driveway is to shovel it back into the cleared sidewalk, the city should be able to write you a ticket. There’s common sense involved: in some places, it might well be impossible to put the snow anywhere else. But if it’s just because you’re too lazy to do the job right, a ticket might be the only thing that gets your attention.

Winter is here. We can’t avoid that. But we can continue to work together to find better ways to deal with it.

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