Ice storm: Who is responsible for clearing the sidewalk?

Police say he was shovelling the snow off his balcony when he fell head first on the icy ground.
Police say he was shovelling the snow off his balcony when he fell head first on the icy ground. Getty Images

If you live in Toronto, you may have to get out the ice chipper.

Not clearing the sidewalk in front of your house may leave you with a $125.00 fine as per a city bylaw.

According to Municipal Code Chapter 719, homeowners have 12 hours after a winter event ends to clear the ice and snow from the sidewalk in front on their property.

A map of sidewalk snow clearing shows where sidewalks are unable to be plowed.

If a complaint is made, the city will inform the property owner about the snow and ice by-law and their obligation with the message that they will return in a day’s time to see that the situation’s been improved.

Peter Noehammer, Director of Transportation Services for the City of Toronto, said that 90 per cent of the time, that happens. “Where it doesn’t then the by-law also enables the city to then perform the work with its own forces, and charge back the home owner in property taxes. Again, that’s kind of a good incentive for the home owner to take action and do it themselves.”

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Only after 8 cm of snow has fallen will the city clear snow from sidewalks on local roads during December and March. During January and February, they clear sidewalks after 5 cm of snow has fallen.

Snow removal crews begin clearing snow from crosswalks and transit stops after the main roads have been plowed. This is usually done within 72 hours after a snowstorm.

“I think that we always want to reinforce that safety is the key thing here. And wherever we can clear the snow or ice from sidewalks mechanically, we’re out there doing that. We can’t do so mechanically in areas where it’s on street parking, or sidewalks are very narrow or there are a lot of encroachments,” said Noehammer.

Seniors and disabled residents can register for manual snow clearing in areas where the city doesn’t already clear the sidewalks mechanically.

A list of organizations that provide private property snow-clearing services to seniors can be provided by 311 Toronto.

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