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Icy sidewalks, bus stops in Vancouver spark outrage; City responds

WATCH: The City of Vancouver is stepping up its response to the endless winter weather. They are promising to suspend some non-essential services to put more people into snow and ice control. As Grace Ke reports, they will also be giving out free salt to residents.

After getting hit by numerous snowfalls throughout December, with the last one as recently as New Year’s Eve, the City of Vancouver is dealing with many complaints from residents about sidewalks and side streets being extremely icy as temperatures continue to drop.

Environment Canada has issued a number of weather warnings for regions like Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley with no relief in the forecast for the next few days. In Metro Vancouver, the temperatures are expected to continue to hover below or around the freezing mark during the day for a few days. Overnight, temperatures will dip to about -7 C.

READ MORE: Warnings issued as temperatures in Metro Vancouver plunge; More snow on the way

Many residents have been complaining that sidewalks, some in potentially dangerous locations like city bridges, are very icy.

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Some are also noticing the discrepancy between icy sidewalks and bike lanes getting cleared.

READ MORE: Vancouver residents question why bike lanes are clear but sidewalks remain icy

This was the scene near Burrard and West 2nd Avenue Tuesday morning.

icy sidewalk Burrard and 2nd Avenue

Others have been complaining about icy bus stops.

But TransLink told Global News snow and ice removal at bus stops is the responsibility of the municipality that they are located in.

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Today, Jerry Dobrovolny, General Manager of Engineering for the City of Vancouver, said the City is ramping up its response.

Vancouver fire halls to give away free salt to residents

Dobrovolny says the City has already used over 7,000 tonnes of salt this year, seven times the amount used last year. Another shipment of salt is expected in the next couple of days. He says they are aware that some stores in the city are running out of salt, so they are offering free salt to residents at a number of city’s fire halls starting Wednesday morning.

Dobrovolny says City crews have been salting “day and night” throughout the Holidays.

On any given day, Dobrovolny says anywhere between 14 and 44 pieces of equipment are out cleaning the streets, depending on what the needs are.

He says, because of the increasingly icy conditions, the City had to essentially shut down non-emergency construction work and re-deploy those crews into other priority areas.

WATCH: City officials explain their response to the unusual pattern of sustained cold weather 
Presser: City of Vancouver update ‘snowfight’ plans
Presser: City of Vancouver update ‘snowfight’ plans

Another 150 staff have been re-deployed Tuesday morning to salt, sand and clear neighbourhood streets.

The City has also shifted about 115 additional staff to help sanitation crews clear the backlog in garbage collection, which was the result of delays caused by earlier snowfalls.

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Dobrovolny says they are also stepping up enforcement of the bylaw that states residential sidewalks have to be cleared by 10 am the morning after the snowfall, and have re-deployed 50 staff to assist with the enforcement process.

The City has received thousands of complaints of uncleared sidewalks and says it has responded to most of them.

Dobrovolny says the complaints are followed up with a warning at first. If the residents don’t comply, they can be issued a ticket or taken to court.

“Most people are clearing their sidewalks, but there are some problem areas, in particular strata councils and businesses in commercial areas that have not cleared their sidewalks and that’s creating some problems,” he said.

WATCH: How Vancouver residents can access salt supply 
How Vancouver residents can access salt supply
How Vancouver residents can access salt supply

At the moment, the City says there are 36 court applications in progress for properties that are not dealing with sidewalks as the bylaw dictates.

Dobrovolny says they are also working with the Vancouver School Board, which has identified 13 priority schools where staff are having trouble keeping good access for students.

WATCH: The City of Vancouver defends its efforts to deal with snow and ice on streets and sidewalks, this while residents endure another day of bitter cold. Jordan Armstrong reports.

City of Vancouver spends $500,000 on snow removal in one month
City of Vancouver spends $500,000 on snow removal in one month
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The City has received 320 requests for help from people who are not able to clear their sidewalks on their own, so it enlisted the help of over 70 City volunteers.

Dobrovolny says, in December alone, the City spent $2.5 million on snow clearing.

“The final amount will be dependent on the weather,” he said. “The response is changing almost daily. We had a large number of streets throughout the city that were cleared just before New Year’s. In fact, lower elevations throughout the city had grass and wet pavement showing. The last snowfall that hit changed all of that again. Our conditions have been changing almost daily and certainly weekly.”

-With files from Amy Judd 

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