Should the City of Vancouver be doing more for pedestrians during major snow events?
One city councillor thinks so, and wants staff to explore the possibility of snow removal in key pedestrian areas.
Under Vancouver’s current snow-removal bylaws, property owners or residents are responsible for clearing sidewalks next to their own properties.
But many of those sidewalks, or walks on city-owned property, manage to go uncleared every major snow event, drawing perennial complaints from residents and concerns for people with mobility issues.
Those complaints often argue that the city does clear its 15 most-used bike lanes, some of which are adjacent to sidewalks that go unplowed.
Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung says it’s time for that to change.
In a motion on Tuesday’s council agenda, Kirby-Yung is calling for city staff to identify key high-priority pedestrian areas and sidewalks that could be incorporated into Vancouver’s snow clearing plans, and come back with a report by May.
“Let’s recognize that we’re very different than the cities back east — Toronto, for example,” she said, adding that she’s not suggesting the city try and clear all public sidewalks.
“But let’s take a look at where we could start and what are some of those core areas, whether it’s into the core commercial districts or some of those walking paths that connect to community centres where people want to get out, but they may be stuck.”
Vancouver’s current snow removal program covers major roads, bus routes, bridges, emergency acess and school routes, along with those 15 controversial bike lanes, which have their own mini-plows.
The city’s current annual snow-removal budget comes in at just under $4 million.
Kirby-Yung said it’s too early to estimate how much such a clearing program would cost, and that it would be up to staff to include such projections in their report, if her motion is approved.
But she said snow clearing is a core city service, and one the city should adjust to prioritize pedestrians.
“I think you don’t have to look at the cost of not doing it,” said Kirby-Yung.
“What’s the cost of not getting people to work? Or people that are hourly workers that have to go out, they’re more vulnerable, or those seniors that are sort of stuck at home?”
In addition to reporting back on potential high-priority pedestrian areas to clear, the motion asks staff to coordinate with the Vancouver Park Board about equipment and strategies the cities parks use to clear walkways of snow.
It also asks staff to look into retrofitting or buying new equipment for sidewalk clearing.
Kirby-Yung said if the motion goes through, she’s hopeful the city could implement a pedestrian-focused program by next winter.