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Sidewalk debate: London, Ont., Civic Works Committee grants no exemption for any street

London, Ont. City Hall. Matthew Trevithick / 980 CFPL File

London, Ont., city council’s Civic Works Committee has voted against exempting any street that’s set to receive a new sidewalk this summer.

The debate, which took place during a virtual meeting Monday afternoon, heard both sides from members of city council as well as 31 delegates.

Eleven streets were set to get new sidewalks installed once underground infrastructure reconstruction takes place, but this didn’t sit well with some homeowners.

Read more: London petition demands improved sidewalk maintenance in winter

Speaking at the meeting, more than 10 homeowners brought up the issue of tree removal that comes with installing new sidewalks.

“It appears that there are 14 trees on 13 properties slated for removal,” said a resident of Bartlett Crescent, one of the streets on the city’s sidewalk installation list.

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“We will be left with three trees on 13 properties… This is an unnecessary loss of trees that are integral to the charm and beauty of our landscape.”

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Icy sidewalk dispute in Saint John – Mar 8, 2021

Others said the roads are safe for both pedestrians and drivers. One resident also brought up the mental health benefits that comes with a greater number of trees.

On the other hand, accessibility advocates argued sidewalks are vital to ensuring London is moving towards becoming more inclusive.

“Older adults with mobility challenges, young families pushing strollers… neither of whom should be on the street,” said Jay Menard, the chair of London city hall’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.

“From city parks to sidewalk debates over the past few years, disabled Londoners have routinely been told to go somewhere else or to wait for the next time around,” added Jeff Preston, an assistant professor in disability studies at Western University.

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Read more: Accessibility advocate invites Londoners to ‘roll a mile in my wheels’

The debate also heard from a resident with a disability who disagrees with sidewalk installations.

S. Skelton lives in the St. Anthony Road area and has lived with the challenges of a traumatic brain injury for more than 20 years. St. Anthony Road is set to get sidewalks this summer.

“I speak for six per cent of households (in my neighbourhood) with a resident who meets the criteria of an Ontarian with a disability,” she said. “What we are unanimously opposed to is the assumption that sidewalks in our neighbourhood will improve our accessibility (and) safety.”

Skelton said sidewalks often cause more trouble for those with disabilities because ridges can make walking or wheeling uncomfortable and difficult. Snowy and icy conditions means sidewalks are unusable at times.

Read more: St. Thomas sidewalk makes waves on social media

S. Connolly, who lives in the Friars Way area expressed similar concerns. He’s the stepfather to a 21-year-old who uses a wheelchair.

“I am opposed to the sidewalks because (they) reduce Noah’s accessibility and they are a potential safety hazard.”

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“We have never (experienced) any issues or problems using the roadways… Just because we have no sidewalks doesn’t mean the neighbourhood is not accessible to all. In our neighbourhood, (the) quiet roads without sidewalks are more accessible.”

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Towards the end of the meeting, members of the Civic Works Committee voted against exempting any street that’s set to receive a new sidewalk.

Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen was the sole member of the committee that voted to grant exemptions for all streets.

Councillor Elizabeth Peloza also voted to grant an exemption for Bartlett Crescent only.

Read more: London to prevent vehicles for hire from charging disabled people extra fees

The final decision goes to city council on March 23.

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The following streets are part of the city’s sideline installation project:

  • Abbey Rise
  • Elm Street
  • Friars Way
  • Imperial Road
  • Paymaster Avenue
  • St. Anthony Road
  • Tarbart Terrace
  • Bartlett Crescent
  • Doncaster Avenue
  • Doncaster Place

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