City’s focus on clearing streets over sidewalks frustrating for Winnipeggers with mobility issues

Click to play video: 'Snow clearing concerns'
Snow clearing concerns
Clean up continues following the recent snowfall, but for many the sidewalks are unusable. Global's Joe Scarpelli reports on those with mobility issues struggling to get outside – Nov 15, 2021

A Winnipeg man who uses a wheelchair to get around says he’s frustrated with the city’s snow-clearing efforts — and this isn’t the first time.

Allan Mankewich told 680 CJOB that Winnipeg’s approach to clearing sidewalks is a recurring issue each winter for people with mobility issues.

“It’s an issue every year. It basically traps people in their homes if they have any mobility issues, and it’s just not fair,” Mankewich said.

“There’s a big discrepancy between how we clear the streets and the sidewalks. I live in the north quadrant and I just looked at the (city’s) website — 100 per cent of (priority)1 streets are cleared, and only eight per cent of the pathways and sidewalks.

“I’m not sure why we prioritize streets so heavily when a 3,000-pound car can plow through snow a lot easier than someone on a wheelchair or a scooter, or someone who uses a cane to get around.

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“I’m not sure why we privilege car drivers so much in the city.”

Mankewich said he’s not an unreasonable person and understands the sidewalks can’t be cleared immediately — he tried to go to work Friday, but the snow was still coming down, so he turned around and worked from home.

The next day, he went out and got stuck several times. The day after, the same situation.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t clear the streets at all, but I think there should be more emphasis on clearing the sidewalks and pathways.

“I don’t hear too much from the city. It’s a recurring issue, so obviously they haven’t figured out a way to tackle it yet.

“It affects everyone, not just people with disabilities or mobility issues.”

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Even when the streets and sidewalks are plowed, there can still be difficulties for Winnipeggers with disabilities. Tracy Garbutt, who is blind, told 680 CJOB that even with the help of a service dog, conditions can make it hard to get around.

“Even with my dog, I got to a certain point, and she was refusing to work — I couldn’t figure out why,” he said.

“I was on the sidewalk, and I know the spot where I had to cross was right there, and then when I put my foot forward, there was about a three-foot drift where the plow went by and just buried the sidewalk.

He said he knows the city is working at it, and admits it can be a tough call in that if you plow too soon, more snow may cover the sidewalk over, but if you wait too long, people can’t get by.

“Sometimes there’s that catch-22 where ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t,'” he said.

According to the city’s manager of streets maintenance, there isn’t as much equipment available to plow sidewalks and roads are prioritized because of the need to be open for emergency vehicles.

“There’s a different type of inventory and it takes more time to plow sidewalks than streets, that’s why there is a gap,” Michael Cantor told 680 CJOB.

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“As well, we usually start plowing streets first so we can open our snow routes to any emergency vehicles.

“We are following our council-approved snow clearing and ice control policy, and at the end of the day, we have to plow our priority streets first.

“We need to remember that we have almost 3,000 kilometres of sidewalk, so it takes time to clear all of that, especially when we have a back-to-back (snow) event.”

That second snowfall after the first run of street clearing meant all of the streets designated Priority 1 and Priority 2 were given another clearing before workers could move on to lesser-priority streets and sidewalks.

Cantor said conditions are being closely monitored to see how things can be improved in the future.

“We’ll be looking into collecting information this year, detailed information, about any slippery sidewalks, requests for sanding, and streets with no sidewalks — and we’ll be providing some recommendations to council next year.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg to start city-wide snow clearing Thursday night'
Winnipeg to start city-wide snow clearing Thursday night


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