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Slippery Winnipeg sidewalks see mobility advocates calling for change

Slush and ice are persisting on Winnipeg sidewalks, and advocates for people with mobility challenges are insisting that change is needed.

In a media release, the Manitoba League for Persons with Disabilities (MLPD) said it was disappointed when, on Tuesday, the City of Winnipeg’s Standing Committee for Public Works did not vote to accept a motion to clear all sidewalks at the same priority as roads.

It said that the slush is more hazardous for people with mobility devices than snow.

The chairperson of the standing committee, Janice Lukes, said making clearing all active living transportation paths a top priority would cost around $60 million to do.

“We would have to buy 55 more snow-removal machines like these (sidewalk) machines, at a cost of $12 million. We’d have to hire mechanics and extra people to operate them at a cost of $7 million, and we’d have to build a building to store these 55 machines in at a cost of anywhere between 20 and $30 million,” she said. “So the committee decided at this point in time not to do that.”

Lukes said weather is also a barrier.

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“It’s man and machines against Mother Nature. We’re really trying our best every year. Like, we’ve never invested more in snow removal and these … than this last year for the active transportation network,” she said.

David Kron, executive director of Cerebral Palsy Manitoba, said he knows the city is limited in what it can do, and understands they can’t be everywhere at once, but still hopes city council will look at it again in the budget process next week.

“They could at least have that goal in mind,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we just want to make sure that, you know, people can get out into the community,” he said. “We don’t want to be shut in all winter just because the snow isn’t cleared off the sidewalks or down the street.”

An emailed statement from Winnipeg’s Public Works says it’s currently responding to requests for service to re-plow trouble areas, and is doing what it can for Winnipeggers that are having a harder time getting around.

Kron said the Winnipeg S(NO)w Plow campaign, launched by the MLPD, aims to see that through.

The campaign is a Facebook group collecting pictures of sidewalks in the city that are impassable, to show the city why sidewalk clearing is critical.

“I had an old boss who told me, ‘Trust and verify.’ I trust you to do a good job, but I’m also going to verify that you’re doing a good job. That’s really what we want to do. We’re trusting the city to do a good job, but we’re also going to verify that they’re doing a good job and we’re not going away.”

He also calls on all Winnipeggers to have kindness readily available.

“If you’re (shoveling) your own sidewalks, go right to the end,” he said. “If you see a windrow clear it out. If, you know, you’re a business, clear the front of the storefront out so I can get in and spend money.”

He said a little communication and planning go a long way.

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