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Sidewalks: Your duty

Sidewalks: Your DutyThe front end of another Canadian winter.  With it, comes accumulations of ice and snow: as normal and natural a Canadian experience as the setting sun.

Through maintenance contractors, our tax dollars go to work to keep our roadways safe.  Snow is plowed and icy surfaces are sanded or salted.  When budgeting for road maintenance, our government leaders do their best to strike the right balance between affordability and safety.  Drivers need to do our part as well, adjusting our driving to snowy and icy conditions that cannot be 100% avoided.

What about residential sidewalks?  I’ve seen sidewalk clearing plows here and there, but never in residential areas.  The only plows on my street are the road plows that sometimes end up dumping chunks of ice and snow up on those sidewalks.

The level of care homeowners put into home front sidewalks varies widely.  There are the retired keeners who are out there, it seems, to remove every flake of snow as it falls.  They not only keep the sidewalk perfectly clear, but also a swath of the street along the sidewalk.

Then there are those who seem not to own a shovel.  The thinnest skiff of snow quickly turns to a layer of ice.  A narrow path develops through deeper snow, which also becomes icy and treacherous.

Neglected sections of residential sidewalks quickly become unsafe even for those wearing good quality winter boots.  In order to avoid the icy surfaces, pedestrians climb over plow-piles to walk on the street, or walk through fresher snow alongside the sidewalk.

The only chance of staying upright on the icy sections of sidewalk, is to purchase a form of “ice cleat” that manufactures have developed for strapping onto the bottoms of footwear.

Financial realities can get in the way of many people having the best of footwear, or purchasing “ice cleat” type products.  Those with mobility issues are effectively kept prisoners in their own homes, unable to go out and get the walking exercise they need in order to stay as healthy and mobile as they can.

We could fix this problem by increasing our taxes and hiring maintenance contractors to add residential sidewalks to the roadways they keep safe for us.  Perhaps, on the whole, it would be a sensible solution.  Each of us pitching in to get the job done right would arguably be less expensive, when taking into account the cost of shovels and whatnot, along with time spent we spend hand-removing snow.

Until we vote in higher taxes, please take note of our municipal bylaws (Bylaw 8120 in the City of Kelowna and bylaw 0071.01 in the District of West Kelowna).  The two bylaws are very similar, each requiring homeowners to remove accumulated snow or ice from the sidewalks in front of our properties within 24 hours.

How do we get homeowners to follow the law and keep sidewalks safe?  Maybe it’s time for our municipalities to start imposing fines for non-compliance.  Perhaps a public shaming website like might be effective.

How about we start by handing a copy of this column to your friends and neighbours as a friendly reminder of our responsibilities in the hopeful expectation of voluntary compliance.  If someone around you has mobility issues that make it difficult to fulfil his or her responsibility, how about pick up a shovel and help them out.

Published December 4, 2015 in the Kelowna Capital News
Posted December 3, 2015 on Kelowna Capital News Online