Walkers Rejoice! Here’s How St. John’s Has Improved Its Winter Sidewalk Clearing

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Last winter was a tough one for people in St. John’s; especially so for pedestrians. Winter came earlier than usual and dumped lots of snow that had staying power. We’re used to the cold and the snow, but when you can’t get from place to place safely, there’s a problem.

City staff works hard to tackle the snow, but last year people who rely on their feet to conduct their daily lives knew that things just weren’t good enough. I’m pleased to say the Council responded by asking experts to assess our operations and provide recommendations to improve our service level.

After extensive public engagement, research, and discussions with staff, our consultant produced a comprehensive report that the City has begun to implement even before it’s been fully completed and ratified.

Sidewalks are a Top Priority

Called “Quick Hits,” these early steps to improve service identified sidewalks as a top priority. This winter, staff have initiated a sidewalk clearing pilot project to test out the recommendations, and the results so far have been impressive.

The pilot project involves:

  • A new sidewalk crew: 8 additional operators, working on the day shift, dedicated to sidewalks only (in addition to our existing crews)

  • Higher priority on salting and clearing sidewalks faster after a storm

  • A focus on snow removal, so that main sidewalks (especially in the downtown core) are not blocked by snow pushed back from the roads and roads snow storage capacity is preserved.

I myself am a frequent walker and have noticed a dramatic improvement, not only in the number of sidewalks cleared, but in the quality of the clearing. Yes, our always-fluctuating temperatures still can cause melt-and-freeze ice patches, but the surfaces are wide and level, and frequently passed by the small, industrious plows.

Where’s My Sidewalk Plow?

Wondering which sidewalks are getting attention? Check out the City maps below. These routes were based on anticipated pedestrian volumes, proximity to schools, hospitals, and other features as well as operational reasons such as obstructions on the sidewalk etc. (You can see the “priority” listing of sidewalks here.)

St. John's Sidewalk Route 1 St. John's Sidewalk Route 2 St. John's Sidewalk Route 3St. John's Sidewalk Route 4

If you don’t see your favourite sidewalk(s), keep in mind this is just the beginning. We have not added any sidewalks to the existing routes this year because we’d like to first prove we can provide the enhanced service. Once the pilot project is over, staff plans to do a sidewalk route review before next winter and we’re considering doing actual “pedestrian counts” to see if we’re really hitting the top-volume routes.

As a councillor and a resident, I’m very proud of Council and staff. We did what I think we all expect our municipal leaders to do: We acknowledged a problem, asked “How can we do this better?” and then acted on the response.

So, here’s to a happy winter walking city!

Have you noticed an improvement during your own walks this winter? Comment below!

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Written by Dave Lane at 15:44

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