Safety and Accessibility in Winter Months - Pushing for Sidewalk and Bike Lane Snow Clearing
In early 2019, City Council requested a report to review winter operations after an onslaught of issues in the downtown related to the safe clearing of sidewalks and streetcar disruptions from the previous winter. Recommendations from the resulting report made it clear that Toronto needs a more robust approach to snow removal, and that 96% of Toronto residents would support increased sidewalk snow removal services.
Snow clearing is an issue of equity and accessibility. Currently, the City only clears sidewalks of snow in certain areas of the city - and, not in our downtown communities. When a sidewalk isn’t cleared, there are large groups of people whose lives become incredibly disrupted. Whether you are someone with accessibility requirements, an aging person, or new parents with a stroller, our services need to evolve alongside the growing needs of our residents. Further, since we have committed as a City to taking action on climate change we need to implement services that allow residents to build a greater reliance on active, or public transportation.
At the last Infrastructure and Environment Committee, Councillor Mike Layton brought forward an amendment that I supported, to be voted on at City Council that would have pushed our winter services forward in a way that would address significant problems outlined in the original report. The motion would have increased the scope of the sidewalk clearing pilot and enhanced clearing of bike lanes, but despite last winter's issues, Council voted to shut down the debate on snow clearing in our downtown communities.
We can already anticipate the frustrations of the upcoming winter season, clear from the response to the recent early winter snowstorm. but want to stress that we will continue to fight for service changes at upcoming 2020 Budget Committee meetings.
For a detailed account on what happened with the motion at City Council, you can read this article from the Toronto Star.