Ottawa has been hard hit by some extreme winter weather this year. The displaced snow has been piling up on curbs and front yards, and the issue of what to do with it, and where to put it, has become an important and immediate issue for city officials, and citizens alike.
CBC Ottawa recently reported that the City of Ottawa was over budget on their snow removal budget by $24.4 million in 2013, with the snow storm from December 21 – 23, 2013 cost the City $11.7 million alone. For now, this overage will not cost Ottawa tax payers, however, with the recent threat of yet another severe storm overtaking the city, it begs the question of whether there is another way to tackle our city’s method for snow clearance and de-icing.
Countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Iceland appear to have figured it out. For the past ten years the city of Reykjavik has been installing heated sidewalks and streets in the downtown core, and this initiative has lead to lower snow removal costs, less fall related injuries, and accidents due to weather conditions. It has even brought more residents and visitors outside to enjoy the winter without the hassle and mess associated with snow covered sidewalks and roads in the urban core. And while Iceland has been able to accomplish this because of their unique accessibility to ample geothermal energy, experts believe that Canadian cities could learn from this Nordic urban design initiative and be able to apply it to our downtown areas as well.
The City of Saskatoon is already keen to start the design process. According to Saskatoon City officials, heated sidewalks and roads could be incorporated into new, as well as existing infrastructure, and located in “strategic locations”. In the City of Ottawa, these “strategic locations” could include the Byward Market, Sparks Street and possibly even the Glebe. Similar to the City of Saskatoon’s vision, Ottawa could in turn begin to craft their own winter urban design goals.
So what do you think? Could we save money and resolve the issue of snow and ice removal right at the source, rather than trucking or salting it away? How would this affect our storm water systems and energy use? Would you consider Ottawa to be a much more pedestrian-friendly and walkable city if winter sidewalks were heated?
Story by: Brynne Campbell
Image by: CBC News Saskatoon