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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

First test of sidewalk snow-and-ice clearing

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As Torontonians negotiated snowy and icy sidewalks this past week, some were no doubt reminded of the problems the city had last winter with clearing sidewalks. One of them was the Toronto Star’s entertainment columnist Antonia Zerbisias, who took a break from her usual topics to write a nice summary of the problem in today’s paper. Among other things, she points out how damaging the alternative — lots of salt — is to the environment of a city that is in the midst of implementing a “green agenda”. After the flak the city took last year, it promised to improve its sidewalk clearance this winter. We’ll be keeping an eye out to see how that works out.



  1. She makes very good points, the city should take notice, not that they listen anyway.
    BTW, Antonia has been writing about feminism and women’s issues for about a year now, no more media writing.

  2. Has the Martin Goodman Trail been cleared? I noticed a couple of weeks ago that some, but not all, bollards where removed.

  3. If we are taxing plastic bags we should also tax bagged salt which is so much cheaper than any of the alternatives. I am just making a small point but it seems to me that those who use cheap salt use waaaaay too much and those that use ice melt or greener mixtures use less with the same results. Again, just a thought.

  4. As far as new equipment/techniques being used, I saw a small plough-type tractor attempting to clear the sidewalks outside Main Street station last night. I’ve never seen a machine quite like this one before, and it had a placard fastened to the back that said something along the lines of “contracted by the City of Toronto. Beaches/East York”. This may be a sign of some improvements, does anybody else have any other information on this?

  5. I’ve noticed lots of salt on the sidewalks, but I would guess it’s not ‘the city’ doing it, but rather its citizens, like the people who do ‘maintenance’ at apt buildings.

    I wonder if there’s already a pile of research out there that clearly states the effects of salt, the environmental costs, etc. It seems to me that using a lot of salt is just ‘normal’ for most of us and if we/they knew the costs this behaviour might change.

  6. I say get the parking police, who are employed by the city anyway, to aggressively issue tickets for people who don’t clear their walks (they’re very good with issuing parking tickets already). And use the fine money to develop snow-bots, which would be able to navigate around the utility poles and other obstacles on downtown sidewalks and would also be able to clear around and under cars parked at the side of streets. Surely we as a northern population can come up with something to make winter less of a slog. Let’s get the Engineering group at U of T/York/UOIT to work on this instead of solar-powered cars and some other wireless enabled piece of crap. Yes we can!

  7. “snow-bots”? Like a roomba or robocop for snow? With snow-melting lasers, maybe? 🙂


    Building maintenance people of large institutions (universities, hospitals, etc.) seem to be some of the worst salt-oholics. At the first sign of a snowflake they’re out their shovelling salt like there’s no tomorrow. Two factors probably play into this: 1) they don’t pay for the salt 2) fear of lawsuits mentality.

    Meanwhile the snow is gone already, downtown at least. Torontonians don’t know how to deal with winter. They go into panic mode and freak out as if it doesn’t happen every year around this time.

  8. We have similar problems here in Ottawa. Even with the transit strike we’re currently having, many sidewalks are either poorly cleared or not cleared at all, even in major pedestrian areas like the downtown core and ByWard Market. Hopefully Toronto can figure out how to deal with snow better than we do.

  9. To be fair to the city of Ottawa on the sidewalk issue, they have been making good headway on that front over the last couple of days, at least in my east end suburban haunts.

    Wish us good luck if you would on the transit front, though. For reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere, I think we’re going to need it.