February 26, 2018

Snow on City Maintained Public Walkways ~Asking for a Friend

Urbanist, designer and artist Frank Ducote took these photos of the Vancouver pedestrian pathways along the sea wall during the weekend. These pathways are the responsibility of the City of Vancouver to be accessible and safe.  While the bikeways were cleared and lauded on social media, the walkways for pedestrians? Not so much. And surprisingly when Frank Ducote posted this photo on his facebook page, seven former City of Vancouver staffers responded about the lack of cleared, safe walkable sidewalks. Walkers are the most vulnerable users and they include the elderly, disabled and children. On a brilliant snowy Vancouver weekend, they want to get out and use the city too.
One former City staff walked along Seaforth Park and onto Burrard Bridge, noting that the “sidewalk was slippery with lots of pedestrians, cleared bike paths but with no cyclists. Crazy”. Well, perhaps not crazy to support both walking and cycling as active transportation modes. But if walking is the first mode that all users do on a day-to-day basis, why can’t the City do a better job at making these sidewalks safe, comfortable and secure? It is the City’s responsibility. If  the City can clear bikeways, can the same attention be given to sidewalks in the public realm? While the city is looking for volunteer Snow Angels in residential areas to help folks that cannot clean their own sidewalk, can the City maintain the public pathways in their jurisdiction? Is it time to have a clear pedestrian plan and direct focused  advocacy for universal  walkability issues at the municipal level?
Asking for a friend.

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  1. A choice has to be made which to plow first. Few will have a problem if pedestrians walk on the plowed bike paths until the pedestrian side has been cleared.. But the optics aren’t good if cyclists ride on the plowed sidewalk.
    Meanwhile, I like walking in the snow. Riding a normal bike in the snow is really really tough – impossible at times. So again it makes sense to plow the bike lanes first with the expectation that everyone who needs to should use it.

  2. I can point to numerous examples the past few days and last winter where the sidewalk was cleared but the bike path was not.
    This whole thing to me looks like a divide-and-conquer technique to pit walking against cycling in order to let driving continue to get the unfairly large share of the pie it continues to have.

  3. No reason for this to be an either/or question. Both are essential, and both are equally deserving of fast snow removal.
    More and more I’m thinking that walking gets ignored because it doesn’t involve equipment, or even a purchase of any kind; doesn’t have an industry to lobby for walking infrastructure, and because no-one has bothered to demonstrate that walking contributes significantly to the GDP.
    Or perhaps more importantly, the rich and powerful don’t walk. Because people in a hurry are by definition Important Busy people, it’s imperative that their wheeled transport be able to move without hindrance. If you’re walking somewhere it’s because you’re not in a hurry, and obviously aren’t doing anything important.

  4. I agree that both are important. I don’t know that people walking are always the most vulnerable, as stats show that people on bikes fare worse when conflicts happen between people on bikes and people walking.
    The thing I notice most is that nobody is advocating for people walking. There is no organization. At the monthly T2040 stakeholder meetings, there are groups advocating for seniors, for persons with disabilities, people on bikes, business associations, and so on, but not for walking in general.
    When a proposal comes before council that primarily benefits people walking (the Cambie bridge comes to mind, and 10th Ave improvements, as does the latest Burrard Bridge upgrade) nobody shows up to speak just for people walking. I have met with Sandy and discussed this gap we have in Vancouver. Why doesn’t walking get attention? I think it is because we take it for granted.
    Editors’ Note: There is a non profit advocacy organization for walking in Metro Vancouver. Two of the Price Tags Vancouver Editors are Directors of the Walk Metro Vancouver Society at http://www.walkmetrovan.ca They have never been notified or invited to a T2040 meeting.

    1. It would be totally cool if there were an advocacy group for walking. It’s a main mode of travel for so many people in this city and a secondary one for a lot more. Few people don’t ever walk.
      But yes, it gets taken for granted and for the most part is provided for already in most places but there are places where the sidewalks are too narrow for the amount of people walking or I could see where an oversight in a design for something new might inadvertently affect walking and there then would be an organization to point it out.

      1. You big city folks may take sidewalks for granted, but in the wilderness of the District of North Vancouver we’re less lucky. Sidewalks are the exception, not the rule, and where they do exist are often not continuous – a sidewalk will run for a block, then disapear, then start again a half a block later. Or will have a hydro pole dead in the middle of the footpath.
        The lack of marked crosswalks, and near total lack of street lighting, all actively discourage walking.

  5. I agree that we walkers are far too silent about our needs. We cannot take it for granted that the City advocates for it, as they do for biking and transit. Sure, there is a Greenway division in City Hall, and an active transportation committee. But I don’t even think of walking as “Transportation”, per se. Just everyday life.
    So yes to the main points: I’m guilty a) taking it – safe walking – for granted too much and b) assuming that there are people at City Hall whose job it is to care, as well c) not being an outspoken advocate.

  6. I have noticed that this year the Parks Board is doing an exceptional job in clearing and salting sidewalks adjacent to parks. I am,surprised that seaside walking path does not get cleared. Maybe Frank took the pics just before the snowplows got there.

    1. I live down the seawall path from where Frank took the photo. We watched them clearing it through our window after the last snowfall. The first pass of the mini plough was in the bike path. The plough came through several times. They did multiple passes in both the bike lane and the walking side, until both were approximately 80% cleared. From what I saw, if the bike lane was ploughed and not the walking path, it was a timing issue, at least closer to David Lam Park.
      I am not clear that it was Park Board staff, I thought it was City engineering services (streets) staff.

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