December 27, 2021

Vancouver: Where Once Again Snow Gets Removed From Bike Lanes But Not From Sidewalks

Here we go with a snowfall and once again we find that in the City of Vancouver we may SAY that pedestrians and sidewalk users have priority over cyclists and vehicles, but in practice, not so much.

Take a look at these images which appeared on social media on Sunday after the Christmas day splat of snow in Vancouver.


While the bicycle path has been cleared, the pedestrian path…right beside the water with frozen ice on the pathway…has been left untouched. How can we say we value and encourage sidewalk users, the most basic form of transportation, if we cannot even offer a safe way to walk on a holiday weekend? Why would a bicycle lane be cleared and the sidewalk not? Why would the sidewalk users, often the most vulnerable not be afforded a cleared path to walk?

Here we are in a pandemic where we trying to encourage people to be outside and walking is the most basic form for recreation and for mental health. Yet on the Christmas weekend where everyone in the city is at home, there is no attention to sidewalk users. And there’s no excuse either: if the Arbutus Greenway’s bike path can be cleaned off, why not the portion for sidewalk users? Why not both?

Viewpoint Vancouver has discussed this many times before: you can tell what kind of a city it is by how they treat the most vulnerable and basic user, the sidewalk user. This, on a holiday weekend where other alternatives like gyms are shut down, is a complete fail.

Now the City of Vancouver will nobly respond that it is the responsibility of residents to clean the section of sidewalk in front of their house. But the City of Vancouver does not respond equitably by  clearing their own snowy sidewalks adjacent to city parks and services, and pedestrian curb crossings can be treacherous. It just makes sense to snow plough out the corners where pedestrians cross, keep the snow off sidewalks and  bike lanes, and give Vancouverites a fighting chance when the snow falls, freezes, and stays.

And let’s be honest about this: priority sidewalks along seawalls, parks, and in high density residential and commercial area  should be cleaned off by the City as a priority, to show that the most basic mode of movement, walking matters. First.

After much huff and puff on the weekend some City of Vancouver Councillors are now saying that Engineering Staff did not read the memo right and that was the reason the sidewalks were not cleared on city greenways and city walking routes. But don’t worry, we will probably have another snowstorm to ground truth whether those sidewalks under city jurisdiction get cleaned off or not as a priority.

Viewpoint Vancouver also looked at the City of Winnipeg that includes sidewalks in their priority cleaning with a “one” or “two” priority rank. Everything is to be cleaned off by city crews in 36 hours. That’s 2,900 kilometers of sidewalks that are “done the same way as the streets” in Winnipeg.

City of Vancouver: Be Like Winnipeg. Show you mean it about giving priority to civic cleaning of sidewalks for walkers and rollers  as well as cyclists.

And for clearing snow? Winnipeg uses  equipment like in the photograph below.


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  1. We live right at the seawall and are always frustrated by the fact the City cleans bike lanes, but doesn’t clean snow and ice off the pedestrian path. It is so important for all pedestrians to have a safe lane to walk in, but especially for seniors, people with wheelchairs, children, baby carriages, etc. Why, why, why does the City not prioritize this? Bikes should not take priority over people. Get your act together, City of Vancouver.

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