Snowfall Removal Procedures
During the recent snow event of December, 2008, some problems have become evident in regard to the municipality’s snow removal procedures. In particular, the ability to serve pedestrians would appear to be less than adequate. While major roads, collectors and many side streets were cleared promptly and maintained well, sidewalks received no such attention. This resulted in considerable difficulty for those who rely on the pedestrian mode and created some situations that were downright dangerous. I personally, experienced the situation of driving home on Quadra Street at 9:30 in the evening only to find a number of pedestrians, including some seniors, walking in traffic lanes. This was at a time when major streets had been clear for several days and traffic was operating at near normal speeds. Clearly, the choice that these pedestrians had been forced to make was extremely hazardous. It is fortunate that serious injury or death did not occur.
Other citizens have reported difficulty getting to bus stops on major roads as well as particular difficulty entering and exiting buses. Many bus stops provided a challenge of traversing treacherous mounds of snow that had been removed from roads. One resident related a tale of the bus driver being unable to open the doors on his vehicle since snow banks on the sidewalk were so high. Apparently, the driver had to move out further in the traffic lane, somewhat away from the stop, in order to let passengers exit.
Existing municipal policy that requires residents and businesses to clear walks in front of their properties appears unenforceable and unsatisfactory in results. At best, it created a situation where pedestrians on major roads were presented with clear sections interrupted by other sections that were virtually impassable. In addition, residents’ efforts were at times thwarted by the municipality’s own road clearing efforts. Over the phone, one resident described a situation where he and his neighbor had undertaken to clear over five hundred feet of sidewalk on Quadra. Shortly after completion, they witnessed a municipal plough truck pass by and deposit several feet of hard icy compacted snow onto the very area they had just cleared. The frustrated resident indicated that they would not be repeating the experience.
The conditions described above existed for at least a week after major roads, collectors and most side streets had been cleared and made passable for vehicle traffic. Saanich, like many other jurisdictions in the region, has stated that pedestrian traffic is a “preferred mode”. If that is the case, snow removal procedures must be modified to adequately reflect priorities.
Other problems emerged during the recent snow event for citizens with disabilities. One resident has described a situation where she and her husband, who is wheelchair bound, were returning home only to be “caught” by the snow. Unable to negotiate residential streets they found it very difficult to get help even though they tried a number of means. They remained “trapped in their vehicle” for an extended period of time. It would appear that protocols for addressing citizens with disabilities during severe weather events need to be strengthened.
Finally, while it would be unreasonable to expect all roads in the municipality to be cleared within a few days there is an expectation with residents that their street will be addressed at some point. Several residents have reported that side streets or cul de sacs in front of their homes were never cleared during the extended period that snow cover remained. Some of these citizens, who are senior, have reported that this situation created considerable hardship.
It is not the intent of this report to be critical of the efforts of our municipal crews. There is no doubt that they worked tirelessly for long hours during the recent snow event and provided excellent results for most citizens. Saanich is a large municipality with a great variety of circumstances presented by its municipal roads. It would be unreasonable to expect everything to be back to normal a day or two after a major storm event. Nevertheless, gaps in snow removal procedures do exist and Council needs to provide staff with policy direction and equipment to insure that they are addressed.
1. That this report be referred to staff with a request to examine current snow removal protocols and procedures with the intent of determining how they might be modified to address:
a. Pedestrian mobility issues during severe snowfall events
b. Protocols for serving citizens with disabilities during severe snowfall events
c. Procedures to insure that virtually all streets will be cleared at some point during severe snowfall events.
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