City of Vancouver to clear snow from residential streets after many complaints


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The City of Vancouver is shifting hundreds of staff to secondary street snow clearing and bylaw enforcement duties as ice continues to create slippery conditions on sidewalks and streets.

Engineering general manager Jerry Dobrovolny says more than 265 workers, including construction crews from all non-emergency projects, have been pulled in to help sand, salt and clear residential streets, clear any residual snow from school zones and deal with the backlog of garbage and green waste pickups.

“It’s a big decision for us for us to shut down our construction crews,” he says. “Typically we don’t go in and clear the neighbourhood residential streets because there’s so many more of them and typically the weather breaks. We were hoping even in the last week, we had temperatures above zero, the expectation was that would start to break up a lot of the ice… but it didn’t break up the ice this time.”

The city has fielded 1,800 requests for snow removal through 311 and VanConnect.

Vancouver spent $2.5 million on snow removal in December and used upwards of 7,000 tonnes of salt, more than three times the amount used in the last two winters combined.

Dobrovolny says an additional 50 staff members are out enforcing warnings and fines for those who aren’t clearing ice and snow from their sidewalks.

He adds they’ve received thousands of complaints about property and businesses owners who have not been clearing their sidewalks. In Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Richmond that clearing of snow must happen by 10 a.m. following a snowfall, while in North Vancouver and Surrey the bylaw reads “as soon as possible.”

“We’ve received thousands of complaints and we’ve responded to most of them now. We’ll have responded to all of them by the end of tomorrow and we follow up with, initially, a warning and after that either a ticket or we’ll go through a conviction through the court system.”

The city says it has 36 court applications in process right now for those failing to clear sidewalks.

Starting Wednesday morning, salt will be made available free of charge at 10 fire halls around the city between 9am and 8pm. Using their own shovel and up to two of their own buckets, residents should only take the amount of salt they need.

You can pick up salt at: 

· Fire Hall #3 – 2801 Quebec Street
· Fire Hall #4 – 1475 W. 10th Avenue
· Fire Hall #7 – 1090 Haro Street
· Fire Hall #12 – 2460 Balaclava Street
· Fire Hall #13 – 4013 Prince Albert Street
· Fire Hall #14 – 2804 Venables Street
· Fire Hall #15 – 3003 E. 22nd Avenue
· Fire Hall #17 – 7070 Knight Street
· Fire Hall #19 – 4396 W. 12th Avenue
· Fire Hall #22 – 1005 W. 59th Avenue

“I want to be clear, the response is changing almost daily,” Dobrovolny says. “We had a large number of streets in the city that were clear just before New Year’s and then the last snowfall hit and it changed all that again. Our conditions have been changing almost daily and will continue to.”

He adds dozens of volunteers have also been activated to help the elderly and those who aren’t able to clear their sidewalks.

If you want to complain about a specific area that needs to be cleared of ice or snow, you’re being asked to use the VanConnect app.

Dobrovolny also encouraged drivers to get winter tires.

“All of the vehicles that I’ve seen that have had problems on the icy streets are not using snow tires. I just want to encourage people to look after their needs. Dress appropriately, wear appropriate footwear, use spikes if you’re walking around the city and also use proper tires.”

Legalities of clearing snow and ice

NEWS 1130 Legal Analyst Michael Shapray says it comes down to who lives there in front of the property and not who owns it. “Generally, the person who is in the property is responsible clearing the sidewalks in front of the residence or business.”

That’s unless there’s an agreement in the lease that someone else like the landlord will take responsibility. “The expectation is when you’re going on private premises that are run by a business that there will be a clearing of the parking lot and the sidewalks leading into the businesses so people don’t slip and fall. Any business that is inviting the public onto their premises is responsible for providing a safe environment. They can be held responsible if they don’t.”

How other Canadian cities handle snowfall

Like here, crews in Calgary put down an anti-icing material before the flakes start falling, followed by salt, or salt and gravel once the snow starts to fall.

Brittany Kustra with the City of Calgary says high-volume roads are cleared within 24 hours of the snowfall’s end. “From there we move on to bus routes and connector roads, which are completed within 48 hours after the snow has stopped falling, and from there we move on to residential areas.”

In Toronto, the city says plowing will begin on side streets when the snow stops and if eight centimetres has fallen and that is usually done within 14 to 16 hours after a snowfall ends.

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