The 2020 Snow Mole Campaign Aims For Safe Winter Walking

Dianne Breton

Can winter walking be safe? The Council on Aging of Ottawa (COA) believes that pedestrians who become volunteer Snow Moles and report on winter walking conditions in their neighbourhoods can help to make walking safety a city-wide priority.

By reporting on the real experiences of walking to bus stops, crossing busy intersections, going to the bank, grocery store or pharmacy, volunteer Snow Moles help to identify the need for better snow clearing on sidewalks, pathways, bridges and streets without sidewalks.

The 2018-2019 winter months were harsh with more than 50 freeze-thaw cycles recorded, causing heavy ice buildup, especially on residential sidewalks. The findings of the COA’s 2018-2019 Snow Mole Campaign, taken together with the ageing of our population, suggest there is an urgent need to address the challenges and impacts of winter weather and climate change, especially for the most vulnerable citizens.

Treacherous winter walking conditions resulting from an increasing number of freeze-thaw cycles and snow and ice build-up place many pedestrians in peril on our city streets. Photo by Dianne Breton

Treacherous winter walking conditions resulting from an increasing number of freeze-thaw cycles and snow and ice build-up place many pedestrians in peril on our city streets. Photo by Dianne Breton

Winter weather in Ottawa has been kinder this year and the 2019-2020 Snow Mole Campaign has had warmer temperatures, less ice build-up, and easier walking conditions overall. Thanks to Snow Moles and increased resident demands, City Council approved an increase to the sidewalk snow clearing budget this year, resulting in better use of sidewalk clearing plows. Major residential streets have been plowed to bare pavement, and new ice-breaking equipment has been used when needed.

According to the COA, anyone can be a Snow Mole, but most are seniors and people who use mobility devices (canes, walkers and wheelchairs).

The age-friendly 2019-2020 Snow Mole Campaign was active from January to the end of March, primarily receiving responses to a bilingual questionnaire/survey available on a smartphone or paper copy (www.coaottawa.ca/snowmoles). The COA’s Pedestrian Safety & Walkability Committee is linked to representatives from the City so that safety concerns are heard by the local government throughout the Campaign.

On a related note, the City’s Public Works-Environmental Services Department is currently reviewing the Citys 2003 Winter Maintenance Quality Standards (WMQS), with Council budget approval expected in 2021.

Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard included “Getting Around in Winter: Winter Operations & Snow Clearing Report”, in the February edition of his Capital Ward Bulletin. In his report, Menard describes the important changes needed to the WMQS, and lists the most important snow clearing priorities as: accessibility, equity, sustainability, and climate change resiliency to have a “healthy and liveable city”.

The Menard report proposes that the City give “serious consideration to resident proposals,” and gives the urban Councillors a pat on the back for hosting an information session on urban snow clearance in March 2019 “that gave residents the chance to be heard.”

This year, volunteer “Snow Mole Team Leaders” from 18 neighbourhoods across the City joined the Campaign to encourage their friends and neighbours to winter walk, complete a Snow Mole survey and relate their experiences. Mapping of 2020 Snow Mole survey locations shows that reports have been received from Carp and Kanata in the west, Gloucester and Orleans in the east, and most central urban areas as well.

Snow Moles are recommending:
• Prioritizing safety and putting pedestrians first in City snow clearance from Class B (snow-packed) to Class A (bare pavement) on high-density residential sidewalks;
• Removal of snowbanks on residential streets before they become hazardous to pedestrians, and before thawing and freezing into ice build-up that is difficult to remove and dangerous to walk on;
• Implementing realistic solutions to ice build-up due to plowing and freeze-thaw cycles;
• Adequate plowing to connect sidewalks to transit stops, corners and curbs to pedestrian crossings and residential streets to pathways;
• Improving access to City parks through the winter months; and
• Officially designating Ottawa as an “age-friendly city”.

[Dianne Breton is a long-time resident and Snow Mole in Old Ottawa East & Co-Chair of the Pedestrian Safety & Walkability Committee of the Council on Aging of Ottawa.]

The 2019 Snow Mole Report – Winter Walking in Ottawa (www.coaottawa.ca) provides a summary of the Snow Mole Campaign and a list of 12 recommendations for improved winter walkability, as well as Tips for Winter Walking. A 2020 Campaign Summary Report will be published online soon. If you have something to say about winter walking in Old Ottawa East, visit the Snow Mole website at www.coaottawa.ca/snowmoles.

facebooktwitterby feather
Filed in: Features, Front Page, Letters, News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You might like:

OUR NEIGHBOURS – OOE: A little village in the city –  Havelock Street Resident Enjoys The Sense of Community OUR NEIGHBOURS – OOE: A little village in the city – Havelock Street Resident Enjoys The Sense of Community
Meet The Team Behind Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard Meet The Team Behind Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard
BUSINESS BEAT – Chance Scenario Paves The Way For New Physiotherapy Clinic in Corners on Main BUSINESS BEAT – Chance Scenario Paves The Way For New Physiotherapy Clinic in Corners on Main
OUR 35TH ANNIVERSARY 1985-2020 – The Mainstreeter’s very first editorial – October 1985, Volume 1, Issue 1 OUR 35TH ANNIVERSARY 1985-2020 – The Mainstreeter’s very first editorial – October 1985, Volume 1, Issue 1
© 2020 Mainstreeter. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.
Proudly designed by Theme Junkie.