© Heather Taweel
Pricilla Biso and Paul Lee, with the City of Charlottetown, load the back of a sidewalk plow as it heads out on the streets of the city to salt the icy walkways.
Residents can help city, neighbours cope with severe weather this season
Icy sidewalks from the recent weather means the only way to get by is with a little help from your friends, says both the City of Charlottetown and the P.E.I. Senior Citizens' Federation.
The city has about 350 kilometres of sidewalk, said Paul Johnston, manager of public works for Charlottetown.
“We do service them all in the winter,” he said.
The city owns six sidewalk-cleaning machines and contracts with five others in the private sector.
“At any given time there are probably one or two of them that are having mechanical issues but those 11 machines are our primary resource in trying to keep the sidewalks as passible as possible,” said Johnston.
There isn’t enough money, time, or staff to work on sidewalks by hand. In winter, residents cannot expect bare sidewalks in Charlottetown, said Johnston.
“There is going to be sidewalks that aren’t in perfect condition and they are difficult for able-bodied people to get around and exponentially difficult for anybody with a mobility issue to travel, but it’s not by design, it’s by the weather.
“We fight it and try to correct it but we can’t always get it back to perfect,” said Johnston.
There is, however, a method of getting bare sidewalks.
“Many hands make light work so if anybody steps out their front door to the sidewalk in front of their home or their business and gives it that little extra scrape after the machine has gotten rid of the first 15 centimetres of snow, and they can help get rid of that last centimetre, that will help everyone,” said Johnston.
There is a very limited time to prevent snow from compacting and becoming ice, he said. Any resident that clears off remaining snow will be giving fellow residents some clear sidewalk.
There is no law requiring that from homeowners, said Johnston, but there is a bylaw demanding commercial property owners clear sidewalk snow. That bylaw has many legal complications and staffing demands so it has never been enforced and likely never will be, said Johnston.
The idea of everyone helping out where possible is a good one, says the P.E.I. Senior Citizens’ Federation.
“I guess the seniors’ population is a bit like the rest of us, it’s dangerous for everybody,” said federation president Sister Norma Gallant from her office in Wellington.
“I don’t think that government transportation departments and municipal departments can do much about it,” she said.
“I would advise seniors, if possible, just wait until it gets better,” said Gallant. “The best thing is, don’t go out.”
The trouble with that, she said, is cabin fever, or going “shack wacky.”
“There are some Good Samaritans around,” she said. “Be helpful to your neighbour. Maybe we have to look around for that.
“I know that some people around here have told me that they have phoned some seniors, or somebody who is in a wheelchair and asked them if they needed something at the co-op,” said Gallant. “Help one another that way.
“It is the weather that is doing this and maybe we can learn from it,” she said. “There must be a message in there for us.”