Vancouver city staff will be reporting back to council on “high priority” pedestrian areas and sidewalks where snow could be cleared off during winter storms following the unanimous approval Feb. 12 of a motion tabled by NPA Coun. Sarah Kirby-Young.
Kirby-Young’s motion noted the current priority locations for snow and ice removal on the city’s snow protocol include: major roads, bus routes, bridges, emergency access routes, school routes, the 15 most-used bike routes, bus stops and arterial corner ramps.
“It has been widely observed that although the City clears snow and ice from the city’s 15 most-used bike routes on a priority basis, the city’s parallel pedestrian walking paths are not cleared with the same or greater degree of priority,” the motion states.
Kirby-Yung told the Courier the issue disproportionately affects some of the city’s more vulnerable populations such as seniors and those with disabilities, as well as those who don’t have the option to stay home from work during snow storms.
“Council [declared a] climate emergency so the aspiration is, from a development perspective and a climate perspective, to build walkable communities. Pedestrians are at the top of the hierarchy of transportation modes the city has identified and so it just seemed it was a huge omission to me that [they weren’t] included,” she said.
“We should be building a pedestrian-friendly city. The motion asks to look at high-priority pedestrian areas or some key areas and walking paths, for example, alongside bike lanes, that could be cleared as a starting point. That's really to make sure that we've got equity in our snow response.”
In coming months, city staff will seek feedback from the Seniors Advisory Committee and the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee for the report.
The report will also outline the responsibilities and obligations of adjacent private property owners to remove snow and include strategies and equipment the Vancouver Park Board uses to clear routes under its jurisdiction, as well as ways the city and park board could work together.
Based on a successful amendment proposed by Green Party Coun. Michael Wiebe, the report will also look at how social enterprises such as Mission Possible or Embers could help address the issue, and potentially provide work to people who need it considering heavy snowfall is an intermittent problem.
The staff report, which is expected to be presented to council before the summer break, will address how the city could acquire snow and ice removal equipment specifically designed or retrofitted for clearing sidewalks and pedestrian areas, and the associated costs. Consideration will be given as to whether purchasing equipment would be possible under the 2020 budget or the 2021 budget so it’s potentially on hand before next winter.
Kirby-Yung noted that the city has 100 pieces of snow-clearing equipment in its fleet, including specialized equipment for bike lanes.
“My question is, can you have equipment that could do both bike lanes and walking paths? What would it take to deliver that?,” she said.