By Vanda Schmockel
Gabrielle Roberts-Winter has more reasons than most to dread the ice and snow that comes with living in Regina in winter. Roberts-Winter, a second year psychology student at the University of Regina, lives with cerebral palsy and mostly uses a wheelchair to get around - but that’s often not an option when trying to negotiate icy or snow-covered sidewalks.
“It can be challenging,” she said. “In my case, I do have some mobility to walk so I have the choice, if it gets too challenging to (get around) in the chair, but if the walks were clear during the winter, it’d make it a lot easier for me.”
With the heavy snowfall that hit Regina last week, the city has already deployed its snow removal arsenal, sending scores of snowplows out in the wake of the storm. That should take care of the roads, but what about the sidewalks? Regina has no bylaw that requires individual homeowners to shovel their walks. Commercial building owners have between 24 and 48 hours to remove snow and ice on walkways abutting their property, depending on where in the city they are located. Failure to comply can result in a $110 fine. Though, with only five full-time city bylaw officers on staff, that doesn’t always happen in a timely fashion – if at all.
“We probably have over 20 bylaws, and they don’t just (deal with) snow,” said Lorne Chow, City of Regina bylaw manager.
Regina has a 70 to 73 per cent compliance rate when it comes to removing snow from residential sidewalks, Chow said, citing an independent study. Based on this, the city is not considering any new bylaws.
Calgary and Edmonton have similar success rates with an enforced snow removal bylaw, Chow said.
“If we’re achieving the same compliance rate as (they are), why would you want to draft another bylaw?” he said.
Saskatoon, by contrast, enacted a residential snow removal bylaw in 2005. Fines for non-compliance after 48 hours range from $100 for a first offence up to $1,000 for multiple offences. According to city right-of-way engineer Gord Hundeby, the bylaw is working.
“Compliance generally in 2007 was excellent,” he said. “About 89 per cent of people who had a notice delivered to them complied and cleared their sidewalks. Last year, 99 per cent of people complied with the bylaw notices delivered.”
Roberts-Winter said that such a bylaw would benefit Regina, where many people with a variety of mobility issues find icy sidewalks impassable over the winter months.
“I would definitely be in favour of that,” she said. “It makes a big difference, and it’s not just for those that have mobility issues - it’s for everyone’s health and safety.”