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I Dread it: Navigating London’s Winter Sidewalks in a Wheelchair

City will deploy more than 40 sidewalk plows after 8 cm of snowfall CBC News Posted: Jan 03, 2018

Katie Schmidt wants the city to step up its weather maintenance amid frigid temperatures to decrease the challenges of navigating winter sidewalks in a wheelchair.

For the 26-year-old Kings University College student, the dreadful bus ride home after class means she’ll soon have to face the frustration of often uncleared sidewalks when she gets off.

“I dread it. There’s just too much snow on the ground and my wheels could get stuck,” said Schmidt who is living with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

“I can’t even get on the sidewalk a lot of times when there’s been a heavy snowfall and the sidewalk hasn’t been cleared. [It’s] next to impossible.”

The city deploys more than 40 sidewalk plows after about eight centimetres of accumulated snowfall to clear up city and neighbourhood streets. The operation could take up to 24 hours to complete.

But Schmidt said the 24-hour time frame is too long and “it’s not soon enough to clear the sidewalks.”

City maintenance

The city pours $13 million per year into winter maintenance, including its 24/7 weather response team.

John Parsons, manager of transportation and roadside operations, said the city has committed to a by-law that requires the plowing of sidewalks, which municipalities can choose not to do.

“We’re doing all we can do,” he said. “There’s a budget that we’re afforded, so at this point in time we provide a service provided on that service level. For any service better than that, that would be a decision of council should they choose to change [the budget].”

He says the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act does not require municipalities to clear all sidewalks of snow. It also does not state the minimum amount of snow accumulation required to begin clearing.

The city also deploys sidewalk plows to clear snow banks and snow spillage.

Londoners walking along Richmond Street on Tuesday, as a snow squall warning looms. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Frigid temperatures

Bone-chilling temperatures in London prompted warnings from health officials and meteorologists on Tuesday.

With more snow on the way, Schmidt worries that accessibility will continue to be a growing problem for her and others living with disabilities.

“It is a constant worry. It’s difficult and when the snow isn’t cleared, its frustrating and I’m dreading what’s to come,” said Schmidt, who often uses social media as an advocacy tool.

“There are a lot of issues in terms of daily living that need to be looked at closer.”

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