Good neighbours on snowy sidewalks

Note: this post was originally written for WalkSpace over at site. I repeat it here just in case you don’t also read Spacing — shame on you! Go subscribe right now!


Whether or not you enjoy well-plowed winter sidewalks depends on where you live, when you use them, and your neighbours.

Sidewalks get a lot of use in the urban bits of the City. Especially where the road is a grid pattern, pedestrians can get from point A to B directly and easily on a route easily understood.

The City plows the sidewalks in winter. If you are an early riser walking to work or the bus stop, the sidewalk plowing is most noticeable when it hasn’t yet been done at 7am. Non-commuters with flexible time are more likely to be satisfied with plowing provided it is done at all.

Neighbours can pitch in, for better or worse. On one side of my street there is a retired resident with a snowblower. He usually makes the first track all the way along the block, as he has done for years.

I am not sure if he is being thoughtful for the rest of people on the street, or just havin’ fun with the big toy. (After a decade of this service, I guess it’s time to bake him some cookies to say thank you …). Whatever, it works out well. Much better than a previous resident further up the street who always used his blower for a super-clean driveway but he blew the snow onto the sidewalk with abandon. Gee, thanks!

Kids can be useful too. Some people only remember the kids who climb on snow piles and knock the snow back down onto the driveway or sidewalk. I prefer to challenge kids (usually about 8-10 years old is just right…) to see if they can shovel a path all the way up to the corner of the street. For a number of years, the City had my block on the latter part of the City’s sidewalk plowing schedule, but there was always a narrow path dug out about 4pm when the kids got home from school. By time they were old enough to ask for money, they were no longer interested in shoveling.

I live in the last house on a dead-end street, at the lowest point on the street. Guess where the catch basins are? Yup, out under the Mount Trashmore that gets stacked up on the street. I’m always out digging a path along the curb make sure the water runs down the sewer and not into my basement. I don’t tend to do as nice a job as this person did last weekend on Preston Street:

Walking the sidewalks after a snowfall may be a drudge or a an adventure. A young lady up the street was brushing snow off her car while her yappy dog burst with excitement trying to jump up to catch the flying snow:

I used to call the phone number on the laneway post where private contractors plowed the snow from someone’s  driveway onto the sidewalk. They never sounded interested or concerned, so I switched to snitching on them to 3-1-1. They keep track of offenders, issuing a warning ticket once then severe penalties for subsequent offences. The dumping of snow onto sidewalks is pretty much eliminated where I walk.

But there are exceptions. Here is our good neighbour Claridge. They have a sales office and contractor’s parking lot at 89-91 Nepean, where they are in the process of getting approved yet another small-lot 28 storey condo. They plowed all the lot onto the sidewalk, but tidied up carefully on the car parking lane. When I got to my destination a call to 3-1-1 and on my return trip the snow was gone.

Do your neighbours do anything special for winter sidewalks? Do YOU do anything for your neighbours?

5 thoughts on “Good neighbours on snowy sidewalks

  1. I generally agree about shoveling the sidewalk in-front of your house. I read someplace, perhaps here, that in the Old city of Toronto that it is the law , that residents have to do this.
    As a militant walker, I certainly appreciate it when others shovel their side walks, but could do a better job myself. Its good to have goals.
    Thanks for the tip on calling 311 on private snow plow companies that dump snow on the side walk.
    I wonder who ends up cleaning up the mess? The city or the company?

  2. Do your neighbours do anything special for winter sidewalks? Do YOU do anything for your neighbours?

    – Out here in the inner suburbs nobody lifts a finger to work on the sidewalks – we don’t have many! In car-centric Bells Corners pedestrian are scarce.

    City crews clear our roads and sidewalks immediately after a storm – here in the former City of Nepean we like our core services, especially the ones that serve the automobile.

    But there’s still a community element to digging out after a storm – it’s just focussed on driveways rather than on sidewalks.

    People often chip in to help each other out. It’s not unusual to see a guy with a snowblower going around helping neighbours after a particularly nasty storm. When I was away in Montreal playing hockey in February a neighbour I hardly even know snowblew my place just to be nice (which I appreciated, since an unplowed driveway in Bells Corners is a sure sign to thieves that no one is home).

    Even people with a driveway contractor, like seniors who get half the cost subsidized by the taxpayer, can use help after the monster plow has passed and filled in the driveways with heavy snow and grit.

    Nobody in Bells Corners complains about City plows pushing snow into the bike laneswe don’t have any!

  3. I generally shovel my sidewalk (always) my shared house neighbours (always) and then a pathway in front of the other neighbour’s house.

    In Edmonton I believe, it is the law to shovel your sidewalk.

  4. I think in Ottawa the norm is to hide behind living room drapes with a phone in your hand and 311 on speed dial in case your neighbour inadvertently throws some snow onto your yard.

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