Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Be Nice, Clear Your Ice"

Do you remember the cartoonist Ben Wicks? If so, what does he have to do with the proposed sidewalk clearing bylaw for Pelham?

Ben Wicks was a British-born Canadian cartoonist, illustrator, journalist and author. Very topical and witty, his cartoon, The Outcasts, was syndicated by 84 Canadian and more than 100 American newspapers.

In the early 1980s, Toronto promoted sidewalk clearing using an animation by Mr. Wicks. “Be Nice, Clear Your Ice” encouraged people to clear the sidewalks in front of or alongside their property within 12 hours of the end of a snowfall or ice event.

But what does this have to do with Pelham, you ask?

Last year, the members of the Pelham Active Transportation committee suggested that the Town enact a bylaw to compel owners and tenants to clear ice and snow from the sidewalk surrounding their properties. The Committee gave research showing how it would help make Pelham a more walkable community.

Also last year, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council asked Council to pay for the removal of snow from sidewalks to that they would be clear for local students when walking to and from school.

In February of 2009, Council approved nearly $20,000 to the budget to clear an additional 633 metres of sidewalks in front of Town-owned properties like parks. We also asked for staff to develop a snow clearing by-law for implementation in November.

When that draft bylaw came back to Council in July, Council asked that it be posted on the Town’s website for comment.

At our regular meeting on November 2, General Committee received those 17 public comments, debated an amended bylaw, and approved it.

The bylaw called for property-owners or tenants to clear ice and snow from sidewalks in front of or along side a home or business within 24 hours of a snowfall. It proposed that if the Town must clear the ice and snow the costs will be charged to the property-owner.

Staff recommended that the Town inform all residents about the bylaw, its purpose and enforcement details through the next set of water bills and with newspaper inserts. Further, it was recommended that until January 31, 2010, staff would remind people with a note and give a grace period to clear the ice and snow.

That bylaw came to Council for consideration on Monday, but was not adopted. Given recent feedback from the community, Council referred the bylaw back to staff to add more flexibility.

If enacted, I hope that a sidewalk snow clearing by-law will lead to safer, more pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods throughout our Town. As I shovel this winter, I will remember Ben Wick’s advice: “Be Nice, Clear Your Ice.”