The recent snow and freezing rain experienced in Westman these past few weeks has made city sidewalks in downtown Brandon an icy danger to pedestrians.
Sidewalks in and around the hospital, down Victoria Avenue and all the crossing streets in between are — for the most part — akin to a narrow skating rink that pose a huge danger to pedestrians, seniors and any city or postal worker who must walk the route to visit residences in the area.
Brandon Sun carriers have also noted extremely icy streets and sidewalks in and around the North Hill area, along Kirkcaldy Avenue.
And to top it off, Environment Canada had been calling for more freezing rain yesterday afternoon and today.
City bylaws outline the responsibilities that Brandon businesses have to clear and remove snow adjacent to their buildings, but there is currently no bylaw addressing snow removal on and around private residences.
“The only bylaw there is for sidewalk cleaning is (that) businesses have to do theirs. If private residences don’t clear their sidewalks it’s not something we are going to have to come in and do,” said Rod Paterson, charge head of streets and roads for the City of Brandon, during a conversation with the Sun one year ago. Paterson had made those comments following a stretch of mild weather that had, as now, left a layer of ice on many sidewalks in the city.
Uncleared and slippery sidewalks are a perennial problem in this city.
We have heard too many reports of seniors falling down and injuring themselves on our icy sidewalks over the years. In 2011, the city had 29 reports of slip and fall injuries by city employees alone.
Anecdotely we have been hearing similar reports this week.
Driving down the streets, even if they are free of ice and snow, has become treacherous as pedestrians are forced to walk on the roadway to avoid falling on the ice.
For anyone walking on city sidewalks in winter, we ask you to think ahead and take these precautions before venturing out:
• Wear appropriate shoes: Wear shoes or boots that provide traction and are made of non-slip rubber.
• Walk on a designed walkway: Wear bright colours and stay off the road.
• Make sure you can see: If you are wearing a scarf or headgear, make sure that the ice and snow is still visible.
• Take your hands out of your pockets: When your hands are in your pockets, it moves your centre of gravity and you are not prepared for a fall.
• Watch where you are going and go slow: Use hand rails, plant your feet and take short shuffle steps.
And if you do fall, make sure to rest, ice the injured area and elevate the injury. Or if it’s more serious, such as a head injury, see the doctor right away.
Last January the Brandon Sun, Canada Post and the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba launched a contest in which Brandon residents who pledged to keep their walkways clear — through shovelling or salting — would have a chance to win a new snowblower or one of several weekly gift cards.
While it was a worthy idea, it shouldn’t have to come down to such a contest for people to do the right thing and properly clear their sidewalks and walkways on and around their property.
Even if there is no bylaw ordering city residents to clear the walkways outside their homes, all of us have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of our fellow citizens.
And if all else fails, well, perhaps it’s time to introduce a new bylaw.