Potential Liability From Sidewalk Snow Clearing

Unlike areas of the Downtown were sidewalk ploughs made two passes, along Arthur Street there is almost 2cm of snow on the sidewalk.
Unlike areas of the Downtown were sidewalk ploughs made two passes, along Arthur Street there is almost 2cm of snow on the sidewalk.

The City of Thunder Bay did a better job of clearing snow downtown this morning. Side walks are still slippery however.
The City of Thunder Bay did a better job of clearing snow downtown this morning. Side walks are still slippery however.

THUNDER BAY – Civic Politics – Slides and falls on City of Thunder Bay sidewalks are a potential liability issue for the city. A senior citizen this week getting out of their vehicle on Brodie Street fell after the sidewalks were ploughed by the city. 

NetNewsLedger has been reporting on the quality of the job that the City of Thunder Bay has been doing over the past year – our focus has been on the sidewalks in the downtown Fort William BIA. However similar issues are found in the Waterfront BIA and in the Bay and Algoma area as well.

Thunder Bay City Sidewalk clearing
A city senior citizen slipped and fell injuring themselves enough to file a report this week.

Saturday’s snowfall in the city has seen City Crews step up the quality of the job. 

The City Crews took, as the tire prints show, two passes to get to this level of snow clearing.
The City Crews took, as the tire prints show, two passes to get to this level of snow clearing.

Across the Fort William Business District, several business owners and the Victoriaville Centre staff have made sure the sidewalks are safe for pedestrians. However this morning individuals in motorized wheel chairs are on the roads as they are clearer and safer.

If there are awards for the best snow clearing in the Fort William neighbourhood it would be Don and the crew at Newfie’s Pub, Gord and the Victoriaville Centre and the smiling gentleman at the Cathedral on Archibald Street who take the gold medal.

Gold medal snow clearing at the Cathedral on Archibald in the downtown Fort William
Gold medal snow clearing at the Cathedral on Archibald in the downtown Fort William

The responsibility and liability issues on snow clearing on city sidewalks presents concerns. 

Denis Olorenshaw, writing for the Ontario Condo Owners Association states, “In many Ontario municipalities, bylaws exist requiring residents to clear ice and snow from sidewalks next to their properties – even though the sidewalks are municipally owned. Often, fines can be levied if the work is not done in a specified length of time.

“These municipalities have tried to pass on their responsibilities to property owners, even though Ontario’s Municipal Act decrees this function is the responsibility of each municipality,” asserts Olorenshaw.

“Under the Act and the bylaws, who is responsible for injuries suffered by pedestrians who fall on sidewalks because the ice and snow was not cleared away by a property owner? A clear answer to this question came as a result of two lawsuits filed in the Toronto area. Even though the adjacent property owner has not cleared away snow and ice on the sidewalk – and may consequently have to pay a fine under a bylaw – the property owner is not liable for damages under common law. Liability for damages as a result of such injuries to pedestrians is solely the responsibility of the municipality”.

There are two exceptions to the rule, according to the court rulings. Property owners who are using the sidewalk for their business (such as a sidewalk restaurant or grocery store) and those who allow anything to flow off their property onto the sidewalk (e.g., gas station tank leaks) can both become liable in the case of a fall”.

Thunder Bay could be, as a result of snow clearing face possible law suits.

Tina Huk the Co-ordinator with the Fort William Business Improvement Area commented to NetNewsLedger.com that the BIA is in communication with the City over the level of snow clearing in the downtown. At two meetings of the Fort William We have a Neighbourhood to Build, Mayor Keith Hobbs and City Manager Tim Commisso have discussed the issue. The City is looking for solutions.

Unlike areas of the Downtown were sidewalk ploughs made two passes, along Arthur Street there is almost 2cm of snow on the sidewalk.
Unlike areas of the Downtown were sidewalk ploughs made two passes, along Arthur Street there is almost 2cm of snow on the sidewalk.

Snow Clearing is an Issue in London Too

This week, London Ontario in Southern Ontario was pounded by a snowfall that left the equal to three months accumulation of snow on the community.

The London Free Press reports, “After the weekend storm that buried parts of London with up to three months’ worth of snow, Coun. Paul Hubert wants city staff to take another look at how London handles snow removal.

“Many areas were still waiting for sidewalks to be cleared — or re-cleared, after street plows filled them back in — more than 48 hours after the storm.

“I’ve asked staff to review their operational plan,” Hubert said. “The frustrating part was particularly around sidewalks, which were really bad on major arterials, like Wonderland Rd., Oxford St., and Hyde Park Rd.”

“Some residents told him they still hadn’t seen a sidewalk plow by Tuesday night — more than 50 hours after the storm.

“Roads manager John Parsons said he’s done reviews before and will be glad to do another.

“Our plan is pretty comparable to the typical plan in other municipalities,” he said. “You are set up for average snowfalls. If you have more snow, it takes longer.”

Northern Cities Are Used to Snow

Cities across Canada’s north all have snow issues to handle.

In Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina, Edmonton and Saskatoon, residents are responsible for clearing the snow on the sidewalks outside their homes. In Thunder Bay residential sidewalks are ploughed by the city.

Thunder Bay has 449 kilometres of sidewalks. In the downtown business districts of Westfort, Fort William, Waterfront District, and the Bay and Algoma area, having a rather small number of that total, having solid snow removal will help ensure that the businesses in the area and potential new businesses, have the best possible opportunity to success.

Economic Development and City Conditions

Informed sources relay to NetNewsLedger that in the Fort William Neighbourhood there are three new businesses getting started in the area. There have also been the quiet openings of two antique shops in the downtown Fort William area.

One of the city’s roles in economic development is in generating the ‘Clean Green and Beautiful’ image for the downtown areas.

Mayor Hobbs is dedicated toward seeing improvements to the area. Both Hobbs and Westfort Councillor Joe Virdiramo have commented on the area as one that needs some improved focus.

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