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City sidewalks: ‘Horrendous’ winter maintenance denies basic mobility to many Sudburians, survey finds

Respondents to a survey from the Greater Sudbury Safer Sidewalks grassroots group felt inadequate sidewalk clearing forces them to stay home during the winter for their own safety
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Maria Bozzo took this photograph of a sidewalk that is a direct access to Lasalle Secondary School, Cambrian College, a transit stop, and Lasalle Blvd. “The photo was taken at 9:43 a.m. so the usual walkers would have been by. I have the luxury of turning around and going back into my house when I see this, others don’t,” Maria said.

“I just don’t go anywhere” — This week, Greater Sudbury Safer Sidewalks (GSSS) is sharing the voices of residents whose basic mobility is impeded by winter sidewalk conditions. GSSS advocates for improved winter sidewalk maintenance standards and service delivery models that provide mobility for all residents, and recognize that sidewalks are an essential part of Sudbury’s transportation network.

Mobility is a basic right. Being able to get around your community is necessary for accessing work, school, medical opportunities, basic necessities, and social and family visits and responsibilities.

In the GSSS survey, 45 per cent of respondents shared that they often or always have to stay at home during the winter because they cannot get around on the sidewalks.  That is nearly half of respondents, 191 of our fellow community members. With current sidewalk maintenance standards, many residents are housebound during the winter months.

“My older parents and I cannot leave our house because we are afraid of falling.” 

From our online survey, we saw that the inability to get around (89 respondents) was the second biggest impact on quality of life. Here’s what some residents had to say about how their ability and mobility is affected:

“Very frustrating. I'm pregnant and my sidewalk is completely ice-covered.”

“My son is in a wheelchair. If there is more than an inch or two of snow we’re not going anywhere.”

“My mother is mobile, but due to the horrendous sidewalks we can never keep her mobility up in the winter.”

The next most-cited impact on quality of life was a negative impact on physical well-being (86 respondents). Moreover, residents continued to share with us the risks they take using sidewalks, and how they are forced to limit their physical activity due to sidewalk conditions.

“Slippery, slushy, or wet (puddles!) sidewalks limit my ability to get groceries and medications. I also cannot get out to just walk, get some exercise/fresh air as it is not safe to do so.”

“[The sidewalk] often dictates my ability to get exercise. I recently suffered an injury this summer and recognized that the sidewalk conditions are not favourable for those that have disabilities.”

“Unsafe sidewalks in winter leave me housebound for long periods of time.”

Improved winter sidewalk maintenance supports residents using active transportation, residents’ mobility, and residents’ health. Keeping sidewalks and intersections clear of ice, slush and snow is even more important for residents using a wheelchair, mobility aid, or stroller. 

Transit users also have a special need for bus stops to be kept clear of snow for safety and accessibility. To support residents in using active transportation, having basic mobility, and taking care of their health, Greater Sudbury needs to maintain safe sidewalks all year round.

Olivia Medeiros and Pam Banks are members of Greater Sudbury Safer Sidewalks, a grassroots group of residents who believe everyone has the right to walk around their neighbourhood and get to where they need to go throughout all seasons. We are working toward positive change to make it safer and easier to get around on foot or with a mobility device in Greater Sudbury. Residents interested in joining or receiving a copy of the survey results can e-mail gssafersidewalks@gmail.com or connect in the “Walk Safe Sudbury-Greater Sudbury Safer Sidewalks” Facebook group.