snowy sidewalks toronto

Mind-boggling snowy sidewalk photos illustrate why people in Toronto keep walking on roads

It's been nearly two weeks now since Toronto was hit with a blizzard unlike anything seen in the city for years (if not decades), but you wouldn't know it by the state of our city's sidewalks right now.

Yes, it's been cold outside since the ferocious winter storm hit, and yes, we've had several big snows since then, but some paths meant for pedestrians are in a state that many say isn't acceptable at this point in time — regardless of what the weather hath wrought.

"Toronto's bike lanes, sidewalks, and transit stops currently covered in snow and ice are endangering  vulnerable road users," wrote the advocacy group Cycle Toronto earlier this week on Twitter.

The group then put out a call to its more than 24,000 followers, asking them to share photos of "problematic spots" around the city using the hashtag #ShovelTO — and boy did the people deliver.

People have been sharing images from every corner of Toronto, showing the treacherous conditions that pedestrians have been dealing with now for 12 days straight.

Some sidewalks are completely impassable as we approach the second weekend after the historic blizzard of Jan. 17.

Others are kind of walkable, but only to the able-bodied and people without any sort of rolling baggage (including strollers.)

Others have been mushed down into narrow, icy paths by brave pedestrians...

Though anyone would be wise to proceed with caution on most of these community-made snow paths.

Forget about getting your shoes wet — some sidewalks are straight up dangerous.

Others aren't quite as dangerous as they are irritating, given that snow has been cleared from adjacent roads right onto neighbourhood walking paths.

Bike paths are slightly better in some parts of the city, but many cyclists are still running into obstacles on the regular.

Big, snowy, dirty obstacles.

This obvious lack of pedestrian infrastructure has been forcing Toronto residents onto the streets with their feet, coming within inches of vehicular traffic because what the heck else are they going to do?

The phenomenon is being observed on quiet residential roads and busy retail stretches alike.

Needless to say, locals who've had their regular walking paths replaced by snow so that cars can pass are a bit pissed.

It seems in some cases that it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt — and you can bet that that someone won't be inside a car when it happens.

Yes, people are annoyed to be forced onto live streets in order to get where they're going on foot...

But, as some advocates note, this isn't about inconveniences, annoyances or even urban politics.

"I think it's important to remember that all of these complaints aren't necessarily about snow clearing as much as they are about not wanting to get killed by a driver," wrote the popular Twitter account @NotSafe4BikesTO on Thursday.

"It's not an annoyance, it's a matter of life and death."

As for who'd be to blame if somebody did get hurt as a result of all the unplowed sidewalks, it depends on where in the city they are.

Toronto has made tremendous progress in its quest to see sidewalk hazards eliminated, vowing for two years straight to clean more than the former standard 81 per cent of city footpaths wide enough for mechanical plows to operate on in response to public demand.

Despite the acquisition of new, more slender machines meant specifically to clear narrow downtown sidewalks, the problem persists for many.

All of that said, this past storm was exceptional in terms of its volume and impact. While not perfect in their execution, it's clear that city crews are doing everything they can to clean up from the blizzard.

As of Thursday afternoon, some 45,000 tonnes of snow had been removed from city roads, sidewalks and bike lanes since the blizzard struck on Jan. 17.

City officials are calling it the largest snow removal operation in Toronto history — inclusive of that time Mel Lastman called in the army — and has removed some 14,000 truckloads of diverted snow to date.

Lead photo by

Karen Longwell

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