Toronto parking lots being cleared of snow as sidewalks and bike lanes ignored
A full eight days after a historic snowstorm blanketed Toronto in 55 cm, city crews are still struggling to clean up the mess from last Monday. An update shared by the city on Monday morning shows that over 17,000 tonnes of snow has been removed across 216 km of roads, totalling 5,782 truckloads.
But for more than a week now, pedestrians and cyclists have been dealing with impassable infrastructure, all as cars zip by on pristine roads.
It's a problem that had been improving gradually until this Monday when a new layer of snow fell on the city and hampered cleanup efforts, but the response to the storm has not been warmly-received, and eight consecutive days of blockages have drawn the ire of the Twitterverse.
yes Richmond was being cleared on Saturday.— Pink Helmet TO (@PinkHelmetTO) January 25, 2022
( 5 days after the snowfall !)
Why has Adelaide not been touched ? 8 days later ! @JohnTory - are we waiting for the snow and ice to melt now? pic.twitter.com/lYSXjFkbEO
Treacherous conditions have been common on cycling paths across the city since last Monday, including the bike lane on the Danforth, one of the city's busier routes. The sidewalk, while not ideal, is passable to most, though probably not those requiring mobility devices. Yet the road is all clear.
One of Toronto’s busiest cycling routes one full week after a snow storm and 6 days after all roads were cleared pic.twitter.com/0CIQ1RQOXs— Michael Kurz (@kurz_m) January 24, 2022
It's been the same story on Harbord Street, where bike lanes are completely impassable, sidewalks are hit or miss and roads are sparkling.
Snow clearance for active transportation needs to be taken seriously. Toronto is a winter city where people rely on walking and biking year-round for transportation.— Cycle Toronto (@CycleToronto) January 24, 2022
Here are pictures of the Harbord bike lane taken throughout the week. 📷 Credits: Keagan Gartz.#PlowTO #BikeTO pic.twitter.com/oXugIREbW9
In one truly bizarre photo, even a city-owned paid parking lot was plowed while the abutting sidewalk was reduced to a narrow trench.
Toronto, a city that clears snow from a municipal parking lot but not from the adjacent sidewalk pic.twitter.com/TSzCJ2j4k7— Oliver Moore (@moore_oliver) January 25, 2022
In all of these examples, car infrastructure seems to have been given priority over walking and cycling. It has one commenter noting how an eight-day blockage could never happen on a road or city highway given priority snow clearing status.
Adelaide Cycle Track T+8days.— Ev Delen (@evdelen) January 25, 2022
Now 2 snowfalls have occurred, which hides the dark colour the snow has taken on, but still no cleaning.
Recall, this was billed as receiving high priority snow clearing, like the DVP. If the DVP were shutdown for 8 days...#topoli #biketo pic.twitter.com/UoIP1ZKce0
Similar complaints have persisted since the storm, raising questions from pedestrians, cyclists and safety advocates about where the city's priorities lie.
Something's not right and the City isn't talking about it.— torontodavenport (@ward9toronto) January 25, 2022
Some are just asking for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure to be given the same level of priority as cars.
Looks like even equality would be a huge improvement.— Doug van den Ham (@DvdHam) January 25, 2022
NotSafe4BikesTO, a Twitter account raising awareness about unsafe biking conditions in the city, tells blogTO that "Most people understand that was a high volume of snow, and that it would be tough going for a few days. Unfortunately, eight days later the majority of the cycling network remains unusable."
The advocate states "many of these lanes were put in as a COVID response to give people a safe alternative to TTC - and this option is now gone."
Making sure to clarify that they don't speak for all cyclists, the advocate says they "believe the majority would tell you that the biggest barrier to winter cycling (by far!) is not cold weather, it is road conditions. If you clear the lanes, people will continue to use them."
Whatever the explanation, it's becoming apparent that the city is either far better equipped or perhaps more motivated to clear roads than lower-capacity (but much greener) infrastructure.
"Unfortunately, the city also continues to broadcast that they have been clearing major bike lanes in 'priority' - which gives the public a false view of what is really happening. Browse through the photos on my page and see the evidence of uncleared bikeways all over the city," says NotSafe4BikesTO.
"If this city is truly concerned about alleviating congestion, reducing emissions and providing safe alternatives to vehicle dependence, then a different approach to snow removal is needed."
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