Montreal ice-covered sidewalks – As recent as February 18, Mayor Valerie Plante issued a statement announcing new measures to make the city safer for pedestrians. Her words had come in response to a recent accident in which a woman was killed at a crossing on Atwater Ave. outside the site of the current construction of a new building in what used to be the Children’s Hospital. That incident was not an isolated one, a few months earlier another fatal accident had occurred on Park Avenue.
But then the worst of winter fell on the city and with that, the problem caused by the accumulation of snow on sidewalks especially for the elderly and those with mobility problems. On February 24 the Mayor had addressed that issue as well, indicating that she had communicated with the 19 borough mayors, urging them to deploy all their equipment to remove the snow promptly, especially near schools, hospitals, and bus stops. Since Ms. Plante is also the Mayor of the Ville Marie Borough, it seems that her alter ego here didn’t take the warning of Ms. Plante the City Mayor very seriously. Indeed, snow accumulated at least in front of various bus stops on Sherbrooke St., on Cote des Neiges, and on Pine Ave.
Many people living or working downtown have complained about the state of sidewalks being worse than in previous years. The city had announced the acquisition of some new machines able to break the ice which, as temperatures get lower, become harder to remove, becoming the leading cause of dangerous falls suffered by pedestrians, but then the bad news: these machines could only work when the ice gets a certain thickness. However, in recent weeks the ice indeed had become thicker, and the machines are nowhere to be seen, at least not on the streets whose sidewalks have the most ice.
Those looking for a more permanent solution for the problem of ice-covered sidewalks didn’t get the answer they expected either: the city shelved the proposal to install heated sidewalks on Ste. Catherine St., an idea that had been around for some time but was refloated when the overhaul of the entire artery was announced. “Too expensive” was basically the response from the city, while at the same time, it joins with merchants and residents, regarding the dangers looming on downtown because of people being lured into shopping in the suburban malls. In recent weeks fingers have been pointing to the big menace for downtown represented by a proposed megamall in TMR. However, a lack of accommodation for older people or families with little children is a self-inflicted handicap for the area. As long as downtown is associated with slippery sidewalks in winter (and we have about five months with cold temperatures and snowfalls) and other problems that make access to the area difficult, potential shoppers will keep moving somewhere else.