Walking around Winnipeg in the winter is now a little safer, thanks to a new online bulletin that grades sidewalk and street conditions. Surefoot.org, a website launched by the City of Winnipeg, provides daily updates based on observations from city street maintenance staff.
I don’t want to dismiss the project, nor Coun. Harvey Smith’s unfortunate accident. I’m not going to argue that such a resource as Surefoot.org isn’t necessary, after all traffic reports have been around for a long time and are a helpful resource for motorists. I will however argue the likelihood that Surefoot.org will have much impact on the safety of city streets.
Slippery sidewalks are a reality in any winter climate city and how to deal with them is difficult. As a carless Winnipegger living in the Downtown core I have to deal with slippery sidewalks pretty much every day during the fall and winter months, yet I honestly can’t see myself using Surefoot. How many Winnipeggers are actually expected to use the site, especially those in the target demographic of Winnipeggers over the age of fifty? It’s easier to look out the window, if you see snow on the trees, buildings, and cars it’s quite likely the streets are slippery.
Commenters on the CBC story mocked the project as a waste of taxpayers’ money, however it seems, at least to this writer, like Surefoot was created as a concession with the knowledge that a real1 solution would be much more costly. Web resources like this are really just a bandaid. It’s an easy answer to a hard problem. When someone comes crying to City Hall about how they think something needs to be done about the slippery streets just send them a carefully worded acknowledgement and pop in the link to Surefoot. Now nobody can complain the City doesn’t care.
1The real solution being regularly removing snow and sanding the heaviest traffic and most problematic sidewalks. This is already done to some extent but not to the same degree that streets are cleared for motorists. Obviously this would put more strain on the City’s swelling snow removal budget.