Who is responsible for clearing snow on Toronto’s sidewalks: residents or the city?

The answer: it depends

Snow on the pavement in Toronto
The snow-covered pavement on a Toronto sidewalk has a black and grey colour and becomes more slippery after being trodden on. (Tianye Gu/Toronto Observer) 

Clearing snow from the sidewalks in winter remains a confusing problem for the city of Toronto and its residents, a professor in urban geography says.

“About two years ago, the city said it would start to take responsibility for plowing sidewalks in the older parts of Toronto,” Andre Sorensen, a professor teaching urban geography at the University of Toronto, said. “But there is still not enough of the smaller plows that fit on sidewalks, and it takes a long time.”

Streets piled up with snow don’t clear themselves overnight, and pavements that are covered with snow can present pedestrians with unpredictable and hazardous walking challenges. 

Toronto citizens are gradually putting the snow clearing responsibility on the city rather than on their neighbours, but they’re still responsible for some clearance. If less than two centimetres of snow falls, residents and businesses must clear the snow from sidewalks outside their properties, according to the city’s website.

Sorensen says residents clearing their sidewalks would help their neighbours out and bring about a greater sense of solidarity and community spirit.

Some residents think the city should give residents a nudge to keep them conscientious.

“The government should propose penalties to force residents to clean snow,” Ajmal Samim, an international student who arrived in Toronto several months ago, said. Samim must walk a long distance from the subway station to school daily, and faces snowy pavements for a few days after the snow falls.

Ajmal Samim, a pedestrian who was interviewed face-to-face, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. PHOTO BY Tianye Gu/Toronto Observer

Victor Fraser, a street artist living in Toronto, said pedestrians bear some responsibility for their own safety. He said if people don’t pay attention when they walk, they might fall or even get hurt. He said people are always “too engrossed in their phones to pay attention to the road beneath them.”

Snow accumulation is a problem that Toronto experiences every winter. This month has seen milder temperatures and less snowfall than January 2022, with 27.6 centimetres of snowfall so far.

According to Global News data from March 2022, Toronto spent a month and $17 million in January 2022 removing snow left behind by the blizzard that month that dumped 55 centimetres of snow on the city in 15 hours.

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Posted: Jan 29 2023 8:00 pm
Filed under: News Science & Health