Everyone’s been there—walking around Montreal when all of a sudden you find yourself looking up at the sky from your backside. Whether sober, drunk, or somewhere in between, Montreal’s sidewalks represent the single most dangerous threat to any student.
Snowy, slippery wipe-outs are commonplace, and those who find themselves victim of the city’s sidewalks can at least take solace in the fact that it isn’t as embarrassing as one might think. The spectators to your spectacular fall are actually more concerned with your safety than publicly shaming you. They know it isn’t your fault and the real culprit is still at large—Montreal’s shoddy snow removal efforts.
The City of Montreal is supposedly responsible for the cleaning of roads and sidewalks after a snowfall. Unfortunately, despite boasting one of Canada’s largest budgets for snow removal, the city seems to have repeated failed in that capacity. Unless one is walking on a major street like Sherbrooke or Sainte-Catherine, it’s safe to assume that the sidewalk will resemble an outdoor skating rink. Every Montreal resident has at least one nasty bruise to show for this.
The city’s snow removal failures also significantly harm the roads and sidewalks. Ice hastens the breakdown of infrastructure due to the constant expansion and shrinkage of ice within cracks and potholes. Efficient clearing of snow would increase the lifespan of infrastructure, saving the city money in addition to the backsides of its citizens.
The city ought to be more in control of this essential service. Icy sidewalks are not a monthly or weekly occurrence—this is a daily struggle against nature that is made worse by the municipal government. In January 2015, the Plateau was not given adequate funding to ensure that the main roads were adequately plowed. City Comptroller Alain Bond blamed this mistake not on the borough’s budgeting, but on poor weather forecasts. In the same year, Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Saint-Denis were often difficult to traverse safely because of the piles of snow present. Borough Mayor Luc Ferrandez claimed that Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre made significant cuts to the budget and they could no longer afford any snow removal for the rest of the year. Being that this took place in early January, the rest of the long winter was torturous for those who needed to drive or walk in the Plateau. At times, getting through side streets was an exercise in futility.
Coderre himself was also angered by the city’s failures with clearing the sidewalks. He came up with 16 recommendations to improve Montreal’s snow removal policy. Coderre called for uniform standards of operation and cooperation between boroughs. Two years later, there does not appear to be any difference at all in the quality of shovelling. Braving the outdoors is still about as dangerous as travelling to Mordor. Somehow, Coderre and his associates can’t seem to crack the centuries’ old riddle of snowfall.
Many cities manage to successfully protect the physical and emotional state of their residents through a simple sidewalk shoveling policy: Residents of Chicago, for example, must shovel the sidewalk in front of their dwelling or face fines up to $500, and are liable for any civil damages. Calgary has a similar bylaw—if a citizen fails to clear their strip of sidewalk, they must pay the cost of the city workforce doing so. This radical idea could potentially be implemented in Montreal to clear walking paths without relying on the city.
The city needs to solve its snow removal issues. It’s embarrassing that Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday, and still can’t seem to clear its sidewalks.