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Help out, residents

If you prefer your wrists and ankles to be unbroken, Guelph’s sidewalks, particularly in the city’s older neighbourhoods, are a good place to avoid these days. The danger of falling on those icy sidewalks has to be rated as high.
It’s a different story in Kitchener, where a bylaw makes residents responsible for clearing the sidewalks in front of their homes.
A city hall survey in 2012 found Guelph to be one of just three of 12 comparable municipalities that provide sidewalk snow plowing in front of homes. Despite this, council opted to overrule a staff recommendation by adding $100,000 back into the city’s 2013 operating budget to retain this sidewalk plowing. The only vote against keeping the service came from Coun. Leanne Piper, who said city residents have a “civic duty to make sure our sidewalks are walkable.”
This may or may not be an issue that the next council will re-examine. The service is popular with many people and costs only about $2 per household each winter, so it’s not an easy thing for council to cut, as has been shown.
But the situation in Guelph since the Dec. 22 ice storm has highlighted the downside of city hall’s current way of dealing with sidewalks. It’s time for residents to step up to the plate and do more, especially in extreme conditions like those seen recently that have left city hall unable to ensure the sidewalks are walkable.
City hall has been urging residents to voluntarily take responsibility, using the slogan “Be nice, treat the ice.”
During last weekend’s thaw, this would have meant getting out there with an ice chopper and getting rid of the ice on the sidewalk in front of your property, while the ice was soft and could be removed relatively easily.
City hall has also been urging residents the past couple of winters to take some of the city’s supply of sand grit – free of charge – and spread it on their sidewalks to create some traction. This works really well, by the way.
Keeping sidewalks safe is the neighbourly thing to do.

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