Seeking your feedback: Snow clearing

Icy sidewalk in downtown.
Icy sidewalk in downtown.

I’ve received numerous calls and emails regarding snow clearing, particularly for sidewalks in the downtown. There have been several exceptional weather events recently that have complicated snowclearing, however the situation provides an opportunity to review existing snowclearing policies and ask whether we need some enhancements.

Snow plowing on primary and secondary roads begins when the accumulation of snow reaches 50 mm (2”). Residential streets are only plowed after the main roadways have been cleared. The City of Burlington aims to have all roads in the city cleared 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling.

The plowing of sidewalks begins when snow accumulation is 50 mm (2”). Sidewalk salting and sanding is performed on primary and secondary road sidewalks when extremely slippery conditions exist.

The city’s level of service for local sidewalks for storms up to 30 cm is 72 hours following the end of the storm. Plowing of roads is normally completed ahead of the sidewalk clearing due to the windrow filling in the sidewalks with snow. The level of service for storms over 30 cm is as soon as the city is able.

Paths and trails (like the Spencer Smith Park walkway and the Centennial Bike Path) are plowed last, and only during regular business hours. By that time, so many people have already walked in these areas, snow is packed and icy so plowing can be ineffective.

Residents who have contacted me have suggested earlier clearing of sidewalks, particularly on streets with high pedestrian traffic, as well as on the Centennial bike path and walking paths along the waterfront which are heavily used even in winter.

Others have suggested eliminating city clearing of sidewalks in residential areas, and asking homeowners to do that. Most of my street already clears our own sidewalks well before the city has an opportunity to do so, but that’s not the case with every property owner. Many (but not all) downtown businesses also clear in front of their stores.

City staff are currently working on a report that would outline options for enhanced snow clearing, that will be discussed during our 2014 budget cycle.

For more information on snow clearing in the city, visit here.

My Take: I welcome a review of sidewalk clearing policies, especially when we are trying to encourage more people to walk. I would also consider redirecting some of our snow clearing budget from residential areas – and asking residents to clear their own sidewalks – to focus our snow clearing efforts on heavily travelled pedestrian sidewalks throughout the city.

Your Take: Do you want enhanced snow clearing? Should residents clear their own sidewalks? Leave a comment below or email me at

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

One Comment

Leave a Reply
  1. As I have said in the past Plowing curb faced sidewalks in other than main streets is usually unnecessary as they are seldom used by residents. The costs are very high and often fruitless when plows are forced to move snow back onto the already cleared sidewalk. From what I have observed most people walk on the street and in many cases clear the sidewalks themselves. A more beneficial practice might be to plow one side of residential sidewalks streets instead of both..

What's your take?

Potential redevelopment for 2267 Lakeshore; no application yet

Seeking feedback: Storm response