In late fall 2020, the City of St. John's released revised sidewalk clearing priorities for the coming 2020-21 winter season. These were in response to consultations and surveys with citizens over the course of spring and summer 2020. They were touted as a feasible measure to make sidewalk clearing more effective without impacting the city's budget.
The rationale for the revised priorities apparently was to reduce the size of Priority 1 so that it would, at the very least, be cleared promptly after each snow fall.
Other than reducing Priority 1 somewhat, and the move of School zones into Priority 1a, there doesn't seem to be much fundamental change with these revisions.Here's a list of discernible notable changes from the previous priorities, in no particular order:
There are now two new levels:
- 1a - for the old school zones (orange on the map)
- 4 - mostly consisting of the old priority 3 streets
Extensions & Additions:
- Old Pennywell from Columbus Dr. to Brier Ave
- Kenmount to Pippy Place
- Blackmarsh from Columbus to Hamlyn Road
- Kelsey Drive no longer appears, but apparently was being cleared in winter 2020. Unclear.
- Monkstown Rd. to Priority 2
- Empire & Bonaventure & Mayor 'triangle' to Priority 1
- Parade St. to Priority 3
- Patrick St. south of Hamilton Ave. to Priority 1a
- University Ave from Prince Philip to Paton St. to Priority 1a
- Hutton Rd. to Priority 4
- Intersection of Portugal Cove Rd. and Newfoundland Dr. / Prince Philip to Priority 1a
Review & Analysis
Despite the city's rationale for revising the priorities, real issue is whether or not the revisions guarantee or aid mobility within the city over the course of the snowy months. There's very little indication that this is the case. It seems that city planners simply don't think about what it means to walk from point A to point B, nor do they consider ease of movement in pedestrian areas to be a rationale for priority clearing. Several examples are easy to spot:
Unconnected Priority 1a / School Zones
Three schools remain unconnected to the larger Priority 1 network - Vanier Elementary on Ennis Ave., the District School south of St Clare, and St. Theresa's on Mundy Pond Rd.
While Vanier is in a largely residential side street, and its school yard accessible via a footpath off of Rumboldt Place, St. Theresa's is on a major thoroughfare with heavy constant traffic. At the very least the north side of Munday Pond Rd. should be Priority 1. Similarly, the north side of Campbell Ave south of Cashin Ave. should be Priority 1, at least to St. Clare to link the District School with the rest of Priority 1.
- Prescott St. between Duckworth and Water - there are stairs here, which may fall to the other unit for clearing?
- All of Waldegrave St.
- Pennywell Rd. between Smith Ave and Golf has Priority 1a on the northside, but on the south remains uncleared, despite the obvious utility of connecting the southside Pennywell Rd. Priority 2 route to the top of Golf Ave.
Access to Grocery & Pharmacy
The change of Parade St. to Priority 3 likely causes issues for pedestrian access to the nearest Grocery and Pharmacy by the largest area of walkers in the city in the city centre. Bonaventure provides some means of getting through around the Rooms, but with a Priority 2 along Merrymeeting, it might not be enough ease of access.
Walkers & Low-Income
Two areas stand out in the revised priorities for how walking commuters and low-income workers who walk: Casey and Springdale St neighbour sound of LeMarchant Road, and the areas surrounding Cashin Ave Extension between Campbell Ave and Blackmarsh Rd. Casey is priority 2, but the Springdale is not cleared. The census area has the highest population density in the entire city, but NO priority 1 clearing.
The Cashin Ave Extension area has the highest percentage of low income men who walk to commute to work, but only Cashin Ave Extension is priority 1. Campbell Ave and Blackmarsh are both Priority 2. There are nearby Priority 1a's that could help alleviate concerns, but ultimately no south-east to north-west south of Freshwater until LeMarchant Rd.
No clear reason why the sides flip. Perhaps there's an obstruction...
- Stamps Lane south of Freshwater Rd. is on the west side, while south of Wishingwell, is on the east.
- Allandale Rd. to Bonaventure Ave.
- New Cove Rd. at Elizabeth Ave.
- Torbay Rd. at Newfoundland Dr.
- Brookfield Rd. at Cormack St.
Logy Bay Rd. still has a Priority 1 area just north of Hutton Rd. (see the map of Vanier above)
Overall, it's not really clear if the city's reprioritization considered the basic question of where do people walk?. High traffic roads do not always mean high pedestrian traffic - Columbus Dr. and the northern part of Logy Bay Rd might be better reclassified as Priority 2, given the indications of the 2016 Census information on commuting walkers, and access to walkable areas like parks and trails etc (which does little for the winter admittedly).
Principles for Reprioritization
- Add Priority 1 clearing along Casey St. through St Clare Ave, Campbell Ave, through Mundy Pond Rd to Columbus. This would provide a priority 1 route connecting two schools (St Therea's and District) to the greater Priority 1 network, and provide access for high density areas with walking commuters, and an east-west route from downtown in between Freshwater Rd and LeMarchant Rd.
- Prioritize clearing of routes to Bus Stops in high pedestrian areas, e.g. Elizabeth Ave. south of Memorial's main campus - the site of a fatal accident in winter 2020
- Connectivity & Crosswalks. Pedestrians shouldn't have to flip flop sides without good reason. It's likely better to have a single side cleared more consistently, than worry about double sided clearing. Flip flops should only occur if there's an obstruction, and they should occur at clearly identified crosswalks or intersections, not in the middle of a major street (e.g. Pennywell Rd.)
- Columbus Dr. should likely be Priority 2 if the volume of walkers doesn't match other areas, like those noted above. Needs to be assessed fully. Perhaps the same for the Logy Bay Rd. north of Newfoundland Dr.
- Mayor Ave. from Empire to Freshwater - should be Priority 1 or Priority 2 to add a major link with more population than the Newtown Road route, which could go to Priority 3.
Unnecessary Double Sides?Remove double sided clearing on mainly residential streets, and reprioritize the workload accordingly:
- Rodney St.
- Newtown Rd.
- Strawberry Marsh Rd.
- Elizabeth Ave from Torbay Rd. to Rumboldt Place
- Vinnicombe St.