Yes, it IS that bad – snow shoveling redux

Just about anything anyone can talk about now is the crazy snowfall that we’ve ad in the lower mainland this holiday season. The way it usually goes is this: Native BC’r: Wow – isn’t this crazy? We NEVER get snow here! And if we do, it usually melts!advertisement Former Ontarioan: Are you kidding? This isn’tRead More

Just about anything anyone can talk about now is the crazy snowfall that we’ve ad in the lower mainland this holiday season. The way it usually goes is this:

Native BC’r: Wow – isn’t this crazy? We NEVER get snow here! And if we do, it usually melts!

Former Ontarioan: Are you kidding? This isn’t snow. It’s nothing! You should see what we had back home! And hey at least we get more sun this way…
At this point I’m tired of talking about it – except for the fact that a holiday with about 14 solid days involving snow, wind and/or a heavy snowfall, I can’t believe that people still haven’t gotten the message: Shovelling your walk is NOT just about you.

Both our T2F maven Briana and our newest contributor Jenhave written about the snow removal issue that our recent weather has highlighted, as have several others. I was in full agreement with Jen and felt no need to add until I came face-to-pavement with the issue the other day. (An important thing to note at this point is that I use a wheelchair full-time.)

On December 27th I spent a few hours at Starbucks working on my thesis. The Starbucks on Columbia and 6th in New West, like most of the city, was still under the thick – and at that point, icy – blanket of snow covering roofs, walks and streets. At 3:45 my dad stopped by to ask if I needed a lift home (as my car was buried in snow on an unplowed side-street) and we agreed that since none of the stores on that block had shoveled their sidewalks (including starbucks) and snow had brought down an awning next door, I’d have to find my way to a quieter sidestreet in order to get into the car.

Dad left to get the car and I packed up and followed him a few minutes later. The store had cleared the walk (or the customers had with their feet) immediately in front of the door, not even as far as the chairs and tables reach in the summertime. I struggled to get over the initial edge of deep, slushy snow and managed to get about 2 feet in the direction I wanted, right in front of the fogged-up western window of the starbucks. I got stuck, and did my standard rock-back-and-forth trick – which also didn’t work. Nobody was in sight, and the window was too fogged up to flag someone in the store.

I took one more push to get me out of the rut and in one fell swoop, my wheels spun in the rut and my chair – through some force of momentum I have yet to investigate – flipped over. Ass over teakettle, as they say. I was really winded and lay there on my back in the snow realizing ironically that my head had landed in the only bit of sidewalk that wasn’t still covered in a cushion of slushy snow, and now I’d have a bump to show for it

I lay there for a bit, and then decided I had to find some help to get up. I swung myself over the edge of my overturned chair and sat up, trying to right my chair but getting stuck (again) in the icy slush. It figured that the only 5 minutes of the whole year in which nobody passed by that high-traffic corner was the day that I was in a heap in the snow! Just as I yelled for my dad who was emerging from the car down the street, a nice bystander about my age came out of the starbucks with her purchase and asked if I needed any help. With their help I popped myself back up into the chair and got a push out of the rut.

Normally, I’d go inside and let the staff now and ask for them to shovel immediately, but because we were off to a Christmas party, there was no time to do so. So the next day, I called the Starbucks and asked for the manager. I spoke at that point to one of the two Assistant Managers as there was no current manager at that location. The AM was polite, but unhelpful. I told her about my incident and how I hit my head on the sidewalk and asked if the snow had been removed. She acknowledged that it still wasn’t shoveled as they didn’t have anyone to do it. She apologized for the situation but made no apology to me nor an effort to make up for it or inquire as to whether I was okay.

In the end, it brought home just how important shoveling the sidewalk is – it’s not just about you, and the safety for your family. It’s about the safety of the people who traverse your little bit of the earth every day – people who, in turn, keep up their walks to keep you safe too. This little snowmageddon “golden rule” applies especially in the context of a business – what an incredibly negative message this sends when you care more about your inability to find someone to clear the (at this point, 5 day old) snow on your sidewalk than you do about the safety of your customers. It is simply not enough to say that it’s not in your job description or you physically can’t do it yourself (especially when you can pay someone to do it for you) when we are all aware of how dangerous the icy, post-snow accumulation can be. Tenancy is especially no excuse – according to the city, snow removal is the responsibility of landholders AND leaseholders.

PostScript: I have sent an e-mail to City Hall requesting that a Bylaw enforcement officer visit the Starbucks at Columbia and 6th. I encourage everyone to prompt their neighbours and shopowners to look after their sidewalk snow… and to do your part to look after your own little bit too!

Finally – a little tidbit from our friend at CityCaucus and his recent media appearance on CBC (also on CKNW radio):

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Jocelyn Tomkinson

Jocelyn Tomkinson is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.


  1. i completely understand your plight. there are three people in my family in wheelchairs, in two separate households. the irony of the snowfall is that both their houses have the sidewalks cleared along the street but then there is nowhere to go because nobody else has cleared the snow off the sidewalks in front of their houses leaving my mom and dad blocked in their house (not necessarily healthy for either of them!).

    on another note, i was battling the city plows all night long trying to keep the sidewalk clear in front of my house because, much to my chagrin, as they plowed the street they would push it up off the street and bury my just-dug out sidewalk. argh!!

  2. Maybe this will help those with special needs during this weather.(and beyond) The Village Coffee Lounge 705 12th Street has maintained clear dry sidewalks the full length of the block since the first snow flake fell. It has a bus stop directly in front which has also been kept clear by management. The shop serves the best coffee in New West along with fine snacks and other beverages. It has a special needs washroom and free wireless internet. Drop in, they will surely thank you for Bea’n there.

  3. Good for you on giving it to that coffee tyrant that doesn't care about customers safety only profits from their addicted patrons. When you received less then what you expected from the AM you should have escalated your complaint, and if not to the store manager to the regional manager.

    I wouldn't stop until someones eyes watered.


  4. Norm,
    I did, in fact, complain to Starbucks through their website (the only posted avenue for customer concerns), and received only a standard form letter in response. At that point, I figured that they weren't going to pay me for this unsolicited business-improvement feedback I was giving them, so I declined to continue it further. It's hard to explain how completely impassable the roads were that Christmas, and it just became irrelevant as the snow melted and went away. Hard to get a head office flunkie to pay attention to something when the incident is past tense.

  5. This is a reply to Jocelyn

    I'm sure the guy in IT who processes Starbuck's complaints has a nice program to insert "Your Name Here" in their standard form letter responses that they must receive by the hundreds daily.

    A formal letter of wroth is what should have been issued to both the city bylaws and coffee tyrant .
    I remember that winter, and several others where roads and sidewalk where totally glazed and impassable by even able bodied folk or automobiles.

    At least you did somthing, most would do nothing, and maybe a senior citizen was saved the agony of a broken hip or worse.


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