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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