People with disabilities and seniors are often forced to stay indoors or risk injury when they need to use the sidewalks. Photo: Parker Townes.
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ottawa’s New ice-breaking equipment for sidewalks is a long overdue update

More than just an inconvenience and hazard for the able-bodied, Ottawa’s constantly icy sidewalks due to inadequate city snow removal present huge barriers to everyday routine for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Ottawa citizens have long grappled with these outrageously icy sidewalks — there’s even a thread in the city’s subreddit where several residents recommend buying spiked shoe covers to provide traction on the ice, and share pointers for the best walking stances to minimize the risk of falling. Other residents suggest avoiding the sidewalks altogether and walking on the surrounding snow, or even the roadways instead.

According to Somerset ward Councillor Catherine McKenney, the city will be rolling out new machines next year that promise to break up the ice on its sidewalks much more efficiently. The machines are currently being tested, and will be operating for six months a year for the next three years.

This move is long overdue, and Ottawa must update their ice and snow removal machines in a more timely way in future. After all, we aren’t just talking about a small inconvenience.

While a lack of snow removal is indeed dangerous for even the most able-bodied of people, it becomes especially troubling when taking into account the number of senior citizens that call the city home.

According to Ottawa’s 2016 census, over 15 per cent of the city’s population was over 65 years of age, and that number is projected to rise over the coming years, reaching an estimated 16.1-16.7 per cent by the year 2021 and 19.6-21.1 per cent by the year 2031. With this aging population comes a higher likeliness of ice-related injuries, especially considering the illnesses that often accompany old age, such as osteoporosis and arthritis — both of which can turn a simple fall into a far deadlier accident.

The snow also makes it difficult for citizens with physical disabilities or mobility issues, such as those in wheelchairs, to go about their everyday lives. Like seniors, these citizens often cannot employ alternative strategies, such as climbing through snow banks or equipping shoe spikes, when going out. Instead, they are forced to either stay indoors or risk injury when they need to use the sidewalks.

In a city where over 32,000 citizens list walking as their main mode of transportation, Ottawa’s inability to clear sidewalks in a timely and efficient manner is insensitive to the realities of those with disabilities or reduced mobility.