Snowbank Removal!

When these signs go up, we know that our snowbanks are going to be removed.

When these signs go up, we know that our snowbanks are going to be removed.  I used to have one of these signs on my wall during university, I picked it up the first time I lived in Ottawa, in 1997.

Look how narrow the street gets after a few snowfalls.

Look how narrow the street gets after a few snowfalls.

I have a small obsession with the snowbanks in this town and the process by which, when they get too big, they are removed.  I think it’s because I have never lived in a place where snowbank removal was necessary on the same scale.  I grew up in a small town in Ontario, and we got a lot of snow, but I guess because it was a small town, the houses were farther apart and there was always lots of room for the snow to be plowed. I’m pretty sure they didn’t take the snowbanks away in that town.  In Waterloo, where I lived in University the city didn’t even plow the sidewalks, let along take the snow banks away, again, I don’t recall this ever being a problem.  In Vancouver, well, they didn’t even plow the streets, let along the sidewalks and no, there was obviously no need to remove snowbanks.  (you may (or may not) be surprised to know that it snows in Vancouver. I’m pretty sure it snowed at least once, if not twice, every year that I lived there… but if it lasted three days, that was a long time and most of the snow was left on the roads with the thought that the cars driving over it, would get rid of it if the rain didn’t).

then we moved to Ottawa, and more specifically, to downtown Ottawa.  It’s quite urban here, with the houses close together.  We live on a one way street and when it is plowed, the city only does one lane. The front yards are small, and most people don’t really have anywhere to put all the snow from their driveways, so it ends up on the road too, and so the snowbanks grow.  Before the banks were removed last night, we had to execute a 3 to 5 point turn just to get the car out of the driveway.

I kind of like the big snowbanks.  I find it amazing how high some of them can get.  It feels sort of cozy with the street made narrower than normal.  Our street is much wider than it needs to be, it’s a one way street with parking only on one side, but the street is about three lanes wide.  So in when the snowbanks come along, it’s made more narrow, and feels pretty cozy.

Often the snowbanks are removed in the middle of the night.  We hear the trucks at around 3 or 5 a.m.  but last night they came at 9:30 p.m. – so I could endulge my inner two year old boy and watch all the big trucks and snow ploughs and snow blowers coming down the street and taking away all the snow.  I took a whole lot of terrible photos on my ipod which I am going to share with you now!

After the big storm, the banks start to fill up the street again.

After the big storm, the banks start to fill up the street again.

Here comes the big snow plow, blowing the snow into a dump truck.

Here comes the big snow plow, blowing the snow into a dump truck.

Almost to our house.

Almost to our house.

Here's before....

Here’s before….

... and here's after.

… and here’s after.

And the dump truck rumbles down the street.

And the dump truck rumbles down the street.

One side done, and the other side getting prepped.

One side done, and the other side getting prepped.

Where does it all go?

Where does it all go? – to a snow dump, of course.

The street is wide again.

The street is wide again.

It took three passes on the other side of the street to get all of the snow picked up and carted away.  Last year we had an easy winter, so the banks only got removed once, this year it was twice for our street, and a few more times for the more major routes in the city.  Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the snow removal in this city.  I can’t imagine what a job it is to coordinate it for the entire city.  When it snows, everyone wants their street done first. I don’t really mind if our street is not the first priority – I know that within a day it will be done.

Here’s what the city has to say about snow banks: Snow banks: Snow banks are removed or reduced in size when they begin to restrict sightlines, travel widths, and pedestrian and cycling traffic; to relieve trapped water on the road or sidewalk; and to create storage space for future snowfalls. Banks that restrict sightlines at intersections and at pedestrian, school and railway crossings are removed within 24 hours after crews are made aware of the situation. If the number of locations exceeds available resources, they will be addressed on a priority basis. When dealing with snow banks, crews push back, blow or place the snow within boulevards, which are part of the city’s road allowance. This is the most economical method, while snow removal and haulage is costly and time-consuming.  http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/transportation-and-parking/road-and-sidewalk-maintenance/snow-removal-and-disposal

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2 thoughts on “Snowbank Removal!

  1. I expect the reason you thought that the Waterloo non-clearing of sidewalks was “not a problem” is that you never had to negotiate around that town with a baby stroller…or cane, wheelchair, or walker. The clearing of sidewalks in Toronto (where we get maybe the same-ish amount of snow as Waterloo?) can be sporadic and a lot of it depends on people doing their own sidewalks. At least once this winter we just left the stroller at home and did a combo carry/let him walk to daycare because it was obvious that our little umbroller (only stroller small enough to be allowed to leave it at daycare all day) would never make it through the snow. Good thing it isn’t that far away.

    • Yup- you are probably right about that… and that’s why we got a warning from the city in Waterloo when we neglected to shovel in time. As self-centred students we had no idea how important it was to get it done on time. Negotiating the world with a stroller gives a whole new appreciation of what people with other mobility issues (wheelchairs, etc.) have to face every day, from snowbanks to trying to find elevators – it can be pretty frustrating. We are lucky that we don’t HAVE to go out on any given day if the weather is bad… but others don’t have that choice (thus your walk/carry routine to the daycare!).

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