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Mobility challenged Vancouverites struggle with icy aftermath of Tuesday snow

Wet snow on Tuesday gave way to rain in the afternoon, but temperatures dropped overnight, resulting in icy streets and sidewalks on Wednesday, particularly in places that hadn't been cleared of snow on Tuesday.

Failure to clear snow is hazardous to those with walkers, wheelchairs and more, say advocates

A motorized wheelchair user navigates a snow-covered walkway in downtown Vancouver. Two representatives from the City of Vancouver say failure to clear snow in a timely manner puts those with mobility issues at risk. (David Horemans/CBC)

The beauty of Vancouver's first major snowfall of the season has been well documented on social media — but the ensuing cold snap is proving treacherous for Vancouverites with mobility issues.

Wet snow on Tuesday gave way to rain in the afternoon, but temperatures dropped overnight, resulting in icy streets and sidewalks on Wednesday, particularly in places that hadn't been cleared of snow on Tuesday.

Colleen McGuinness, the chair of the City of Vancouver's seniors advisory committee, says failure to clear that snow in a timely manner has led to sidewalks and curb cuts that are almost impassable for some seniors and other people with mobility challenges.

"Nobody wants to own those, and yet, they're absolutely vital," McGuinness said.

"If they aren't cleared, it just makes it impossible for someone like myself to get out, even — let alone into a store."

Medical appointments a problem

McGuinness said seniors are at particular risk and may risk unsafe travel, if they have a medical appointment, for example.

"If you've been on a wait list for a medical appointment, you really are going to do everything in your power to get there," she said.

Mary-Jo Fetterly, with the city's persons with disabilities advisory committee, is quadriplegic and uses both a wheelchair and a guide dog to get around. She says she's had serious problems with iced-over curb cuts sometimes leaving her stuck in the street.

"I'm kind of stuck in traffic in that situation, which, of course, is very dangerous," she said.

Fetterly said the icy conditions also make it difficult to get to an off-leash area to exercise her guide dog.

Vancouver bylaws require residents to clear their sidewalks by 10 a.m. the morning following a snowfall or face a fine of up to $2,000.

Those unable to clear their own snow can call 311 and ask for the city's Snow Angel program.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast.