The City of Ottawa owns about 2,000 kilometres of sidewalk, and some pedestrians are filing lawsuits after slipping and falling on built-up ice and snow so far this season.
Since Monday's rain and flash freeze, the city says it has plowed and sanded all of the sidewalks it owns four times.
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But small sidewalk plows haven't been able to cut through the thick layer of ice that's built up, and salt isn't effective in melting ice in temperatures below about -18 C or so.
"The sidewalk machines don't have a lot of downward pressure, not like a road plow, so you can't really rip up the ice like you could with a road plow. So the best you can do is provide traction for people and then wait for the warmer weather, and that's coming this weekend," said Kevin Wylie, the city's road maintenance manager.
"So once the weather gets a little warmer we'll start to see that ice break up a bit, we'll get back out with our plows, and we'll get that ice off of there."
Document scene, injuries, personal injury lawyers say
So far this season, from Nov. 15 to Jan. 9, three people have filed lawsuits against the city for slipping and falling on icy sidewalks. Last season (Nov. 15, 2012, to April 15, 2013), 39 people filed lawsuits.
Of the approximately 2,000 claims that are filed against the city per year, only a small percentage of them are from falling on icy sidewalks.
All property owners, including the city, are responsible for maintaining sidewalks.
"As a practical matter it means that some inspection, some routine maintenance, and where applicable, salt and sand need to be applied to make sure that accumulations of ice and snow don't pose an undue risk of danger, of injury," said Ottawa personal injury lawyer Paul Auerbach.
One of his clients, Chantal Babuik, slipped on ice while leaving a corner store a year ago and still hasn't returned to work. She is now suing the store owner.
"My life has changed dramatically. I depend more on my spouse ... I was able to go to the gym, I was pretty active, I loved gardening in the summer, and this has just [stalled me]," Babuik said.
Personal injury lawyers advise that if people do experience a bad fall, they should take a picture of where it happened and document any injuries, even if they appear minor at the time, as well as documenting medical appointments.