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Sidewalks: Sheila Pike/Dennis O'Keefe

This was sent via email to St. John's City Council and news representatives.

My Name is Sheila Pike.

I want to express my disappointment in the city council for its lack of endeavour in clearing snow on sidewalks in this city.

I don't have a car, I don't have my licence. I live in a city, so I shouldn't need either.

It's the sidewalks. In the winter, I am terrified to leave my apartment. Last year, there were three times I fell off the piled-up sidewalks and into the street. The only reason I'm still here, uninjured, is because I got lucky, there were no cars driving by at those moments. My significant other has not been so lucky, he's actually had to roll across the tops of a few cars. We have to walk on the roads usually, or risk death. There are times the traffic gets so aggressive that you literally have to jump up on the snowbank that covers our sidewalks. Sometimes those piles are strong enough to hold us, other times they aren't, and you fall back into the street. When winter comes, we leave the house very little (we both work from home now). Sometimes you have to, to get to a doctor's office, or a grocery store. On days where the snow piles have gotten really bad, if it happens to be during a busy-traffic part of the day, we call a cab. Trying to get to a bus stop and then wait for a bus under these conditions is just too dangerous.

I just watched the NTV news and I agree with the Canada Post. The sidewalks are disgraceful and dangerous. If it's gotten this bad, why is nothing done? Even if cost saving is a partial motivator, why aren't you more concerned with your voters safety? I challenge you to get out and walk the paths these people have to on a daily basis! Do it the day after a snowstorm. A good job is so hard to come by these days, people WILL and ARE ignoring safety concerns just to keep/get a job. The onus on the employer to provide a safe work environment ... not on an employee's willingness to work in an unsafe environment. Shame on you, Mr Mayor! Comments like those you made on the news tonight only encourage people to work through unsafe conditions. What about employee safety? Is it really that big of a deal to have to walk to a secure box to get your mail? I like the idea that my mail will be more secure, and so will my mailman. Any loss in jobs would be detrimental. Is the loss of jobs acceptable, given the circumstances? I think so.

The only places where I see cleared sidewalks are in areas of expensive houses or areas with just businesses. When I walk, I walk from Higgins Line, Nfld. Drive, and Torbay Rd. On this path, it is common to see women with little children dodging cars to try to get to a bus station ... to see teenagers hugging the side of the road, trying to get as close to sidewalks as possible ... to see elderly people struggling to get to the doctor's office...

I was shocked and appalled to see THIS reaction from our MAYOR, the man who should be protecting the BEST interests of St John's on the news. Where is your compassion for your fellow man?

The postmen/postwomen aren't the only people who have to walk these sidewalks ... please think on that ...

Please clear our sidewalks. I think that if a street is busy enough to require stoplights, it is busy enough to need cleared sidewalks. This isn't about money, or jobs. This is an appeal for public safety.

There are still other employees that HAVE to walk our sidewalks to read metres and deliver newspapers, people who need to get to the bus stop, to get to the doctor, to get to school. There are people who walk an hour twice a day, just to get to work. These are the people who need your support.

Please figure this out before a tragedy happens.

Sheila M Pike

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe later sent this response.

Hi Sheila

Thank you for your email. I appreciate your sentiments and your opinion on this issue. I am a walker. I walk our streets every day, sometimes twice a day, each day of the year. The weather does not stop me. Snow, rain, sleet or sun, I am on the streets. I do it because I enjoy it and because it is healthy. So, I understand your feelings. At present we clean 132 kilometers of sidewalk in the city. Given time between storms and given half a chance our crews do even more. Not only do we clean them but we salt them also. I doubt we will ever be able to clean every single sidewalk in the city and keep the clean given our winter conditions. But we try to do as much as we can within our capacity to keep as many sidewalks as possible clean.

The present situation with Canada Post is not about sidewalks. Even the mail carriers and their union agree with the city that this move by Canada Post is not about clearing sidewalks but is about their program to discontinue door to door delivery using sidewalks as the excuse. If those boxes go in, they will never go out, door to door mail delivery will be a thing of the past. It is really paradoxical for them to say that the sidewalks are to dangerous for people so our solution is to force people out on the streets to get their mail. Thank God for my Telegram carrier, he/she manages to get me my paper day in and day out without a problem. Even the carriers agree that the city is doing all it can to clean as many sidewalks as possible. One has to wonder why it is St. John's? There is not a city or town in Newfoundland and Labrador that cleans all of its sidewalks. Do they get less snow? Are they in any better condition. No! Again, why St. John's first. I guess if they get away with it here, then the others will follow. Count on it.

Sheila, rest assured that I as Mayor and the city will continue to improve its sidewalk snowclearing. In this current Budget we have hired six new operators and purchased three additional sidewalk snow plows so that we can do more sidewalks. What we cannot do is allow Canada Post to continue the policy of eliminating door to door mail delivery disadvantaging many including seniors and those with disabilities. Again, my thanks for your email

Dennis O'Keefe