British Columbia

B.C.'s 4th biggest municipality doesn't require most home owners to shovel their sidewalks

The City of Richmond says individual homeowners don't have to shovel, because some won't have the "physical or financial capability to clear sidewalks."

But after month-long cold snap, City of Richmond will review bylaw

There's no bylaw in Richmond requiring citizens to shovel their sidewalks if they live in a single-detached home. (Shutterstock)

After a month of freezing temperatures and icy roads and sidewalks, tensions throughout B.C.'s South Coast are running high.

But in Richmond, the main cause of annoyance seems to come not from a lack of plows or sand, but a bylaw.

"This is such a weird bylaw that's probably left over from when Richmond was a farming community, I'm guessing," says resident Arnold Cheng.

On New Year's Eve, when the snow turned to slush, Cheng was outside his Richmond townhouse shovelling.

He uses a wheelchair, but that didn't stop him from doing his part to clear the sidewalk.

So he's frustrated by the many neighbours on his block who still haven't cleared their walks — and with the fact that the City of Richmond doesn't require owners of single-family homes to do it.

"It looks like something that has been around for a while but never got changed," he said. 

Cheng says he now has to drive to Vancouver to get his errands done, because it's faster than trying to traverse local sidewalks. 

Judging by comments on social media, he's not the only Richmond resident annoyed with the lack of cleared walkways.

Richmond's consolidated traffic bylaw, which appears to have been last amended in 1992, only requires the owners of commercial, industrial and multi-family dwellings to remove snow and ice from sidewalks. 

That exempts single-detached homes and row houses, which comprise close to 60 per cent of the city's housing units. 

Bylaw to be reviewed

"Yes, [the] bylaw only applies to commercial and multi-family property," said City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend in a statement.

"Single-family homes are exempt as the feeling is many individual homeowners, particularly seniors, may not have physical or financial capability to clear sidewalks so it would be difficult for them to comply."

But Cheng believe that sympathy isn't warranted for the bulk of people not shovelling their sidewalks.

"I don't want to be mean about this but I'm going to be mean," he said.

"I think a lot of them are very lazy, and they don't seem to want to take care of it. I'm pretty sure some don't own shovels, which is very mind-boggling to me. And then there are some who just don't care."

However, Townsend says the bylaw will now be reviewed.

"We are always reviewing bylaws to see if improvements are needed and will be taking a look at this bylaw but it's too early to say what if any changes might occur."

With files from Lisa Johnson