Calgary

Hold the salt: Why sand, gravel or even cat litter can be better for slippery sidewalks

Salt on sidewalks doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do when it’s as cold as it’s been recently. That’s the word from a Calgary roads department spokesperson.

'When the temperature goes below –10 C, salt becomes a lot less effective'

Calgary recommends sand, gravel or even cat litter on sidewalks when it's really cold, because salt doesn't melt snow at low temperatures. (David Bell/CBC)

Salt on sidewalks doesn't do what we want it do when it's as cold as it's been recently.

That's the word from a Calgary roads department spokesperson.

"When the temperature goes below –10 C, salt becomes a lot less effective," Chris McGeachy told CBC News.

"Our recommendation is after you shovel your sidewalk, is to lay down an abrasive. This can include sand, gravel or even cat litter."

Sidewalk salt is used to melt snow, but it can't do that when it's really cold.

The city even offers a sand-gravel mixture for free at locations around the city, but it's first come, first served.

Keep shovelling

McGeachy says that despite this cold snap the city is experiencing, it's best to try to stay on top of shovelling, too.

"Even though it is so cold, it's still a good idea to shovel your sidewalk. If you don't shovel it, as people walk over it, it becomes hard-packed. When it warms up, it becomes polished ice."

Property owners are responsible for clearing their sidewalks within 24 hours after the end of a snowfall or face fines of up to $750, he says.

"We'd like to remind people to try and be safe out there. If you see ice on a sidewalk, try and walk like a penguin."

With files from Jenny Howe

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