Survey asks Winnipeggers to rate winter sidewalks

A new survey asks pedestrians how safe they feel walking on Winnipeg streets and sidewalks in the winter.
A new survey asks Winnipeggers to rate their winter walks. Researches hope the data will lead to better snow clearing on sidewalks and active transportation trails in the city. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

A new survey asks pedestrians how safe they feel walking on Winnipeg streets and sidewalks in the winter.

The data is being gathered to help researchers make recommendations to policymakers on where the city could improve snow clearing. 

As more people turn to more sustainable forms of transportation, the city has to adapt which transportation routes it prioritizes for plowing and sanding, said Gina Sylvestre, one of the researchers leading the study. The assistant professor with the University of Winnipeg's geography department has studied winter sidewalk safety for about six years.

"We have an extreme winter here in Winnipeg, obviously. So it is difficult to keep things clean, but I think we need to look at this [issue] much more, as we have to look at alternative ways of moving beyond cars," said Sylvestre.

Sylvestre and co-researcher Nora Casson hope at least 2,000-5,000 Winnipeggers from all parts of the city take part in the study.

"We can make more conclusions about what is affecting our abilities or difficulties or barriers that we find on walkways," said Sylvestre.

Snow, ice, and slush hugely affect accessibility in Winnipeg, she said. In a recent interview with residents at Lion's Place on Portage Avenue, Sylvestre was startled to learn some older adults are trapped in their building nearly all winter, because sidewalks along the downtown street aren't safe for walking. 

"They are house-bound essentially for four or five months, because the sidewalks aren't being plowed adequately," she said.

"We need to inform the city that policy really does need to change."

In 2012 the City of Winnipeg helped launched a short-lived service called SureFoot that offered information about the condition of Winnipeg sidewalks. Sylvestre was its developer. SureFoot only lasted one winter due in part to negative public reaction.

That doesn't discourage Sylvestre, who said there are many passionate walkers in the city who want to see safer sidewalks. 

"With SureFoot stopping so quickly, it really just opened the doors that there was need for much more research in this area," she said.

The Winnipeg Winter Walkway Survey is now live. Residents are invited to complete the survey multiple times throughout the winter months.