Nfld. & Labrador

Winter walking in downtown St. John's like conquering a ski hill, says graphic designer

Ski map illustrates the sketchy state of some city sidewalks

Just subtract your skis and add some traffic

There's a lot of double black diamonds to contend with on the streets of St. John's, according to this map designed by Sophie Harrington. (Submitted by Sophie Harrington)
Any pedestrian forced to trek the streets of downtown St. John's during winter is likely familiar with this terrifying sensation. 

You're standing on the precipice of a massive hill and looking downwards, wondering if the sidewalks have been salted or even cleared at all. 

Walking down steep hills, like the one seen here on Garrison Hill in St. John's, can be scary in the winter. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

The traffic races by, and you take a step back to try to avoid both the oncoming traffic and the rain, snow, drizzle and fog headed your way.

The aim of the game is to make it to where you need to go unscathed, and if this feeling reminds you a little bit of being on the ski hill at Marble Mountain, you're not alone.

Sophie Harrington often walks to work, but earlier this week the graphic designer had enough of the city's slippery slopes, and decided to do something about it.

She made a map based on rating systems used to let skiers know the difficulty of getting down different hills. 

Harrington's map warns pedestrians of the asphalt double black diamonds in the city. 

"Black would be considered an expert, and a double black diamond would be the hardest of the hard," she said. "Don't go down that unless you've skied lots of times before."

Prescott Street, for instance, meets that criterion.

Harrington says Prescott Street earned a 'double black diamond' on her ski map of St. John's. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"Last week, end of the week … none of the sidewalks were really cleared," she said. "I was walking in the road, standing in the middle of Rawlins Cross and just trying to find, you know ...  a safe way to get to work.

Harder for those with mobility issues

Other city streets, like Kings Road, Cathedral Street, Bannerman Street, and Church Hill also qualify.

The state of the roads affects a wide range of people, said Harrington.

"It impacts those that face mobility issues, those that are waiting at snow-covered bus stops, those that don't have a car for backup, those that are walking longer distances on major roads as well," she said.

A woman walks her dog down Barters Hill. In the winter, it's not uncommon to see busy streets with sidewalks cleared on only one side of the road. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

The map received hundreds of shares on Twitter, and Harrington hopes the attention will make the city look at the issue a little closer.

"This isn't a new issue, but I think satire can really play an important role in bringing issues to life or making people aware of them in new and different ways," said Harrington. "I think hopefully this incites a discussion of how we can learn to be better and also accept that we should be better."

Pedestrians looking to walk across this long crosswalk have to walk around a big mound of snow in the middle. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

In an email to CBC News, Ward 4 Coun. Ian Froude said the city's snow clearing crews have been working steadily.

"We have made improvements to our operations to better use existing resources, and in the 2019 budget, we invested an additional $150,000 in sidewalk snow clearing," he wrote.

The heavy snowfall this past week has made it a challenge to remove some of the snow, and crews are continuing to work, he added. 

An up-to-date guide to the city's snow removal plans for downtown is available here.

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About the Author

Andrew Sampson is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.