Pedestrians still dealing with icy sidewalks in Ottawa

The City of Ottawa owns about 2,000 kilometres of sidewalk, and some pedestrians are filing lawsuits after slipping and falling on built-up ice and snow so far this season.

More than four days after Monday's rain and flash freeze, Ottawans are coping with sidewalks coated in ice

Slipping claims against city

9 years ago
Duration 2:15
Some people are filing lawsuits against the City of Ottawa after slipping and falling on sidewalks.

The City of Ottawa owns about 2,000 kilometres of sidewalk, and some pedestrians are filing lawsuits after slipping and falling on built-up ice and snow so far this season. 

Since Monday's rain and flash freeze, the city says it has plowed and sanded all of the sidewalks it owns four times.

Kevin Wylie, the city's manager of road maintenance, says city crews have plowed and sanded the city's sidewalks four times since Monday's rain and flash freeze. (CBC)

But small sidewalk plows haven't been able to cut through the thick layer of ice that's built up, and salt isn't effective in melting ice in temperatures below about -18 C or so.

"The sidewalk machines don't have a lot of downward pressure, not like a road plow, so you can't really rip up the ice like you could with a road plow. So the best you can do is provide traction for people and then wait for the warmer weather, and that's coming this weekend," said Kevin Wylie, the city's road maintenance manager.

"So once the weather gets a little warmer we'll start to see that ice break up a bit, we'll get back out with our plows, and we'll get that ice off of there."

Document scene, injuries, personal injury lawyers say

So far this season, from Nov. 15 to Jan. 9, three people have filed lawsuits against the city for slipping and falling on icy sidewalks. Last season (Nov. 15, 2012, to April 15, 2013), 39 people filed lawsuits.

Of the approximately 2,000 claims that are filed against the city per year, only a small percentage of them are from falling on icy sidewalks.

All property owners, including the city, are responsible for maintaining sidewalks.

Chantal Babuik is suing a convenience store owner after falling outside of the store last year. (CBC)
"As a practical matter it means that some inspection, some routine maintenance, and where applicable, salt and sand need to be applied to make sure that accumulations of ice and snow don't pose an undue risk of danger, of injury," said Ottawa personal injury lawyer Paul Auerbach.

One of his clients, Chantal Babuik, slipped on ice while leaving a corner store a year ago and still hasn't returned to work. She is now suing the store owner.

"My life has changed dramatically. I depend more on my spouse ... I was able to go to the gym, I was pretty active, I loved gardening in the summer, and this has just [stalled me]," Babuik said.

Personal injury lawyers advise that if people do experience a bad fall, they should take a picture of where it happened and document any injuries, even if they appear minor at the time, as well as documenting medical appointments.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?