Joanne reenacts her fall on a slippery sidewalk. Doug Rygalo
Lots of people walk on our sidewalks in our neighbourhood. This past couple of months have been a challenge to residents. Our recent freeze-thaw cycles have created a lot of icy sidewalks, alleys, and roads. We are the caretakers of whatever stretch of concrete is out front of our houses. For more information go to the City of Edmonton website (edmonton.ca) – search Sidewalks and Snow.
If we leave even a bit of snow on our walks and the sun melts it, it will freeze to a frozen puddle by morning. Some things can help and they are discussed below. Some are free to residents, while other products can be purchased, but some are expensive. Each is developed to help us with a certain weather conditions.
Snow boots with metal cleats to prevent slipping: These help a lot, but on very hard ice when it’s very cold they still don’t keep a person from falling. I had boots with cleats on when I fell last month. Rubber ones are available that you slip over your normal boots – every little bit helps.
Sweeping snow: This works fine just after a light snowfall. But to be most effective, the broom has to have stiff bristles, and it doesn’t get all of the fallen loose snow.
Shovelling new snow: Deep snow is best shovelled onto your property – not onto the road. But if you have used salt on your walks, the salt still in the snow could damage your plants and lawn.
Sand and gravel: The City of Edmonton provides a free mixed box of sand and small gravel outside each participating Community League offices. Residents have to bring the containers and haul them home. This works well although water will cover the sand, while the gravel helps a bit longer. In our area, there is a sand dispensing station on 105 Avenue, north side, just east of 95 Street (by the City Central Engineering Yards.)
Winter salt or chemical mixes to buy: There are many types of these to purchase, and they have salt or different chemicals in them. You have to read the labels to figure out which is best for your sidewalk’s condition. Some are designed to be safe for pets, or for lawns and plants, but these are more expensive than the pure salt mixes. In desperate times I have sprinkled table salt on my sidewalk until I could get the good stuff. However, if you have new concrete salt will harm it, so you have to get a special mix.
Snow shovels: Some people get “snow pushers” which cannot lift the snow – they just push it into piles. But they work for that purpose. If you need to lift the snow, you need a different kind of shovel – a more curved snow shovel which can lift a bunch of snow which you can dump or throw into a pile away from the sidewalk.
Blowing snow: Some people have blowers that blow the fresh snow off the sidewalk. But this is only partially effective as any footprints in the new snow remain, and then they turn to ice later. Most of these blowers also make a high-pitched whine which can be heard for blocks.
There is a lot to know about moving snow before you can truly understand the snow and the weather we get here in Alberta. With a bit of knowledge, and a will to learn, you can use what you know to keep the sidewalks clear and safe. Of course, to add to the challenge, every winter is different! Those of us who walk around our neighbourhoods will thank you generously, as we walk safely and with gratitude for your efforts.