Sunday, December 30, 2007

wild times

The Spencer Gorge Wilderness area in Dundas is a place of stunning beauty. We took the Bruce Trail in a circuit to take in the "Dundas Peak" and two waterfalls, Tews and Websters.

The going was tough in places due to slippery (i.e. icy) conditions at certain points along the trail, but we made it the whole way without incident and were glad for the effort.

The photo (above) is the valley from the western end of the gorge looking east from a vantage point between the Tews and Webster's falls.

Check out the short slide-show (below) for more pics.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

sidewalk media meltdown

The local weekly in town does a great job of covering the local scene, but I was a bit surprised and very pleased to see them pick up on the sidewalk snow clearing issue. It will remain up to residents to push the city for improved service. Good job Craig!

It's snow joke when sidewalks and roadways aren't clear

Craig Campbell (Dundas Star News) Published on Dec 28, 2007

A lack of sidewalk clearing after major snowfalls marginalizes and effectively strands the elderly, people with young children and other pedestrians, according to a local blogger.

Dundas Walks, a website kept by local resident Randy Kay, focuses on Dundas' trails and pathways for walkers and cyclists.

During the month of December, the blog has profiled issues with clearing snow off local sidewalks, including homes and downtown businesses, and the effect its having on local pedestrians. Mr. Kay raised the topic just before local resident Marty Zuliniak slipped and fell on ice in front of the Dundas post office on King Street West. Mr. Kay had noted sidewalks around the historic building hadn't been cleared on Dec. 3.

The current city policy is only to clear sidewalks abutting municipal property and relying on private property owners to clear the city-owned sidewalks next to them.

Though municipalities are legally responsible for clearing all sidewalks, they typically create bylaws that ask for residents to help out.

City staff do not clear or salt walkways or sidewalks between city-owned properties.

"This approach irks," Mr. Kay wrote on his blog, regarding the lack of a continuous sidewalk clearing route.

"Especially since it does nothing to encourage - indeed it marginalizes - people who don't use a motor vehicle: the kind of person the city is supposed to be encouraging, according to their planning documents."

Top priority for Hamilton snow clearing is main arterial roads, which city policy states must be clear within four hours of a snowfall ending.

Priority two roads, including accesses to main roads, are to be cleared within eight hours. Finally, residential local roads must be cleared within 24 hours.

Sidewalks are included in the third priority of snow removal, and are to be cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall.

Bill Weaver, acting director of road operations and maintenance, said crews were delayed in their snow clearing efforts on Sunday, Dec. 16 because of the snow's depth, equipment breakdowns and a lack of staff available on weekends.

"This last storm was particularly hard," Mr. Weaver said.

Dundas resident Brian Lane fell into another snow-clearing problem during and after a recent Sunday storm.

Clearing a 400-foot stretch of sidewalk next to a vacant lot he owns proved to be a challenge when plows dumped three-foot high piles of ice and snow several times.

Mr. Lane figures he cleared that stretch of sidewalk three times in one day for the City of Hamilton.

"It was sort of silly," he said. "But I feel obligated to clear it."

He wondered if the city could do more to help keep sidewalks clear after residents voluntarily shovel for the greater good.

Mr. Lane noticed sidewalks in the area of University Plaza had not been cleared shortly after a recent snowfall. And some pedestrians, as Mr. Kay also found, chose to walk on busy roadways rather than take their chances on the snowy or slippery sidewalks.

"It's an extreme danger," Mr. Lane said of people walking on roads after snowstorms.

Bylaw enforcement supervisor Paola Pianegonda said there had been 33 complaints to her office about uncleared sidewalks in the past three months. That compares to 40 such complaints over the entire seven-month snow season last year. But Ms. Pianegonda pointed out how difficult it is to compare one season to another.

"It's different every year. It depends on the snowfall," she said.

The city's bylaw carries fines up to $2,000 for failing to remove snow from its sidewalks. But the city will normally give at least one warning before taking action. Ontario courts have recognized a municipality's right in creating such bylaws, but consistently find the municipal act makes cities liable for their sidewalks - not adjacent private property owners.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Happy holidays!

I hope you make time to enjoy some of the trails in Dundas with your time off.
[photo: my youngest daughter and I take in the fresh snowfall on the spring creek trail]

Best wishes!

Monday, December 17, 2007

all downhill

Trails changing with the weather bring out different kind of users: today it was cross-country skiiers and the three of us on crazy-carpets sliding down a hill on the Spring Creek trail in Dundas Valley. We initially set out to the Conservation Area hill, but before we got that far we found a nice hill with a bend in it, which, with the deep fresh snow, made it feel like a luge track after a couple of runs.

So while sidewalk clearing remains an issue needing civic attention, the trails in the woods please no matter the weather!
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clear conscience?

a preventable tragedy?

'Good Samaritan' dies shovelling

The Hamilton Spectator

(Dec 17, 2007)

A retired steelworker died of an apparent heart attack yesterday while shovelling the sidewalk of his snow-clogged East Hamilton street.

Wayne Hastings, 60, collapsed near his Cambridge Avenue home and had no vital signs when paramedics arrived about 2:40 p.m.

Emergency Medical Services co-ordinator John Verbeek said his death was the only local tragedy associated with yesterday's storm, which dumped about 24 centimetres of snow on the Steel City and reduced road traffic to a trickle for most of the day.

Linda Hastings said her husband started clearing the sidewalk about 8:30 a.m. and took four breaks during the course of the day. She had offered to help him but he insisted on doing it himself.

He always shovelled the sidewalk "from corner to corner" -- as well as neighbours' driveways -- during heavy storms so his wife could get around.

"He did it for me. I have a bad leg. I can't walk a lot in snow," said Linda, who works at Hamilton General Hospital.

At some point, somebody appeared at her door and alerted her that Hastings was lying on the sidewalk.

When she found him, she wasn't able to find a pulse. As the fire hall is just around the corner on Kenilworth Avenue North, it didn't take the paramedics long to get to the scene despite the unplowed street.

Linda said her husband had kept physically active since retiring from Dofasco four years ago. In summer, he cleared the weeds along the street because he took pride in its appearance.

Jeannette Dedrick, who lives a few houses away, described Hastings as a "Good Samaritan" -- he always offered to shovel neighbours' driveways.

"Being a Good Samaritan doesn't always pay off," she said.

But Linda believes her husband died doing what he liked to do.

Helping people. 905-526-3385

Saturday, December 15, 2007

blame the victim?

Snow removal remains a focus of the blog for the short term: here's a letter from the Dundas Star News, with photos from Dundas Walks slideshow showing the property in question (east side of Post Office, above; front/north side of building, below), which we had noted December 3, 2007 as being left un-cleared of snow and ice.

No one should be immune from city snow removal bylaws

Published on Dec 14, 2007

I had unfortunate experience with our paramedics and our beloved post office on the night of Monday, Dec. 3. [italics added] At approximately 7:15 p.m., as I was coming back from the variety store, I encountered a dangerous stretch of ice between McMurray and Foundry streets in Dundas.

Just as I passed by the post office steps, I felt my feet leave my body and went into a half moon back landing. Pinned to the ice and snow and stuck there like a piece of Velcro, I laid motionless. A patron from Mike's saw me lying there and called 911. About 11 minutes later, the medics showed up and one of the medics picked up my shoe to help put it back on. The medic started scolding me about the wrong kind of shoes for this kind of weather. Now this didn't irk me as much as the female paramedic who said to me, "And what have you had to drink tonight?" Drink tonight! I replied that I hadn't had a drink in seven years. That hurt. I had always thought it didn't matter what colour or race, religion or being drunk or sober, that these great people who have one of the most prolific tasks should ask me those questions.

The City of Hamilton should also know that no one is above the law when it comes to snow removal bylaws, no exceptions. As for the Dundas post office, all the hype has been on relocating, and I would suggest that you first look at your safety record in the last 94 years and hopefully you can get back on track.

Marty Zuliniak


Friday, December 14, 2007

Here comes a storm

This post is confirming that there is no continuous route for sidewalk-clearing after snow storms, according to current standard of practise in the city.

This effectively strands many people, including the elderly, people with mobility devices (electric scooters, walkers) and people with young children (in strollers) who wish to go about their business but do not drive.

This approach irks, especially since it does nothing to encourage - indeed it marginalizes - people who don't use a motor vehicle: the kind of person the city is supposed to be encouraging according to their planning documents, for example:

"Direction #6
Expand transportation options that encourage travel by foot, bike and transit and enhance efficient inter-regional transportation connections."
GRIDS Directions to Guide Development

or in more detail:
1.2 The Importance of Walking and Bicycling

In healthy communities walking, cycling and other kinds of non-motorized transportation (e.g. roller blades, scooters, skateboards, etc.) are a normal, routine part of daily life. These active modes contribute to the quality of life and public health, provide options for getting around, and are important elements of the integrated transportation solution the City of Hamilton wants to achieve.

Specifically, walking and cycling are directly related to the following GRIDS strategic directions:

Four: Design Neighbourhoods to improve access to community life.

Six: Expand transportation options that encourage travel by foot, bicycle and transit and enhance efficient inter-regional transportation connections.

Promoting and encouraging walking and cycling through the provision of facilities and programs helps build active communities, and reduces the dependence on automobile transportation and the associated infrastructure costs, air quality, safety and congestion problems. With the increasing focus on the health costs of our sedentary lifestyles, daily walking and cycling are seen as essential components of a healthy lifestyle. Many communities are attempting to redesign themselves to facilitate non-motorized travel by: Providing walkways and bikeways that accommodate and encourage non-motorized travel, rather than only designing communities around the automobile; Managing traffic and road design to allow pedestrians, cyclists and other travelers as well as motorists to use the roads. Features that facilitate automobile use such as wide roads and intersections, large parking lots, drive-through businesses can create an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for non-motorists; Encouraging walking and cycling within and between communities by managing the shape of urban growth and promoting more compact development.

Within transportation plans, policies that affect walking and cycling involve the planning, design, implementation, operation and maintenance of linear facilities (sidewalks, crosswalks, trails, bikeways, and bicycles on transit) and other amenities (benches, shelters, bicycle parking, etc.), and may also complement policies in other City programs that encourage cycling and walking (safety and education programs, bikeway maps, etc.).

City of Hamilton

and this from City of Hamilton's PEDESTRIAN NETWORK STRATEGY Working Paper, May 2007: 6.2 Providing and Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities

Implement a non-motorized maintenance program. Expand programs to clean and remove snow from pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Develop a program for quick repair of infrastructure such as street/sidewalk repair, catch basin repair, removal of road hazards, signage repairs, traffic signal modifications, etc. Place priority on safety-related spot improvements.

and meanwhile:

Hamilton will catch edge of major U.S. storm
Blizzard menaces northern states from Oklahoma to Maine. The Hamilton area may see the heaviest snowfall.

All of Southern Ontario is under a winter storm watch this afternoon as forecasters warn of a major blizzard starting tomorrow.

Local accumulations of 25 centimetres in less than 24 hours are possible, Environment Canada predicts, adding that blowing snow and freezing rain may make travel difficult.

The Hamilton area may see the heaviest snowfall.

"Travel should be postponed or alternate travel arrangements should be considered," the weather service warns.

Meanwhile, another wintry blast was forecast today for the midsection of the United States, where hundreds of thousands are still in the dark after a deadly ice storm brought down power lines, snapped trees and coated roads.

The system could complicate restoration efforts to the some 500,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri still without power after the first storm darkened 1 million customers at its height earlier this week.

Between five and 15 centimetres of snow was predicted for parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, said Ken Harding, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka, Kan. The National Weather Service issued winter weather watches for the northwest two-thirds of Oklahoma from this afternoon through Saturday morning.

Many emergency shelters already were filled, with some residents on their fourth or fifth day of waiting for power to return. Kim Harrel has been staying at an American Red Cross shelter in downtown Tulsa since Monday.

"It's a very humbling thing in life," Harrel said, watching her kids play a game of Twister in the gymnasium on Thursday.

Meanwhile, residents in the U.S. Northeast were hard at work shovelling driveways and walkways. As the storm moved east, it changed from ice to snow, and dropped anywhere from five to 30 centimetres across the region.

While it didn't cause the same problems as it did in the middle of the country, it made travel difficult. Flights were delayed or cancelled and the heavy snow snarled traffic with fender-benders from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts. Most schools cancelled classes, but in Rhode Island, the storm left many Providence children stuck in buses or at school for hours.

Janet McCaulley, a doctor, tried to drive from Boston to work an overnight shift at Cape Cod Hospital, but couldn't get there. She found a replacement and checked in at a motel for the afternoon.

"In just an hour, the roads went from being bare to being covered in snow," McCaulley said.

David Rose, who owns an auto body and repair shop, expects to be one of the few beneficiaries of the storm.

"We'll have a lot of collision repair, batteries, tires and a lot of things people realize they needed, wipers for the snow,'' said Rose, whose shop is in Columbia, Conn.

The region was readying for another major storm this weekend. Harding said the storm heading for Oklahoma will intensify. Starting Sunday night, the system will drop "huge amounts of snow, probably blizzard conditions in New England," he said.

More than a foot of snow was predicted for places in Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

second snow

Dundas Walks is still waiting to hear back from the councillor about sidewalk snow removal routes. It's been eight days since we e-mailed him to see if there is a map that we can see and share with people interested in mobility without a car in town. With a lovely snow falling, we want to know where we can get to with some expectation of success after the snow clears.

The initial response came from Public Works:

Yes, there is a sidewalk plow/salt route in Dundas, West Hamilton, and Flamborough, within District one's jurisdiction. We are servicing the walks across frontages of city parks, municipal office buildings, schools( chargeback), bicycle paths, and open space sections(i.e. no residential or commercial frontages). We have our routes laid out in such a way that school frontages receive service sooner, than a cemetery frontage, for example. However, we do not bypass sections, which are geographically enroute.
The outstanding question for me remains: is there an actual map that shows the routes? and what does it mean to "not bypass sections, which are geographically enroute"?

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

back roads

At one time, the community was responsible for maintaining roadways in a very hands-on way - kind of like the way we treat sidewalks in winter today. They eventually figured out an effective (albeit expensive) solution.

I also appreciate the truth in the final quoted statement that administrators are learning to their sorrow, the better the road, the heavier the traffic and the greater the speed...

[From West Flamboro Township: Centennial 1850-1950]

In the early years of Municipal activities we learn from the minutes of Councils of 1850 – onward, the authorization of a few pounds to complete certain bridges, or to complete the brushing of a concession.

Pathmasters were appointed and property assessed for statute labor purposes, which was for the improvements and maintenance of Township roads.

A list was supplied the pathmaster of the number of days each landowner must work for the improvement of the road on which he was assessed. The pathmasters were usually allowed free statute labor for their activities, but it must be remembered the work was gratis and everyone was a neighbor, sot the pathmaster would study the situation and decide that immediately in front of his property was the worst piece of road on the beat and as he had accumulated a huge pile of stone, the nicest thing would be to have the gang report with teams and wagons and clear his fields of the stone piles and draw them in front of his property, to widen the road, at least to a wagon width and fill in the sink holes; if no stone was available, then corduroy them with trees, a nuisance to the property. Of course the whole thing took on the dress of a holiday, everyone was good natured about it, and while they were supposed to report at seven o'clock, it really didn't matter, just so long as the box held the material until the team was put in motion, it would be dribbled on the road anway, and to make sure that no one really became proficient in the art of road building, pathmasters were changed often, but by the turn of the century, marketing and distribution was becoming a problem and even Municipal Councils were elected by their promises to improve the roads and see that bridges and culverts were maintained.

With the arrival of automotive conveyances the urge became imperative and in the year 1916, the friendly system of statute labor construction and maintenance of Township roads was abolished and a road superintendent appointed to take charge of the 85 miles of Township roads. This system worked very satisfactorily to the end that for many years West Flamboro boasted the finest roads in the County, but our administrators are learning to their sorrow, that the better the road, the heavier the traffic and the greater the speed...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

side (walk) issue

Dundas Walks is compiling information to get a better understanding of issues relating to mobility and sidewalks in winter, and the lack of continuous, clear passages.

For example, though their double size driveway was absolutely clear of snow, Saturday evening's snowfall remains at this Creighton Drive address Tuesday evening (photo from Monday, Dec. 3, 2007) , contrary to a by-law respecting snow removal:

The Public Works Department clears roads and responds to complaints about city sidewalks not being cleared. It does not respond to complaints about private property such as driveways or private parking lots not being cleared. The Public Works Department requests the cooperation of all occupants and owners of buildings throughout the city, in the removal of snow and ice from sidewalks abutting their property within twenty four hours after a snow fall. Failure to comply may result in a charge being laid against property owners under By-law no. 03-296 of the City of Hamilton, which provides a maximum penalty of $5,000.00. [reference]

The phone number to call at the city is 905-546-2489.

The elderly gentleman pictured above, found it safer to walk on the roadway than on the icy sidewalk (12:30pm Monday, Dec. 3, 2007) in front of Grafton Square Condominiums at 5 Ogilvie Street, Dundas.

This approach to ensuring cleared sidewalks doesn't really work: imagine if the same approach applied to roads.

We are following-up with the city councillor to get a better understanding of snow-removal policy respecting sidewalks, and will report any news here.