Proposed bylaw: Fine Calgarians for shovelling driveway snow onto roads

Council to consider boosting size of city's snow clearing reserve fund

As springtime approaches and the roller-coaster winter season comes to an end, city council will be asked to consider a host of changes to Calgary's snow-clearing strategy, including a new fine and a larger reserve fund.

If approved, homeowners would be fined for shovelling snow from the driveway into the street or bike lanes.

The newly proposed winter maintenance policy also proposes raising the winter maintenance reserve fund from $15 million to $22 million, which the city says would give it more flexibility during heavy snowfall years.

The amendments to the existing snow and ice control policy were brought forward to a council committee on Wednesday. City council will vote on the proposal next week.

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The city's current policy for snow and ice control was introduced in 2011 and was last amended in 2021.

The goal of the proposal, according to the city, is to increase accessibility for pedestrians, make transit more reliable and improve winter driving conditions.

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The city contends it can all be done without a major budget adjustment. Calgary's total budget for winter maintenance is $54 million annually.

Proposed new fine

The current priority-based snow plan involves addressing the snow in the city's busiest areas first.

In Calgary, the city doesn't plow residential streets, and homeowners and businesses are responsible for keeping the sidewalks adjacent to their properties clear of snow and ice. There are fines in place for failing to do so.

Among the proposed changes is a new bylaw related to where Calgarians put the snow they shovel off of their property.

The placement of snow wasn't previously a bylaw issue, but if this proposal passes, Calgarians could be fined $150 for shovelling snow from their private property into a road or a bike lane.

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During a Wednesday interview on the Calgary Eyeopener, Troy McLeod, director of mobility with the City of Calgary, said enforcement for the potential bylaw would be primarily complaint-based.

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"When these piles of snow happen on the road from driveways, it causes a number of issues," he said.

"[It causes] safety issues as well as drainage issues this time of year when we get the snowmelt."

McLeod says the city also wants to add an additional 150 kilometres of pathways to clear and improve snow removal around schools.

Setting priorities

Another one of the significant changes under the proposal would be to how roads are plowed and sanded.

As it stands, Priority 1 routes — which are categorized as roads that see over 20,000 vehicles daily, such as Glenmore Trail and Crowchild Trail — are cleared within 18 hours after a snowfall.

Meanwhile, Priority 2 routes — which are roads that see under 20,000 but over 5,000 vehicles per day, including most bus routes — are cleared within 36 hours.

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The new proposal would see that major roads and their less-busy counterparts are plowed and sanded at the same time, bringing both to a 24-hour response time.

City of Calgary: A screenshot of one section of the Winter Maintenance Policy Update presentation shown at Wednesday's committee meeting shows what the proposed snow-clearing response would look like in practice. (City of Calgary)

A screenshot of one section of the Winter Maintenance Policy Update presentation shown at Wednesday's committee meeting shows what the proposed snow-clearing response would look like in practice. (City of Calgary)

McLeod said dealing with Priority 1 and 2 routes at the same time would improve road conditions, benefiting both drivers and transit users.

"Where the problem exists for us is on those priority 2 routes," McLeod said following Wednesday's committee meeting at City Hall.

"The snow builds and creates ice, creates snowpack, it makes it so much harder for us to address those routes."

This change is based on a pilot project that was launched this winter in Calgary's northwest, which saw Priority 2 routes plowed promptly after a snowstorm.

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Another proposed change is boosting Calgary's winter maintenance reserve fund to $22 million so the city has more flexibility during years when there's lots of snow.

The committee says this would allow for more flexibility when it comes to its snow response.

"When the reserve was originally set up, it was designed for the road network of the day. That road network has since increased," said McLeod during the committee meeting.

"So what we're doing is just increasing the reserve to accommodate for that new road network that now exists in Calgary."

VIDEO REFRESHER: A breakdown of the City of Calgary's snow removal bylaw that was introduced in fall 2019

This article, written by Lily Dupuis, was originally published for CBC News on Mar. 13.