City engineer calls criticism of Fredericton streets unfair

    Fredericton’s sidewalks are almost clear now, but some students say they were dangerous this past winter. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

    A few weeks ago, second-year St. Thomas University student Jesse Frank was walking on the corner of York and Needham Streets when he slipped and fell, hurting his ankle.

    “I was trying to catch the bus and then I wiped out and there was no way I was catching that bus after that, I couldn’t even stand up,” said Frank.

    He laid on the ground until a stranger came along and helped him up.

    His ankle was swollen and after a few days, Frank decided to go and have it looked at.

    “The doctor said I might have torn ligaments or something but it’s not super bad [like] it was [a] few weeks ago.

    “Like, I can still feel it but now it’s healing slowly I guess,” said Frank, who is able to walk normally again.

    Frank’s story is like many others in Fredericton this past winter, of people slowly making their way onto icy or snowy sidewalks and slipping.

    He isn’t alone in calling on the city to do more to keep the streets clear in the winter.

    For Emerald Rogers, a third-year STU student, both snow and ice were problems this winter.

    For her, a five-minute walk home became a 30-minute trek.

    “I was walking home from work…and behind Canadian Tire you have to climb over a snow bank in order to get to the sidewalk on Priestman [Street].

    “When I got to the bottom, my foot slipped on a quite large patch of ice and I fell with my right leg going under me and my ankle twisting.

    “I heard a crack or something along those lines and it hurt pretty bad.”

    Rogers also ended up paying a visit to the doctor where she was told she had a minor sprain.

    Even if her injury wasn’t extremely serious, Rogers said the sidewalks weren’t in the condition they should be in this winter.

    “The sidewalks suck, there have been several days where my roommate and I have had to walk knee deep in the snow because they haven’t been plowed yet,” said Rogers.

    Both Frank and Rogers say the sidewalks in their hometown are in better condition than the ones in Fredericton.

    According to Darren Charters, a traffic engineer with the City of Fredericton, who is responsible for pedestrian safety, the criticism of the city’s streets is unfair.

    “It’s very easy to say that when you’re walking down the street and it’s not plowed, right?”

    Fredericton is one of the few cities responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalks, Charters added.

    “In other cities it’s the responsibility of the property owner.

    “Our aim is not to bare up sidewalks – that would be impossible; it would cost so much money and it would take so many resources to do that.”

    Another issue is that some pedestrians opt to walk on the street instead of the sidewalks because they are usually cleared of snow and ice, complicating things for those those driving vehicles.

    But Charters said walking on the sidewalks, no matter what condition they’re in, is a safer choice than walking on the road.

    “Is it easier to walk out on the street? Perhaps. But is that the smart choice to make? Probably not.”

    Clearing the sidewalks completely of snow or ice is impossible because weather is unpredictable, he said.

    Residents need to understand the city is doing their best and looking for better ways to make the sidewalks as walkable as possible, he added.

    The city only has 12 sidewalk snowplows and operators and it can take up to 12 hours to clear sidewalks after a snowfall.

    “When I come to work they may not be far enough through the route where the sidewalks are all plowed and if you live on a side street your sidewalk might not be plowed until you’re going home,” Charters said.

    “I think it’s very difficult to please people, the schedules don’t match up.”