Sidewalk Priority Policy Finally Approved

After more than two years of debate, at Monday’s regular meeting on October 21, Council finally approved the latest sidewalk priority policy as submitted.  As Director Laurie Wills said “we were asked for a priority policy, not whether there should be sidewalks or not”.  A last minute delegation by local resident Kevin Burt asked that residents be consulted for input and provided some himself about Abbott Blvd.  But in response to a question by Councillor Emily Chorley, Director Laurie Wills defended her Policy and answered some of Kevin’s concerns.  When it came to a vote, Council approved the Policy as it stood with only Emily voting against.  That means Abbott Blvd will be first on the list to get constructed although its budget will first need to be approved.

Kevin Burt
Kevin Burt

Kevin Burt’s concerns – summary

  • The Transportation Master Plan talks about a transportation network that includes sidewalks but also bicycle lanes, cycling paths and multi-use paths
  • Usage of sidewalks are subject to a bylaw which only allows limited modes of transportation – pedestrians and wheel-chairs – not bicycles [The bylaw specifically excludes use of “skateboard, in-line skates, roller skates, ebike, bicycle, motorized scooter, segway, hover board” – exceptions are made for Wheelchairs and Mobility Aid’s which are defined as devices “used to facilitate the transportation of a person with a disability, such as a wheelchair”].
  • Motorized wheel-chairs often use the roadway.
  • Multi-Use paths are recommended
  • Safety is relative
  • There are alternatives to Sidewalks
  • Local residents could advise if a bus-stop was used much and therefore whether it should be considered in determining the need for a sidewalk.  Locals also know traffic patterns
  • No traffic study was done to decide that Abbott should be #1 priority
  • Kevin is concerned that the policy is mandated and excludes consultation

Response from Director Laurie Wills – summary

  • The  order of construction on the list is subject to Council’s budget approval
  • There has in fact been public consultation on where sidewalks should be put – it occurred during Official Plan and Transportation Plan consultation
  • Re sidewalks on “rural roads”; if there are ditches there can be no sidewalks since that’s where the sidewalks would go.
  • Multi-use trails are 3 m wide and in most cases, there is no room for that.
  • Sidewalks are safer – having them is safer than not having them.
  • Staff was not asked “Sidewalks or not” but to set “priorities”
  • The Priority plan takes subjectivity out of the process.
  • There is no plan to bring each particular sidewalk back to Council for approval (other than budget approval each year).

Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin asked about repairing existing sidewalks – they should be done before new ones. Laurie replied that these were covered by the Operations budget.  Suzanne asked that these be brought forward during budget deliberations.

Brian Darling talked about how the process had been discussed by council for two (three?) years with multiple public delegations.  He said he’d received 20 emails from people disappointed that the Abbott Blvd sidewalk did not go through.  He finished with “I think we’ve hashed this out pretty good”.

Emily said she could not support the plan since there was no provision for additional public engagement.

The Sidewalk Priority Plan was put to a vote and all were in favour except Emily.


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27 October 2019 11:51 am

The Transportation Master Plan recommends:
-minimizing impact on the environment
-public support by meeting the needs and expectations of residents
-affordable with respect to cost-to-benefit ratio and provides funding for all modes of travel
The Sidewalk Priority Police does none of these things. It calls for spending millions of dollars to pour concrete over green areas to create a network serving one mode of transportation. There are alternatives in some cases that should be considered but that is not the intent of the town employees.

Walter Luedtke
Reply to  Kevin
27 October 2019 1:42 pm

Maybe walking isn’t a mode of transportation?

ken strauss
Reply to  Walter Luedtke
27 October 2019 5:27 pm

Kevin noted that the Transportation Master Plan recommends funding for “strong>all modes of travel”. Sidewalks are only for walking.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ken strauss
28 October 2019 8:47 am

Sidewalks are only for walking

What a paucity of imagination. Sidewalks are for hop scotch, sidewalks are for chalking poetry or art. Sidewalks are where ants are exposed and becomes a killing field for children with a magnifying glass. Sidewalks are for children on which to pull red wagons or ride a trike. Sidewalks are where hydrophobic art/poetry appears only in the rain. Sidewalks are for shovelling and sweeping. Sidewalks are for impressed poetry. Sidewalks can be something other than the bland banal grey.

ken strauss
Reply to  Wally Keeler
28 October 2019 9:51 am

Poetry and ant slaughter are not mentioned but Cobourg Bylaw 0012-2016 is otherwise pretty clear about the prohibited uses of sidewalks:
3. No person shall;
a) Operate, ride, and propel, a skateboard, in-line skates, roller skates, e-bike, bicycle, motorized scooter, segway, hover board, or similar devices on any Town of Cobourg Sidewalk.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ken strauss
28 October 2019 10:21 am

Yes’ yes, the LAW PROHIBITS

But the law has no imagination. My suggestions did not violate that precious law we all obey. The point is that a sidewalk is NOT ONLY FOR WALKING but for other things that are NOT PROHIBITED.

During the Cold War there was a good definition between a democracy and a dictatorshit. In a dictatorshit everything is prohibited except which is not. In a democracy everything is permitted except that which is not.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ken strauss
28 October 2019 11:24 am

Mr Strauss, your exceedingly restrictive edict that sidewalks are only made for walking is nonsense. Sidewalks are also made for pirouettes, jumping skip-rope, skipping, dancing, handstands, backflips, prancing, promenading, strolling, etc., etc., etc. There is nothing in the law that prohibits any of those things.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
30 October 2019 7:40 am

It always put a smile on my face to see kids ‘balancing’ along a curb or climbing over the snow banks on the side of a road. People with imaginations use curbs for other than the intended purpose. Sidewalks can be used for things other than walking but it might be best to use a softer surface (grass perhaps) for backflips.

Walter Luedtke
26 October 2019 10:04 am

Isn’t it rich!
The sidewalk process has been talked to death for 2, maybe 3 years with multiple public inputs.
Reminds one of the 6 years for the Dog Park.
Yet, for Councillor Chorley it’s ‘what’s the rush’.
Not enough ‘public engagement’.
Chorley represents Cobourg’s ‘neighborhood fetishists’ and want to ‘shrink-wrap’ their streets.
And the end result? Near paralysis of policy making on what are really minor, minor issues?
First it’s sidewalks. Are potholes next?

manfred s
Reply to  Walter Luedtke
26 October 2019 3:24 pm

what you’re saying is pretty much true BUT I have to say that Councillor Chorley seems to be willing to represent citizens vocally and right up front rather than hide behind curtains of pretense or correctness. That’s refreshing, so far, and it’s time someone had the convictions to do so regardless of the impact on their ‘rep’.

25 October 2019 8:38 am

Oh! Goodness! now according to Town bylaws i will have to get the snow shovel out?

Small town lover
Reply to  greengrass
25 October 2019 8:51 am

Yes, or if you are elderly, you will now have to pay someone to clear the snow off the sidewalk. If you have a corner property that will be a lot of snow to remove.

manfred s
Reply to  Small town lover
26 October 2019 3:31 pm

despite the cost to the taxpayer, as with all other public thoroughfares, they are for public use and their safety factor is the responsibility of the town. Therefore it is only logical that all public sidewalks are the responsibility of the town and literally forcing adjacent residents or businesses to take on that responsibility is morally wrong even though it is legislated. Imagine if the law also said that they were responsible for ploughing the portion of the street adjacent to “their” sidewalk!!! Changing that law is the right thing to do.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  manfred s
28 October 2019 11:15 am

Let us not forget that boulevards adjacent to property is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain in a safe and healthy manner as to avoid whiners making a personal complaint and calling out Cobourg’s elite Weedwacker Services.

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  greengrass
25 October 2019 9:33 am

There was a Town policy that a sidewalk along a public transit (bus) route would be cleared by the Town. I have not been able to confirm yet if this is still the case. And, if it is, will this new sidewalk be cleared by the Town before schools in the area start in the morning? Something to check.

Reply to  Miriam Mutton
26 October 2019 5:36 pm

I live on a bus route and have never seen the town clear the sidewalk. Seems to me only sidewalks on town property get cleared.

As it pertains to transit, it’s funny how the many bus stops the town will “snow in” with their plowing activities. Also funny how many of the costly bikes paths the town builds that get ZERO attention all winter, you wouldn’t know there is a bike path for the mountain of snow on them. This is for both on and off road bike lanes. I have no problem with the town building bike lanes but if they aren’t going to maintain the damn things in the winter months what is the point? Anyone who would make it a habit riding a bike in the winter cannot safely do so as the town does not care about their mode of transporation while roads get undivided attention. As it stands now, with no winter maintenance, our bike lanes are simply costly virtue signalling.

Anyways that was tangent. Let’s get that sidewalk built on Abbott Blvd. There has been enough bickering and staff time wasted on that subject.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Durka
28 October 2019 11:10 am

As a chronic user of off-street bike paths in Toronto for a few decades, I accepted that the City did not plow them in winter. For some reason or other, I didn’t cry or whimper about it. That’s just the way it was. Would I support all the extra expense to plow it? Nope.

Snow plows don’t clear the entire street, piling it up at the curb, which forces parked cars to intrude into the street a couple feet, making biking a bit more difficult to avoid the door prize. Such is life, so I accommodated to the situation instead of asking govt to make it better.

Reply to  Miriam Mutton
27 October 2019 11:38 am

I am not sure about along a bus route but there is a recommendation of winter maintenance in the Transportation Master Plan. The idea is to encourage ‘active transportation’ (cycling, pedestrian, etc.). It would be expensive to plow all sidewalks but there is opportunity to save if facilities are designed properly in the first place.

Reply to  Kevin
28 October 2019 6:39 pm

All sidewalks are already supposed to be plowed/shoveled by the land owner they fall on. I merely think the same should hold true for bike lanes. There is a cost to doing so but there is also a cost to building bike lanes, if they sit with snow on them the return on that investment is lowered.

I understand with on-road bike lanes it’s not that feasible to have them fully cleared but there is no reason the off-road lanes can’t be cleared.

Reply to  Durka
30 October 2019 7:30 am

If on-road lanes have a curb to separate them from motorized vehicles then it could be difficult to keep them clear of snow. Many lanes are marked with a painted line and are cleared with the rest of the road.