I am sure many of you have noticed the fluorescent orange markings on our sidewalks – all 4421 of them on 679 km of sidewalk.
They are popping up across Ontario in response to new provincial legislation that requires municipalities to mark potential tripping hazards of 2 cm or more (discontinuities) on sidewalks. Our staff have been responding to the new legislation with the due diligence we expect to ensure we comply with new regulations, increase safety and reduce our risk of liability in an increasingly litigious society.
Some cities have as many or more discontinuities than us. The average of some comparator cities was 8.4 discontinuities per km of sidewalk inspected while Guelph had 6.5.
I have to admit. I really don’t like them. But as a Council colleague reminded me, they are meant to be ugly – to be noticed.
As I drive around the city, I am always so impressed with the efforts people make to beautify their homes so I think it a shame that we are now spray painting orange lines throughout our residential neighbourhoods.
Some municipalities are using different approaches to the marking these tripping hazards so the Operations, Transit and Emergency Services (OTES) Committee is recommending staff be directed to consider alternative marking methods that meet regulatory compliance and reduce visual impact.
Of course, the longer term solution is to look beyond compliance to a more principle-based approach. If we aspire to be a safe, inclusive and caring community, we should be concerned about the accessibility and safety of our sidewalks.
That means getting rid of the discontinuities in our sidewalks. We currently have funding to repair about 20% of them this year. And of course our winters add new ones every year.
So the OTES Committee is also recommending that sidewalk discontinuities per km be included as a key performance indicator in the Public Works Annual Report. This will allow us to track our progress.
Like all municipalities, we have an infrastructure maintenance gap. Maintenance of sidewalks must be considered in light of maintenance demands of other infrastructure.
The OTES Committee has also asked staff to report back in 2014 with a funding strategy to close the gap on sidewalk infrastructure maintenance. With another year of data, we will be able to determine whether we are losing ground each year or starting to close the gap and how fast that is happening.
And finally, the OTES Committee is requesting that the Province of Ontario establish an infrastructure funding program for sidewalk maintenance to support the goals of their new legislation and assist municipalities close the gap on sidewalk infrastructure repairs. With an infusion of infrastructure funding, municipalities could get rid of the back log and achieve a steady-state that could be managed on an annual basis.