Canadian winter. Or do I repeat myself?

Canadian winterMuch is being made of the cold weather “alerts”, as they’re called here. These remind me of those almost-Orwellian efficiency ‘campaigns’ at government departments when suddenly saving a bunch of paper-clips becomes top priority just because a ‘green week’ is being celebrated — when it really should be standard practice.

But if braving Canadian winters (as blogged earlier) in a previous suburban neighbourhood seemed a little getting used to — as I was new to all this — surviving a recurring winter gives one plenty of fodder to ruminate over, if you’d excuse the terrible pun.

It really amazes me how ill-equipped to these snow-onslaughts a city like Toronto actually is. One would think that a country so accustomed to having tons and tons of snow every year would at least invest in technology, regulations, laws and just plain common practices to deal with it annually.

If you’re dependent on the TTC or public transport as yours truly, be prepared to be injured, at times seriously, slipping on an icy surface, most probably on a sidewalk, once every winter. For a city that expects to be completely covered in snow, I wonder why there hasn’t been any innovation to make life more manageable for people who actually walk from point A to B. Of all the money that is spent on widening roads, highways and such driving-friendly initiatives, surely a paltry sum could be set aside for re-designing sidewalks and walkways so that they could be managed and cleared of snow efficiently and regularly — purely as a civic service, if nothing else.

Take stairs to the subway/bus stations, or any stair-design, for example. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to anticipate that during cold weather, stairs will accumulate icy patches and will become potential hazard. Yet the designs are ordinary, completely out of touch with a cold reality. I would be greatly surprised if there has not been any study or an attempted breakthrough in stair- or sidewalk-design that could somehow prevent/manage accumulation of ice on a continuous basis during winters. I mean, in certain hot countries that I’ve lived in, they air-condition the floors, for crying out loud! How about locking a group of scientists in a room until they discover something?

Or is it because hundreds of man-hours of manual labour are spent on clearing snow the ancient way, so that it provides thousands of blue-collar jobs?

Millions are spent on renovating Art Galleries and Museums and ‘beautification’ of public squares. How about spending a little on innovative architectural design competitions for better winter-friendly public amenities like sidewalks, walkways, and yes, stairways?

Being one of the coldest countries in the world, and with resources to spare, if Canada cannot do it, who will?

First Published: January 13th, 2009


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