Edmonton pedestrian advocate slams city's removal of free sand boxes
Paths for People chair says the sand was crucial for winter walking safety.
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A pedestrian advocate says the city’s decision to remove dozens of sand boxes from community centres has created a safety hazard.
Last winter, more than 100 of the boxes were available throughout the city, where anyone could load up on free sand to spread on their icy walkways.
Paths for People Chair Conrad Nobert said their removal is not worth the savings, which officials peg at $300,000.
“If we spend $300,000 to put the sand out, I have a feeling that it would save much more than that in preventable injuries,” Nobert said, adding elderly residents are especially at risk of falling.
This year, the city is only offering the sand boxes at five roadway maintenance yards – a decision made during 2015 budget deliberations.
Nobert, who personally took advantage of the free sand in previous winters, said the move is “a symptom of a city administration that is deeply biased in favour of the automobile.”
“It seems like every step that they make towards a more walkable, bikeable Edmonton, they sometimes take two steps back by making decisions like this.”
Nobert worries the move will lead to even fewer people keeping their front sidewalks safe – a responsibility that falls on homeowners in Edmonton, unlike some winter cities like Winnipeg.
“Where I live in Strathcona, you go for a walk and maybe two-thirds of the houses have done it, so 10-30% of the sidewalk you’re walking on is not shoveled,” he said.
“Having free sand available was just a small incentive to help people and encourage them to fulfill what the city has shifted onto them as their responsibility.”
Traffic safety spokesperson Gary Dyck said minimal resources will be required to fill up the boxes at maintenance yards, which are spread out across Edmonton.
“By having sand in all the districts across the city, we are still making sure that it is available to those who need it, no matter where they live,” Dyck said in an e-mailed statement. “Citizens can also visit a retailer to purchase an inexpensive bag of sand.”
The city will still offer sandboxes to community leagues if they wish to manage the boxes themselves.
*Conrad Nobert's name was misspelled in the original version of this article. We apologize for the error.
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