Protesters march for safer sidewalks in Halifax

Group marches from Halifax North Memorial Public Library to Falkland Street in protest of icy sidewalks

A crowd of almost 100 people gathered in front of the Halifax North Memorial Public Library on Friday and marched two blocks to Falkland Street in protest of icy sidewalk conditions.

Chants such as, “Clear the sidewalk, clear the streets, people can’t get out to eat,” could be heard as the crowd marched down Gottingen Street. Some carried signs made of bristol board, while others carried hot beverages to keep warm.

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While protesters marched on the streets, reporters stuck to the sidewalks. One reporter carrying a large video camera slipped on the ice, which one protester called an example of bad sidewalk conditions.

“Just seeing the conditions of the sidewalks … even in the days and weeks following the snow, they haven’t improved,” said protester Alix Todd. “If it seemed like the city was making progress and it was slow progress, I would understand, but it seems like they think that these sidewalks are good enough.”

Todd said that the sidewalks on Gottingen Street are in a “pretty despicable state.”

“I normally enjoy going out for a walk just for exercise and fresh air, and I certainly haven’t been doing that in a few weeks,” Todd said.

Wes MacLean, who needs a walker to help him get around, finds it hard to go outside with sidewalks in their current condition.

“[The sidewalks don’t] allow me to get out, I’m shut in. I can’t do any walking for exercise, and on a fixed income, I can’t pay for physio, so I count on getting out on a daily or bi-daily basis,” said MacLean, who came out to the protest.

MacLean said some people have had to cancel medical appointments and have had trouble visiting soup kitchens and food banks because they are unable to safely travel using the sidewalks.

Jennifer Stairs, a spokeswoman for Halifax Regional Municipality, said extreme weather is to blame for the icy sidewalk conditions. “We appreciate residents’ frustrations with the impact this is having on their day-to-day activities. The recent and sustained extreme weather conditions have certainly posed challenges for everyone, including crews,” she said.

“We must recognize that, in aftermath of atypical weather conditions, our typical expectations cannot be met.”