Winter woes in Calgary

Snow removal stinks in Calgary.

Anyone transplanted from elsewhere in Canada will likely tell you the same. Try telling a Montrealer that he should not expect to see the streets in Calgary properly cleared in winter and he won’t believe you.

Calgarians are flummoxed by any modest accumulation of the white stuff.

Calgary, once known as the self-styled “Heart of the New West” is a sprawling and ever-growing metropolis. It is a city designed around the automobile, with far-flung suburbs and ring roads. Neighbourhoods pop up as if overnight. School children are bussed and thousands commute daily to downtown’s skyscrapers.

We need to get around.

And we do. We slip, slide and push our way to a “main transportation artery.” That is what the City of Calgary calls them. Then, if we are lucky, we may find ourselves on a partially cleared street of packed snow laden with gravel. Packed snow quickly hardens to ice, especially at intersections.

We creep along, bumper to bumper, dreading the inevitable turn into a residential area. There, snow will have accumulated relentlessly. It will be tracked into ruts by the first four-wheel drive to venture out.

What baffles newcomers is why Calgarians put up with this. Why accept the icy and treacherous road conditions as inevitable? No uprising occurs.

“Arriving at my destination, feeling lucky to be alive, I was determined, once again, to write my alderman and beg for a tax increase to address the road safety issue.”

– Katherine Camarta

Commuting workers show up hours late (if at all), grumpy, frazzled and stressed from the hair-raising experiences of escaping their own neighbourhoods. Industry does not rise up in arms despite the lost productivity costs.

In the Mayor’s 2012 year-end report, “A Better Calgary in Progress # 2 ” the City stated that: “Cleaning is now faster and safer and the clearing of all residential roads when warranted is now a permanent part of the program (prior to this, residential roads were not cleared all winter).”

Is that so? I was driving my sport utility vehicle with properly equipped snow tires in sub-zero temperatures; snow was falling steadily. I skidded down the snow-covered hills in my community and sloshed about in the mucky street at the hill’s bottom. Apparently the City did not think that the clearing of my residential road was warranted.

I headed onto a secondary road, which had been cleared as much as other the traffic before me could, leaving two tire lines on the road that I dared not venture out of.

On the “main transportation artery” it was clear that something had been done. Nonetheless, the road was still snow covered, rutted and slippery.
Time to stock up on windshield washer fluid! Temperature in Calgary is on the rise after recent heavy snowfalls.

Photo by Dara DeFreitas/Calgary Journal
Arriving at my destination, feeling lucky to be alive, I was determined, once again, to write my alderman and beg for a tax increase to address the road safety issue.

Exactly two hours later, I headed home. The sky was now overcast and the temperature was zero degrees. Cars exiting the parkade were slipping and fishtailing in the slush. The radio announcer was talking of wet and sloppy roadways and of the need for extreme caution and limitless window washing fluid.

Miraculously, the “main transportation artery” was now only wet. Traffic was moving. Even my residential road had evolved to the state where two clean tire lanes were now partially visible.

The chinook had arrived. The warming westerly winds may bring headaches to some but not to road-weary Calgarians.

The temperatures rise. The snow disappears. The snow rage subsides and all is forgiven.

Who wants to pay more taxes anyway? That letter to my alderman will wait for another day. I am a Calgarian.

How do you think snow removal in Calgary has been handled?