Turn your hand to the plow: Retirement activity #12

Kamloops This Week

Here in Kamloops it is time to turn our hands to the plough; well if not the plough, then the plow, the snowplow that is. With early winter upon us, the streets and sidewalks are slowly filling with snow. Next they thaw and then they often re-freeze. Vehicles, pedestrians and especially cyclists are all affected. Homeowners, businesses and other organizations all seek safe and trouble-free mobility as we make our way around our mid-sized Canadian city.

I am grateful for those who operate a variety of clearing equipment, often through the night, always in the early morning and when necessary many times throughout the day. I do have one grumble however and it concerns a rather enigmatic term, the wretched windrows. Now a windrow is “a long line of raked hay, corn sheaves, or peats laid out to dry in the wind.” In winter, a windrow is a long pile of snow left at the bottom of a driveway created by the plow passing by. Windrows are a fact of life in winter communities; or are they?

Where we live on Arrowstone Drive in Kamloops there are six of us neighbours facing the same challenge. We each work in different ways to maintain our properties, driveways and sidewalks for the common good of those who live and visit here. One of us cleans up at least once a week, usually late on a Saturday night. Another is outside daily, achieving a marble-like finish on her asphalt driveway, by hand and using a snow blower. Another very progressive neighbour with solar panels on his roof uses a leaf blower! for clearing. An elder senior across the road still shovels his own walk while sometimes hiring help. A pipeline worker next door has all sorts of trucks and mechanical equipment available.

For myself, recently retired, the day is mine to develop and practice an efficient and effective routine which manages the clearing of a very wide double driveway, with no space on one side to throw snow. I rise early each new snow day, hoping to arrive at the roadside before numerous Thompson Rivers University students pack down snow into crisp island footprints. I try to clear the area in front of the garage door before my wife Kathie leaves in the car for her early swim class. Early in the season I still enjoy the daily challenges. March however is a different story.

While we have our individual strategies, we all shudder when the plow appears. We see it coming down the hill, powerfully and triumphantly, indefatigably committed to throwing snow from the centre of the road as far up the drive as possible. All that beautiful work, especially at the roadside is, as they say, after the plow has gone, in an altered state. The pile at the end of my drive is trenchlike.

Now the city has responded to our concerns with a beautiful video which makes the case for resident involvement. In sum, the city says we bat the snow your way, you catch it and throw to home plate. Let’s play ball! Enjoy the windrow. We are however assured that we can reduce our windrow size, and help out our snowplow operators if we follow some tips:

  1. Pile snow on the right side of your driveway (facing the road) when shovelling. This allows you to see any oncoming traffic as you back out and, when our plows go by, they won’t drag your shovelled piles of snow back into your driveway. TRUE
  2. Residents should also remove obstructions from the road that inhibit the plows from being able to do their job such as parked cars, hockey nets and basketball hoops. TRUE
  3. Shovel snow onto your property, as opposed to curbside or the roadway. AHEM This is problematic given the layout of our property; it’s also very hard to do when the volume of snow is large.
  4. The placing of snow on the travelled portion of the roadway contravenes the City’s Road Right-Of-Way Bylaw. GOOD TO KNOW BUT go further down the street and see the accumulations by the Fire hall when the road narrows even during summer weather. Further study required.
  5. If there is less snow piled on the road or curbside, there will be less snow pushed into a windrow. SEE (3) ABOVE.

I certainly appreciate the challenges of managing accumulations especially in tightly configured streets. There are obvious costs to adding windrow response to plow procedures which are likely not justified given other needs. That said the community of Oakville has an innovative program in place.

Concerning cycling pathways, in Oulu, Finland the city prioritises cycle infrastructure and maintenance during the winter months.

“You can trust that all the main cycle paths will be ploughed (sic) before the morning commute,” said Otto Simola, chairman of Oulu’s cycle association. Can you imagine such foresight here in Kamloops. Possibly? Probably? Hopefully? But that’s a subject for another day.

Stay warm people; remember those who cannot enjoy access to consistent warmth and comfort in these colder seasons. Let’s do our best to keep roadways, people and property safe.

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