Sidewalks turn into an urban obstacle course for parents with strollers

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Sidewalks turn into an urban obstacle course for parents with strollers


Navigating ice- and snow-covered sidewalks can be a daunting task for any pedestrian, but add a stroller full of precious cargo and things get even more interesting.

“It’s like pushing a bobsled,” said Corktown resident Ainsley Doty, 32, as she manoeuvered a stroller carrying her 9-month-old daughter, Lennon, along a path in Parliament Square Park.

Days of snow and freezing rain have left sidewalks in Cabbagetown — and many other parts of Toronto — tricky to navigate for people pushing strollers.
Days of snow and freezing rain have left sidewalks in Cabbagetown — and many other parts of Toronto — tricky to navigate for people pushing strollers.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

The Star observed it all, from parents lifting a stroller and carrying around a pool of water, to a mother hoisting the front wheels of a baby carriage before dragging it across a bumpy sheet of ice and slush.

“During the ice storms it was brutal,” Doty said. “We didn’t leave the house for a couple weeks just because I knew that the sidewalks weren’t going to be cleared and we weren’t going to be able to get through.”

Doty’s complaint echoes those on the pile fielded by city officials this winter.

Widespread public angst has caught the attention of city ombudsman Susan Opler, who responded earlier this week to a flood of complaints from “people reporting that sidewalks, roads, bike lanes or public paths have not been cleared of snow and ice in a timely way.

“People have also said that calls to the city to complain sometimes yield delayed responses or no response,” Opler wrote in a news release, adding that the conditions have been particularly tough for “those with mobility challenges and young families with strollers.”

Doty said sidewalk accessibility was an afterthought before she gave birth. Now, she’s getting a taste of how Mother Nature can disrupt her attempts to go for a walk with her son.

“This is a wide stroller, so even if people clear a path, I can’t get through,” she said. “Residential streets where the snow is pushed up onto the sidewalks from the city plows tend to be more challenging.”

Sarah Eddy says sidewalks running along vacant lots and in areas with absent landlords have been particularly treacherous.
Sarah Eddy says sidewalks running along vacant lots and in areas with absent landlords have been particularly treacherous.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Sidewalks running along vacant lots and in areas with absent landlords can be particularly treacherous, Sarah Eddy said. Some days she opts to strap 11-month-old Arthur into a baby carrier, but even that isn’t hazard free.

“I’ve fallen twice with him in the carrier,” Eddy said. “It’s hard now, because ice is there. If it snows a lot, I can’t bring the stroller out at all.”

Katherine Knowlton navigates her son Thomas, 1, along a sidewalk near their Cabbagetown house.
Katherine Knowlton navigates her son Thomas, 1, along a sidewalk near their Cabbagetown house.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Getting out and about this winter has sometimes felt like an obstacle course for Katherine Knowlton. She said many of the sidewalks near her Sackville St. home aren’t shovelled wide enough for a stroller to get through.

“There a lot of stretches that are treacherous,” Knowlton said of her trips outside for fresh air with one-year-old Thomas. “Trying to stroll through the neighbourhood can sometimes be hopeless.”

Ana Bilanovic (right) gets a helping lift from sister-in-law Tamara Protic as they lift Matej, 17 months, over the ice rather than go through a puddle on the sidewalk along Gerrard St. E.
Ana Bilanovic (right) gets a helping lift from sister-in-law Tamara Protic as they lift Matej, 17 months, over the ice rather than go through a puddle on the sidewalk along Gerrard St. E.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

During their walk along Gerrard St. E. just west of Parliament St., Nemanja Protic and Ana Bilanovic hit a pool of water, prompting Ana and her sister-in-law Tamara Protic to lift the stroller carrying baby Matej across to a cleared patch of sidewalk.

“It’s noticeable worse this year,” he said of sidewalk conditions. “There are long stretches that are covered in ice and are very poorly cleaned.”

Bilanovic it has been particularly difficult to navigate around ice and slush Thursday.

“With a stroller, you can’t really make it through,” she said. If you’re trying to avoid the ice and snow, you have to go through a puddle and it’s very messy.”

Ranjana Habib, who runs a home daycare, finds a clear stretch of sidewalk to push a stroller along Parliament St.
Ranjana Habib, who runs a home daycare, finds a clear stretch of sidewalk to push a stroller along Parliament St.  (Jason Miller / Toronto Star)

Ranjana Habib runs a home daycare and says there are days when she avoids even attempting to get out the door of her Regent Park apartment, as the poor condition of the sidewalks kills any chance of taking the children in her care for stroll around the neighbourhood.

“Sometimes it’s slippery and I notice that they don’t put down enough salt,” she said. “Days after a storm, it’s very difficult and there is no space to push the stroller. Getting from Sumach (St.) to Parliament (St.) is very hard.”

Bahaa Alhaj said he found it particularly difficult to push his two young children around in their stroller this winter.
Bahaa Alhaj said he found it particularly difficult to push his two young children around in their stroller this winter.  (Jason Miller / Toronto Star)

St. James Town resident, Bahaa Alhaj found it particularly difficult to push his two young children around in their stroller this winter. He blames both landlords and the city for doing a poor job of clearing sidewalks around the neighbourhood.

“It has been very bad,” he said, while heading toward a daycare on St. James Ave. “Some days I can’t use the stroller to carry both of them because it’s very slippery and icy.”

Sagar Dadheech and Priyanka Sharma encountered ice and puddles on a sidewalk along Ontario St.
Sagar Dadheech and Priyanka Sharma encountered ice and puddles on a sidewalk along Ontario St.  (Jason Miller / Toronto Star)

Sagar Dadheech and Priyanka Sharma encountered a stretch of ice and puddles of water while using a sidewalk on Ontario St. Sharma said she broke the handle of her stroller while ramming it through snow and ice.

“I would like to have cleaner sidewalks,” Dadheech. “If it snows, that’s fine, but it should not be slippery. It gets dangerous.”

Sharma complained that even around the school, “they don’t clean the snow. I literally have to lift the stroller to get through parts of the road.”

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

Read more:

Toronto’s snow divide: Why the city might plow your neighbour’s sidewalks, but not yours

Editorial | Toronto’s sidewalk snow-clearing policy makes no sense

The Fixer | Just relax, Toronto — It’s February, it’s Canada, it’s going to snow





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