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More snow does not bring more chaos to streets (just alleys)

December 9, 2016
An eastbound number 9 bus sits empty in the 1400 block of West Broadway Ave. at 8:21 a.m.

An eastbound number 9 bus sits empty in the 1400 block of West Broadway Ave. at 8:21 a.m.

For the second time this week, Vancouverites woke up to snow. But Friday, December 9th’s, early dump of the white stuff did not appear to wreak havoc on the morning commute like the 5 cm that fell Monday morning, at least not along the part of West Broadway Avenue that runs through my small pocket of the Fairview neighbourhood.

For days forecasters have been predicting a heavy and sustained snowfall, beginning sometime Friday—maybe 10 cm in Vancouver and up to 20 cm farther inland.

Luck favours the well-prepared and luckily, warmer temperatures, a late start to the snow and lighter traffic volumes, combined Friday morning, with the advance preparations of both the City of Vancouver and TransLink, to minimize the effects of the snow on commuters.

A trolley wire de-icing truck in the westbound lane of West Broadway Avenue at 9:47 p.m. Thursday.

Trolley wire de-icing truck in westbound lane of West Broadway Ave. thursday evening.

In contrast to the Sunday before Monday’s disruptive snowfall, by Thursday evening West Broadway Avenue was thoroughly striped with salt brine and one of TransLink’s specialized Coast Mountain Bus Company maintenance trucks was conspicuously seen de-icing the street’s overhead electric trolley bus wires.

And this Friday morning (unlike Monday morning) I saw no fewer than five City of Vancouver salt and plow trucks—not just speeding east and west along Broadway Avenue—but all spreading salt in their wake.

Furthermore I would swear that 99 B-Line bus drivers, speeding westbound in the curb lane,  deliberately kept their buses a foot-or-so from said curb—as if they were trying to avoid kicking up the splashing fantail of slush that accompanied so many speeding buses on Monday morning.

After all the suspense Friday’s snowfall lacks drama

The falling snow at 7:35 a.m. is accumulating in the alley but not on busy Hemlock St.

At 7:35 a.m., snow is accumulating in the alley but not on busy Hemlock St ahead.

For the second time this week, I woke up in my parkade sleeping spot to the sight of falling snow.

But at 7 a.m., as I began walking my bike and trailer up the slope toward West Broadway Avenue, I could already see and feel that the conditions this Friday were favourably different than they had been four days earlier on Monday.

My first exposure to Friday’s snow felt warmer and it looked far less ominous. The lightly falling flakes were not sticking to the bare side street pavement, which was glistening damp in the street light. And what powdery snow was accumulating on the sidewalk was nearly indistinguishable from the casting of salt crystals from the night before.

A City of Vancouver Traffic By-law Enforcement car speeds along West Broadway at 7:23 a.m.

A City of Vancouver Traffic By-law Enforcement car, with nothing to enforce, speeds along West Broadway Ave. at 7:23 a.m.

Except for the shiny gleam on the roadway, the scene along “Wet” Broadway Avenue as Friday’s snow fell was just plain dull. There was no great quantity of snow or slush, or inert and jackknifed double-length buses. There were also no crashed cars and no crowds of sullen transit commuters.

Snow sticks it to the poor by only sticking in the alleys

But if drivers and transit riders in Fairview were spared an ugly morning commute, the snow will certainly have a negative impact (albeit somewhat hidden) on some people in the neighbourhood.

I’m referring to the homeless and non-homeless population of people (such as myself) who daily comb through Fairview’s back alleys for returnable beverage containers and whatever other discarded objects of value that can be gleaned from the garbage.

As of yesterday, many of Fairview’s back alleys were surprisingly still covered in ice—ice made all the more treacherous for footing and impassible to bottle collector’s shopping carts by having been whipped as slush into hard frozen ruts and waves.

Today’s snow will simply preserve, hide and ultimately add to whatever ice is in back alleys across the city of Vancouver.

For as long as it lasts, this snow and ice will force many binners to chose between the risk of injury from slipping and falling and the prospect of making no money at all. This is one of the ways that snow can add to the heap of woes that cold weather, by itself, dumps on the poor and the dispossessed. Click the images to enlarge them.

  1. Wow, until I read this I never thought of snow from this perspective. Hope it melts fast for you and glad it wasn’t as bad as Monday.

    • Binners who do so on foot have to walk carefully. Those who use a bike will be safer walking their bike. Those who use a shopping car (either just for binning, or because they live out of a cart) will have the worst time of all–if they can even manage at all.

      Potentially this snow could be worse than Monday because it adds measurably to whatever is left over from Monday and because the forecast is for cold into next week, the lanes could be difficult to navigate for days and days.

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