Questions and answers about snow and ice removal

We understand your concerns about the icy conditions on the Island. This winter has been unusually cold and snowy and we are doing our best with the resources we have to maintain transportation routes. We have seen your questions on social media and hope that the following can provide some answers:

Why hasn’t my road been plowed?

Over the last month there have been several large snowfall events and unusual, sub-freezing temperatures. While the snow is falling, plows work continuously on clearing main routes (including bus routes). Once the snow has stopped falling and the main routes are passable, plows begin clearing secondary routes. Several times this winter, because of the heavy snowfalls, by the time plows were able to get to the secondary and tertiary routes, they had already been driven on and packed down into icy sheets, in some cases melted by rain and re-frozen due to the unusually cold temperatures. Once that condition happens, plows are no longer effective. Crews are now deploying sand in an attempt to improve traction.

There were some areas of the Island that plows could not get to in time because of vehicles parked on the road. Plows need space to manoeuvre and turn around and when vehicles are blocking them, they cannot get through. This is and always will be a fact of winter life on Bowen as our roads are narrow and our hills are steep.

Does the Municipality have salt?

Yes – and we are running out. Most winters we barely need to use any salt. We have an extremely limited amount of salt remaining. At this time, crews are switching to sand to improve traction on areas with thick, packed-down ice.

The City of Vancouver is providing free salt to its residents. Why doesn’t Bowen Island Municipality?

We simply don’t have enough salt available to offer this. Salt has to be shipped in by barge and even our supplier has run out. Vancouver is a much larger municipality and has greater financial and staff resources than we do.

Why are the sidewalks still icy?

According to the Traffic and Use of Streets Bylaw, commercial property owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalk adjacent to their property. Businesses are being contacted by Bylaw officers to ensure compliance with bylaw provisions. Sidewalks adjacent to Municipal land have been cleared.

Parking lots on private property are the responsibility of the property owner to clear, but this is not a provision within the bylaw.

What if business owners don’t have any salt?

At this time, temperatures are remaining below freezing and so if salt is applied to thick, built-up ice, it will only melt into water and then re-freeze overnight. A combination of salt and sand is more effective for this condition.

Just as the Municipality plans for winter conditions, business owners should plan accordingly by ensuring they have enough salt/sand ready for when the snow starts falling and the temperatures plummet. Watch weather forecasts and monitor current conditions. Keep sidewalks clear by shovelling regularly  - don't let it build up - and then applying salt and/or sand once the snow has stopped.

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