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Vancouver's snow readiness plan considers fines for improper winter tires

Matt Robinson

(Gerry Kahrmann/Postmedia Network files)

(Gerry Kahrmann/Postmedia Network files)

Next time you're out spinning your tires on snow and ice in Vancouver, you may be sliding toward a big fine.

City councillors are set to consider a staff plan for snow readiness after repeated storms and cold weather all but shut down city streets last winter.

Among the items in that plan is a proposal to fine drivers who are on the road in snowy conditions without winter tires (those that have a mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewalls).

As Jerry Dobrovolny, the city's general manager of engineering, put it in a recent interview: "We all share some responsibility in keeping the city functioning."

But the city is also looking to spend $4.3 million to boost its own snow readiness. More salt, nearly a dozen 4x4 dump trucks, several snowblowers, salters and briners, and a network of CCTV cameras to monitor road conditions are among the items on the city's winter wish list.

Staff also want the snow-clearing budget to increase from $780,000 to $1.6 million annually.

Funding for capital improvements would be added to the 2015-18 capital plan and operating costs in 2017 would come from the existing budget. Those in 2018 are yet to be determined.

City staff and Mayor Gregor Robertson were widely criticized for being unprepared for last year's winter woes. There were extensive delays in garbage and recycling pickups, lengthy commutes through dangerous driving conditions and icy sidewalks.

Yet the cold snap behind the trouble was a once-in-30-years event, according to city staff.

When asked if complaints had prompted the proposed new spending, Dobrovolny said they had not.

"It's more constructive than that. Climate change is real and resilience is a fundamental goal and task that we have as a city.

" … These are actually fairly small tweaks that adjust the way we do business — that have benefits in more reasonable weather conditions and also allow us to provide quite a benefit during extreme conditions," Dobrovolny said.

With the increased snow budget, staff is planning to establish a clearing schedule for many city roads, bike lanes and pedestrian pathways. Still absent from the schedule are sidewalks, which remain the responsibility of home and business owners.

Staff plans to simplify the notification and ticketing process for those who fail to clear their sidewalks. As it stands, delinquents get two warnings and then a ticket. About 80 per cent of those warned cleaned up their act last year, but hundreds of others did not. Staff will take some of them — those they could not ticket in person — to court.

A plan to simplify that system is being worked on, as are details on fines for those who gum up snowy roads with under-equipped vehicles — a frustrating problem that Dobrovolny raised several times last year when asked about the city's snow-clearing efforts.

"The analogy, I'd say, is it's like we've got a snow day and there's six inches of snow out there and somebody walks to work in flip flops and they call and complain that their feet are cold," Dobrovolny said.

"I'm not saying that you have to buy boots. I'm not saying you have to buy winter tires. But when we have a heavy snow day, if you want to drive then you need to have proper, safe, winter equipment. It's that simple.

"… Every instance that I saw where there were big delays were from vehicles blocking the roadway that didn't have winter tires. Every single incident that I witnessed."

Dobrovolny said staff will "work through" the roles of bylaw officers versus police to determine who would enforce a new winter tire bylaw, but he noted that moving violations were VPD territory.

The city's report is up for debate Wednesday.

mrobinson@postmedia.com