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Black ice on sidewalks causing issues for unsuspecting pedestrians

Last Updated Jan 23, 2020 at 7:07 pm MST


Experts suggest heavily salting sidewalks to keep them as clear as possible

Not clearing sidewalks could land you a fine of up to $750 under Calgary bylaw

CALGARY (CityNews) – First came the cold, then a major warm-up. But if you look closely you can still see it–ice! And it’s creating an unseen hazard for unsuspecting pedestrians.

The problem is we’re in a weird spot where the daytime highs are above freezing, melting ice and snow and creating a thin layer of moisture on the ground. But when the sun goes down, it freezes again creating black ice, which is hard to see.

“The thing with black ice is it’s not black ice, it’s actually just clear ice. And the reason it’s really clear is it doesn’t have any air bubbles or swirls in it,” explains CityNews meteorologist Adam Stiles.

“[With] the snowmelt we’ve had, there are air pockets trapped within it so you get a bit of a white sheen… If the wind stays light and we get the right temperatures though the overnight that’s going to likely form as clear ice, nothing to really agitated it so that’s going to be slippery.”

And it can be serious, with people taking nasty falls, which is why even though your front walk or driveway may just look wet, it’s important to make sure it doesn’t freeze.

“The responsibilities are just the same under the bylaw–[Calgarians] have to maintain the sidewalk and keep it free from snow and ice,” explained Inspector Susan Wall with Calgary Community Standards.

“This can be difficult during the freeze-thaw cycle where it freezes at night, thaws during the day and then causes black ice overnight for people commuting in the morning.”

Wall recommends using lots of salt to melt the ice and prevent it from freezing into black ice overnight. She also says try your best to remove as much ice as you can from your sidewalks.

“And you do this day in and day out with those temperatures warming up above freezing and then getting back below that freezing mark so the only thing you can do to handle black ice is to continue to put some salt it,” echoed Stiles.

“It’s still a violation under the streets bylaw to have ice on the sidewalks so the more it’s maintained the better,” said Wall.

A fine for not keeping your sidewalk clear could land you a fine up to $750.

Some people have suffered broken bones and bad bruising from slipping on black ice according to Wall.

City Bylaw says this is a particular issue for elderly people since they’re more likely to be more seriously injured compared to someone younger. They can also suffer long-term injuries from a fall.

-with files from Derek Brade