By: Hannah Kazemi, Staff Writer
I’m a hater of just a few things — but near the top of the list is snow. I remember a time when I used to look forward to seeing snow fall from the sky; it meant a potential snow day, drinking hot chocolate, and the opportunity to make snowmen until it got dark.
But as I got older and took on more responsibilities, namely ones that required me to leave my house, I became a hater of all things snow and winter. I hate wiping the snow off my car and scraping the ice off of my windshield, only to have it covered minutes later with fresh powder. And in the rare event that the roads have been cleared, I dread having to go driving after scores of Metro Vancouverites thoughtlessly toss the snow from their walks into the street. I become the most aggressively petty person when there’s snow in the forecast and it actually comes to fruition.
There are people that claim they like snow — children, mainly. I’m convinced that people who ski and snowboard, spending hours on the mountain “shredding pow” or whatever, are the only ones that truly love snow. I am definitely not one of those people.
Leaving the house to go literally anywhere when there’s snow on the ground becomes a whole production that feels like a risk to your safety. Not to mention the fact that drivers in Vancouver (read: the entire Lower Mainland) act like they’ve never seen a single snowflake in their entire lives and struggle to understand the concept of adjusting their speed for the conditions. Or clearing their car of snow. Or appropriately switching over to snow tires.
When we had all that snow this past November and December, it was like the entire province went into chaos mode. YVR essentially shut down, disrupting holiday plans for thousands of travelers. Ferry sailings were cancelled left and right, stranding people on the island or the mainland. Sections of major highways went unplowed for days, resulting in stranded vehicles, wildly unsafe conditions, and the closure of the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges. I’m so thankful I didn’t have to leave my house more than once in the middle of that mess because no one would have heard the end of it from me otherwise.
Vancouver’s transit system also saw countless cancellations and delays, including buses stuck at stops, frozen SkyTrain doors, and hours-long waits for a bus to arrive. This affects everybody; people are either late for work or get snowed in completely and forced to either lose a day of pay or frantically find child care. Not to mention the major barriers that people with mobility aids face in these situations: if sidewalks aren’t cleared, how are people in wheelchairs supposed to get to the bus stop in the first place? The city struggled across the entire system.
Some of the worst conditions during this winter’s heavy snowfall were on the highways and bridges. Highway 1 was a fucking mess for days as it has been during past snowfalls — the roads turn into ice sheets and driving anywhere is a game of “am I even in a lane?” Never mind the fact that drivers themselves lack the common sense to think of buying snow tires for their cars.
Compared to major cities in Eastern Canada, Vancouver’s snow removal budget is meager. Montreal’s $187 million snow removal budget pays for constant snow plowing and melting. Vancouver’s annual budget? Just $4 million. Our city’s snow removal budget needs to reflect the challenges and disruptions whenever there’s more than 5 cm of snow on the ground. As climate change continues to contribute to snowier winters and extreme weather events, we need to get our shit together.