Do you need to shovel your sidewalk? Finally, there’s a map.

Some people living in the older parts of the City of Toronto are required to shovel their sidewalks when it snows because the city does not plow them. However, until now there has only been a very vague map of what areas receive city plowing. Even though the City actually plows some streets within this area, there has been no way for an individual property owner to know if their sidewalk is cleared by the city, or if they have to shovel their sidewalk themselves when it snowed.

At a meeting with City of Toronto Transportation Services in the fall, Walk Toronto persuaded City staff to prepare and publish a detailed map showing which sidewalks are plowed by the City, and which ones need to be shoveled by property owners.

Walk Toronto has now received this map and is publishing it so that people living in the older parts of the city can know if the City is supposed to plow their sidewalks, or if they need to shovel them themselves.

Note a few limitations:

  • The map only covers the Toronto East York District. Each district apparently does their own maps. It’s likely some streets not plowed by the city are off the map. Walk Toronto has requested a more comprehensive map for next year.
  • The map is not accessible to the visually impaired (who could use it to know which sidewalks are more likely to be safe). Again, Walk Toronto is pushing for a fully accessible map in the future.
  • Even if your sidewalk is plowed by the City, the City ONLY plows local sidewalks after 8 cm of snowfall. So for lighter snowfalls, property owners on local roads still need to shovel themselves. (The City now plows arterial sidewalks after 2 cm of snow).
  • The City only promises to plow local sidewalks within 48 hours.  So it’s still very helpful to people with mobility issues if property owners clear the snow themselves earlier.

Levels of Service for Sidewalk Clearing

North York:



East York:

Dotted lines represent sidewalk plowing on one side only.

Walk Toronto’s ultimate goal is to have the city plow all sidewalks because property owner shoveling is inconsistent.


Accessibility and Built Environment Resources

AccessForward: Free Training Modules to meet the training requirements under Ontario’s accessibility laws

AODA’s Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment

Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation Guidelines: Part 4.1 – Design of Public Spaces Standards

Illustrated Technical Guide to the Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces

Guidelines for Understanding, Use and Implementation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (2008, link now dead) (available to purchase from the Transportation Association of Canada)

Original post by Vivien Leong


Sidewalk snow clearing – who is responsible for what?

The City clears some but not all snow from sidewalks, a situation Walk Toronto would like to see improved. For sidewalk snow removal that the city does not do, property owners are required to do it themselves, and this is backed up by by-law and enforcement. It is critical that everyone does their bit, since a single uncleared section of sidewalk becomes a barrier to many, preventing safe passage or creating risks of falling or collision with vehicles. So here are the details for the winter of 2014-15:

The City clears snow:

  • On all non-obstructed sidewalks (see below), within 15 hours for high volume (see below) sidewalks and 48 hours for low volume (see below) sidewalks, when snow accumulation reaches specified thresholds (see below).
  • The City never clears snow on obstructed sidewalks (see below)
  • City use small tractors with a plow blade on front and a salter on the rear. The plow usually leaves an inch of compacted snow, which is salted in the same plowing operation.

Property owners, residential and commercial, are required to clear snow:

  • On all sidewalks if snowfall accumulation threshold (see below) for City to do it is not met, within 12 hours of end of snowfall.
  • On sidewalks the City considers obstructed, (which the City will not clear), within 12 hours of the end of any snowfall.
  • Clear to a minimum width 1.2m (wider is better, if possible), depth to bare pavement, repeat as necessary.
  • Do not place snow on street.
  • Apply salt after shoveling to prevent icing.
  • Maintain sidewalk in a cleared and safe state.
  • Seniors and others who are unable to clear their own sidewalks may apply for assistance from the City of Toronto.

Obstructed sidewalks are:

  • Some sidewalks in the old cities of Toronto and East York are considered obstructed by the City.
  • Obstructed sidewalks are those that the City claims are too narrow to accommodate the plows, have poles, trees, hydrants, other obstructions in the way, and have parked cars in close proximity that might get damaged etc.
  • The City of Toronto provides a rough map (PDF), but it is not very exact.
  • To determine if your sidewalk in old Toronto or East York is cleared by the city, call 311 or email
  • All sidewalks in the rest of the City are not considered obstructed.


  • December 2014 and March 2015 – 8cm.
  • January and February 2015 -5cm

High and Low Volume sidewalks

  • High Volume sidewalks are those on arterial roads, some collector roads, bus routes, schools etc
  • Low Volume sidewalks are those on local roads and some collector roads.


Walk Toronto encourages all pedestrians to lodge complaints about sidewalk snow clearing not meeting requirements, whether it’s the City at fault, or property owners. Remember, to make a complaint requires a date, time, location (preferably and address) and nature of complaint. Feel free to send pictures. Contact:

  • by phone – 311
  • by phone from outside city limits – 416-392-2489
  • by email –
  • by Twitter, – @311Toronto or, directly, @TO_WinterOps


  • Property owners not complying with the respective by-laws will generally receive a warning. If they continue to not comply, they are liable to being fined, or have the work done by the city and charged back in their property taxes.


  • @TO_WinterOps provides some updates on Twitter about the progress of sidewalk snow plowing. Feel free to ask them for additional information. If you are not on Twitter, the account can be viewed at The account @ISpyToronto provides status reports on sidewalk snow plowing. The Walk Toronto account @Walk_TO, which can be viewed on the home page of this website, will retweet these reports.
The future
  • For next winter, starting Dec. 1, 2015, the City intends to improve its clearing of high pedestrian volume sidewalks (2 cm threshold, within 6 hours). No changes are planned for low-volume sidewalks.

A Toronto pedestrian pamphlet from 1997

From the archives – here is a PDF of a pamphlet, “Let’s Make Toronto a Walkable City,” produced in 1997 by a pedestrian advocacy group, Feet on the Street, and the old City of Toronto Healthy City Office. It’s interesting to note what issues are still current. Thanks to Helen Riley, former co-chair of the Toronto Pedestrian Committee, for sending this in.

Let’s Make Toronto a Walkable City (PDF)


Comprehensive List of Information about Walking and Great Organizations to Connect With

We’ve compiled some great resources from around the web into one handy list. These organizations and projects are doing great things to educate and advocate for walkable places.

Best Information

Canadian Organizations

International Organizations

List compiled by Vivien Leong


Walk to School Resources

Several parents have contacted Walk Toronto to find out how they can make it easier and safer for their children to walk to school. There are programs in Toronto and the GTA, both from governments and NGOs, dedicated to increasing the number of students walking to school.

Active and Safe Routes to School is a program initiated by Green Communities Canada. They have developed a whole series of programs and resources, and they partner with municipalities and school boards. See for example the Canadian School Travel Planning Facilitator Guide (PDF).

Toronto Public Health has staff members dedicated to working on the Active and Safe Routes to School program. They are a good first point of contact to help organize activities and navigate the City and school bureaucracy to get changes made. They have recently added a “Walking to School” information page.

Toronto District School Board’s EcoSchools program has a Sustainable Transportation module (PDF) which students and teachers can use to connect with the right people at the Board and get started.

The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation has published a guide, Guide to Safer Streets Near Schools: Understanding Your Policy Options in the City of Toronto. See also this short pamphlet from a coalition of academic institutions with findings from research about walking to school, School Traffic Safety in the City of Toronto (PDF).

Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is also very interested in promoting walking to school. Metrolinx conducted a large-scale School Travel Study (PDF) to identify the current state of school travel in the region and has published School Travel Planning in Action in Ontario (PDF) to feature some case studies of successful programs, with concrete examples of the measures taken in specific schools and the increase in walking to school that resulted.

It’s also helpful to get the local city councillor and school board trustee on board. They can help with working with staff, for example, the area manager for City of Toronto Transportation Services, who are the ones who will implement changes. Most importantly, your local councillor will be the person who brings any proposals for changes to the streets to the local community council. When working with elected officials, it’s always more persuasive to have a group of parents supporting any initiative, rather than just working on an individual basis.

A good starting point is often to organize a walk along the route in question, including parents, children, the local councillor, possibly local police (who are in charge of the crossing guard program), and city staff.

If you know of other resources or have experience with working on a walk to school initiative, please let us know in the comments.


Toronto Walking Resources

The City of Toronto has a wide range of policies related to walking, but it’s not always easy to know about them or to find them. This post provides a convenient list of links to these various policies, so that anyone who is interested can get an overview what the City is doing, or at least says it should be doing, to improve the pedestrian experience in Toronto.

List revised in February 2014 to update links to new City of Toronto website, and links are added as they become available–last update March 2015

Various non-municipal organizations also provide useful information about walking policy and programs:

If I’ve missed anything, please add them in the comments.