Snow Removal & Clearing
The City's Winter Control consists of clearing and removing the snow from various sidewalks and roads around the City.
Residents and business owners are asked to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks within 24 hours after a snowfall, in accordance with Snow By-law 5597/99, as amended.
The City salts and plows sidewalks:
- on regional roads
- fronting municipal parks or property
- on walkways between roads and leading into schools
- on bridge overpasses
- on highly populated routes to schools
Bus Shelters and Parks
Bus shelters are cleared by a contractor through Durham Region Transit. Super mailboxes are cleared by Canada Post.
Most municipal parks are not maintained in the winter, so paths and walkways running throughout are not cleared or salted.
Pickering is divided into 10 urban routes and 2 rural routes, clearing each within a Priority Routing System. Priority Routes are identified as main roads and carry higher volumes of traffic. These are the roads people use to get to business areas, hospitals and in and out of the city. Bus routes are also considered priority routes. The "local" roads are primarily residential and these are systematically plowed after the Priority Routes are completed.
Order of Operations
A general rule, depending on the severity of the storm:
- the south urban area can expect complete service (salting and plowing) within 12 to 18 hours
- the north rural area can expect complete service (salting or sanding and plowing) within 24 hours
If snowfall is exceptionally heavy, complicated by freezing rain or has required crews to work in peak traffic times, the operation times can be longer. We appreciate your patience.
Another factor affecting snow clearance turnaround is the Ministry of Labour regulation that prohibits drivers from driving more than 13 hours without a rest period. This requirement is strictly enforced.
Road Snow Clearing Process
- salt trucks are dispatched for paved roads only, once roads have become snow covered
- each salt route takes approximately 4 - 6 hours to complete
- City staff determine whether to plow (usually 75mm / 3" of snowfall or more)
- each snow plow route takes approximately 8 - 12 hours to complete
- the rural gravel roads are monitored and plowed as necessary
- if warranted the rural gravel roads are then sanded
- clean up operations take place 1-2 days following a snow event
Did you know...
- gravel roads are sanded for traction, since applying salt would draw out the frost, weakening the road and creating soft spots and pot holes
- salt is most effective when the road temperature ranges between 0o to -10o
- salt plays no role in the formation of potholes on asphalt roads
Snow Safety Tips & Etiquette
- be a good neighbour - lend a hand to those who may not be physically able to shovel
- keep your children safe - don't let them play in the snow piles or on the snow banks at the side of the road
- when clearing snow, pile it on your property - it should not be shovelled onto the sidewalk or street
- place your garbage containers and blue box on a cleared area - do not perch them on the top of snow piles
- help prevent street flooding and icing by clearing snow away from storm sewer catchbasins. When the weather turns warmer and snow begins to melt it's important that the run off water gets into the storm sewer. If the catch basin is fully or partially covered by a build-up of snow and ice, street flooding can occur. Should the temperature drop again the street can become an icy.
Things you can do to help
- Sometimes it takes several passes with the plow to completely clear the street. Wait until plowing is completed, and you will only have to shovel your driveway once.
- When you shovel your driveway, place the snow on the "downstream" (right side) so your driveway won't be filled in the next time the plow comes by.
- Observe snow by-laws.
- Don't park overnight on any City street.
- Don't push snow from a driveway or parking lot onto a City street or sidewalk.
- Don't park your vehicle at the end of your driveway in a way that would impede City plows.
- Try to keep the catch basin adjacent to your property free from ice and snow to help prevent localized flooding.
- Don't place garbage or garbage containers where they can be buried, damaged or interfere with snow removal.
- Avoid unnecessary spinning of tires at intersections. This practice is dangerous and hazardous to other motorists. It also tends to "ice up" the intersections.
- Avoid installing mailboxes where they can be damaged by plowing operations. Canada Post can provide guidelines concerning the proper distances mailboxes should be placed from road surfaces.
- We attempt to minimize the impact of snow and ice. However, it is each motorist's responsibility to drive according to the road conditions.
Parked Cars and Snow Clearing Operations
Please remove parked vehicles from the street during snow plowing or clearing operations. Parked cars not only slow the operation, but also leave large amounts of snow on the road after the car is dug out, which is inconvenient for everyone and dangerous.
Your valued assistance during the winter season will help provide efficient and economical winter maintenance service.
The City prohibits street parking during Winter Control operations (in accordance with Traffic & Parking By-law). If vehicles are hindering the snow clearing operations, they will be ticketed ($38.00 fine) and/or towed (at the owner's expense).
Please note that from December 1st until March 31st, vehicles are not allowed to park on any road in Pickering between 2:00 am and 5:00 am.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the snow plow leave such a pile of snow across my driveway after I've just shovelled it out?
The trucks salt first and then plow, which usually means that many residents have already shovelled their driveway by the time the plow comes by. The plows are designed to remove snow from the road and deposit it on the boulevard. Driveways form part of the boulevard. Pickering doesn't have the resources to remove the snow from driveways. We appreciate that this can be frustrating, however, we ask your cooperation in clearing the snow without placing it on the roadway, as this is dangerous and in contravention of the Highway Traffic Act. When you shovel your driveway, place the snow "downstream" (right side) so your driveway won't be filled in the next time the plow comes by.
Why does the City salt first, then plow?
Salt is applied to the road surface after the snow has accumulated. The reaction of salt with the moisture in the snow creates a "brine" solution, breaking the bond between snow and road. City trucks plow later, removing the "slushy" snow, which results in better traction. The plow blade rides slightly above the road surface, therefore the salt is not entirely plowed off the road.
When will my street be plowed?
Where your street lies in relation to where the plow starts, determines the time it takes to get there. Please see Order of Operations for more information.
I've shovelled my driveway, and a day or two later the plow truck has filled it back in - why?
In a major snowstorm the trucks do not initially perform a full road width plowing. This is the most efficient and effective way to get the city moving. Crews return a day or two later to perform "clean-up operations". This completely opens the street for maximum efficiency, moves remaining snow onto boulevards, clears catch basins for potential water runoff, allows on street parking, and creates storage space for the next storm.
Is salt dangerous to the environment?
Environment Canada will not ban the use of road salt as it is not harmful to humans, but has declared it as CEPA Toxic (i.e. toxic to the environment). Road authorities take action by improving their own management of road salt, by metering salt distribution and pre-wetting to reduce the environmental effects. We annually review our winter control operations and evaluate new technologies and processes, to reduce the amount of road salt required in managing snow and ice.
I am a senior, what services can the City of Pickering provide me for snow removal?
The City of Pickering offers a Seniors & Persons with Disabilities Snow Clearing Program. Visit our Snow Clearing Program page for more information.
I live on a corner lot, why do I end up with an excessive amount of snow at the bottom of my driveway?
Due to accumulation on the side street, with no intercepting driveways, the snow gets released at the first driveway the plow reaches. We appreciate that this can be frustrating and we appreciate your cooperation in a snow emergency. Contact our Customer Care If there is an over excessive amount of snow.
I live on a court. When will the pile of snow in the centre of the court be removed?
The snow piles in the centre of courts are removed by front-end loaders. This will be done as soon as possible after the snow removal as part of the "clean-up operations".
Why doesn't the plow do a better job clearing the centre of a cul-de-sac? It is very difficult for our larger plow units to manoeuvre in the centre of a cul-de-sac to clear all the snow. We will use smaller plows or front-end loaders, depending on availability, if a significant amount of snow accumulates.
What If a City plow damages my...
Sod: Contact our Customer Care Centre and we will come out to inspect the area. We will make any repairs deemed necessary once sod becomes available in the spring.
Driveway or Curbs: The City owns the boulevard area of house properties and will use asphalt to repair any damage caused by City plows. The City will not restore driveway boulevards that are damaged during winter control operations, finished with interlocking brick, patterned concrete or concrete/wood curbs. Please contact us to arrange an inspection.
Mailbox: In rural areas, if your mailbox is damaged or knocked down, we may replace a mailbox with a standard rural mailbox.
My garbage and recycling bins are constantly buried by the plow. What can I do about this? We suggest that during the winter season, residents place their bags and bins far enough back on the driveway to avoid being buried.
Why was my street missed? Severe weather conditions, mandatory working regulations, and other factors may delay our ability to clear all City roads of snow and ice. Even when all of our equipment is at work, heavy or drifting snow may re-cover streets before repeat clearing is possible. We ask that you give us time to manage the snowstorm. Contact Customer Care if you feel that our crews have missed your street.
What are my responsibilities? Property owners are responsible for clearing snow from their walkways/sidewalks within 24 hours of a snow fall in accordance with Snow By-law 5597/99, as amended, and it makes good sense to keep these areas and steps free of ice. Family members, visitors, and other service personnel will thank you for providing a safe path to your door.
Other agencies such as the Region of Durham, Province of Ontario and the Federal Government, also have winter control duties on roads under their jurisdiction, within the city boundaries.