Twice now, since winter began, we've had a decent quantity of snow and then a day where the temperature goes well above freezing. The result of this, when there is enough of a base of snow, is that you get some melting, but not enough and when the temperature freezes again, all that snow becomes ice and the streets and sidewalks become incredibly slippery. My understanding from old-time Montrealers is that the increased frequency of this is relatively new. It used to stay cold here all winter.
It's very frustrating for me, because what could be an awesome opportunity to work collectively and clear the streets and sidewalks, becomes instead another burden for the city. It's just another example of how as a society we have become less and less self-reliant, less and less socially aware and more and more dependent on the government (about whom we all complain).
The thing about those thaw days is that the snow becomes incredibly easy to move. It breaks off of concrete easily and can be scraped (or broken if it's ice) and swept off to the side. It's much easier to handle than when it is just piles of cold snow. Furthermore, the warm weather is actively melting it, doing a lot of work for you.
What I do on these days is to clear off my stairs and the walk around my house, throwing the snow towards the sidewalk and curb. Then I do the sidewalk, pushing the snow and ice out into the street. Not just into the curb, but into the lanes of the street. As the cars go over it, they break it up and increase the melting rate. The water flows into the curb and then the drains. The job takes me no more than hour for my classic Plateau triplex and the sidewalk that runs its width.
Since Montreal is mainly multi-unit dwellings, almost every building has at least one person physically capable of doing this. Of course, other than me and the old Portuguese guys, nobody does anything. Instead, they just wait for the city to come by and drop gravel on it. Then they all bitch and complain about how slippery it is.
The city's primary expense for snow removal, I imagine, is fuel (with labour a close second). So it's really a question of how much volume they have to cart out. It pains me to see so much snow and ice still sitting on the ground the day after it reached 6 degrees celsius. Think how much fuel could have been saved if we all went out and did our part, throwing the sidewalk snow out into the street and getting it to melt? An hours work, which will give fatties some much-needed exercise, as well as some social camaraderie with your neighbours, is all it would take.
Then maybe the city could save a bit of money, moving it into public transport, to get more cars off the street in the winter.
Here's a great post by Alanah Heffez in SpacingMontreal critiquing our negative approach to winter. Great stuff.