2021-05-14

On the folly of not clearing the leaves in the street

This past autumn, my city decided they weren’t going to pick up the leaves that fall into the street in my neighbourhood. Normally they come by once each year after most of the leaves have fallen and enormous street-sweeping-leaf-picking-upping machines haul away the detritus. But not this year. Instead, as a cost-cutting measure the leaves were left to lie in the gutters. There are really a lot of leaves in my neighbourhood, since it features many large maple and oak trees and many of them overhang the street.

Fast forward to November. Now the leaves in the street have been driven over, parked on, and generally reduced to a thick fibrous mash covering much of the surface of the street. It’s very slippery to ride a bicycle on this mess.

Leaf mush

Then it snows. People drive over the snow plus leaf mash, turning it into a stiff slurry that slides to the sides of the street and freezes solid, blocking all the drains.

Then it snows again. Because the plows push the snow to the side of the street and because even when it does warm up a bit none of the meltwater can make it through the leaf slurry covering the drains, the snow builds up on top of the frozen leaf slurry. People park on it, crushing it into ice.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Now we have a berm of solid ice a good 15 centimetres thick and two metres wide between the street and the sidewalk.

Ardagh Ice Berm

It’s taller than the sidewalk, so any meltwater from the berm and from people’s front yards can’t go anywhere. On warm days the sidewalk becomes an enormous deep puddle.

On the street side of the ice berm, the meltwater also has nowhere to go since the berm forms a solid barrier between the street and the (inaccessible anyway because they’re under six inches of ice and frozen leaf slurry) drains.

The temperature is supposed to reach highs above freezing for most of this week, with rain and perhaps more snow. What falls on the street will stay there, making a swamp; what falls on the sidewalk will stay there too, joining the meltwater from people’s front yards, forming deep puddles during the day that will freeze into treacherous slipperiness at night.

It is going to be a very big mess. There will be many soggy basements and many irate calls to the city.

I’m not sure what they thought would happen here — I predicted this very state of affairs back in October when I heard they weren’t going to sweep the leaves. And I would put quite a bit of money on the cleanup costing far more than it would’ve cost to sweep the leaves in the first place. Sigh.