Miscellaneous sidewalk hazards such as tree roots and other obstacles can pose considerable risk to pedestrians and users. The two most common causes of injury on sidewalks are slip-and-falls and trip-and-falls. However, other sidewalk hazards can constitute a liability risk for municipalities.
Concrete sidewalks, as well as hiking and bicycling trails, are susceptible to heaving and cracking due to tree roots affecting the pavement. This problem can be prevented or dealt with through proper maintenance of trees located near sidewalks.
Below are some other maintenance measures that can be taken:
● Avoid planting trees whose roots are
o prone to come to the surface near walkways (A base of 3” to 5” of aggregate may also allow roots room to grow)
o too large (in height and width) for the space available
● Prune the trees.
● Mark apparent root penetrations with a bright spray paint to make them more visible.
In some cases it may be necessary to cut the tree's roots or use products that deflect root growth away from the sidewalk.
However, doing so will damage the tree and as such, should be avoided if at all possible.
In the interest of tree health, it is best to consult a trained tree specialist before trimming tree roots or using other invasive measures.
Items which restrict pedestrian flow can create hazards. Benches, bus shelters, garbage receptacles, sandwich board signs, mailboxes, parking meters, utility poles, trees, planters, fire hydrants, restaurant patios, utility boxes and phone booths are all examples of potential hazards. These hazards can be reduced somewhat by:
● grouping objects together to make them more visible;
● painting the objects bright colours;
● maintaining minimum height and width clearances;
● ensuring there is adequate space left on the sidewalk for pedestrians to pass by without entering the roadway;
● and ensuring adequate lighting conditions and reflective tape on objects for pedestrians after dark.
Awnings and Overhead Signs
Awnings are decorative features on buildings that are often characterized by bright colours and protrusion over sidewalks.
Below are examples of some potential hazards they pose.
● Collapse or avalanching of accumulated snow and ice onto pedestrians
● Freezing of melted snow onto sidewalks in the winter
● Striking cyclists
Although liability for injuries will likely fall on the owner of the awning, it is probable that the municipality would also be named in a suit by an injured party. Here are some ways in which you can reduce liability:
● Pass a bylaw outlining the conditions under which an awning can encroach on municipal property or utilize an encroachment agreement
● Ensure the bylaw contains an indemnity agreement in favour of the municipality and require that the owner maintain liability insurance and name the municipality as an additional insured with respect to the encroachment.
● Conduct routine inspections to identify property owners who are breaching the bylaw and demand remedial action.
Intersections and Crosswalks
The next most frequent area where slips, trips and falls occur is at intersections. Below are some of the causes of these incidents.
● Uneven curbs
● Mid-street boulevards
● Ice and snow at crosswalks
● Curb ramps which are difficult to see
● Storm sewer grates and manhole covers near the intersection
● Raised or slippery crosswalk marking lines
Below are some examples of remedies for preventing accidents on intersections and crosswalks:
● Use slip resistant paint for crosswalk marking lines
● Relocate sewer grating and manhole covers away from crosswalk areas
● Place tactile warning strips at the top of curb ramps to warn of elevation changes
● Provide curb ramps in mid-street boulevards