Watching where you walk in the winter months? You're not the only one

Jan 2, 2018

With slippery conditions on streets and sidewalks this season, it’s always a good idea to watch where you step. And in the City of Buffalo, you’re not the only one keeping an eye out.


Snow-covered streets and icy sidewalks are nothing new to city residents but, for some, it can be an impediment to getting out and about in the winter months. That’s why city offices like the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo think about walkability in this time of year.

Environmental Health Promotion Specialist Sarah Martin considers concepts like “place-making” – turning communities into places people want to be and can readily enjoy. But it’s easiest to do during warmer months.

“But you could argue it’s more important in the winter because you do have to overcome that extra barrier of, ‘Hey, it’s cold outside. Why would I want to go outside?’ or, ‘The sidewalks might be slippery,’” said Martin.

Helping with those issues is where partnership with the city’s Public Works Department comes in. The two offices work to identify problem areas for winter walkability and Public Works sends out contractors or city crews to clear them. Some of the most important are vacant properties along main thoroughfares that might impede access to bus routes. Others include some of the city’s newer street design features like extended sidewalk corners.

“People are concerned sometimes with plowing streets on [extended sidewalks],” Stepniak explained. “But they also make the streets narrower and easier to cross for residents and citizens, and we pay attention to those on our plowing schemes. The other areas that we look at is a lot more greenspace in some of these areas, for more snow storage area. That’s always helpful for us. So there’s a strong input from public works on all of that.”

Stepniak said hearing from the public through the city’s 3-1-1 line also plays an important role when cold weather conditions strike.

“If anybody’s having any difficulties – either it’s getting their own sidewalk clear, or a sidewalk in their neighborhood clear, to call us and give us that data,” Stepniak said. “The data is the best thing that can run those programs and help generate the work that needs to be done.”

Both offices work to continue cooperation between the city, its businesses, and its residents, because there’s a part for everyone to play in keeping paths clear.

“Understand that others need that assistance in walking down the streets,” Stepniak said. “Sometimes what might not look bad to us makes it very difficult for some of our senior folks to get down the street. And help each other out where we can.”

For those looking to get their walking done indoors, there are options for that, too, according to Wellness Institute Executive Director Phil Haberstro. Among the most popular are local shopping malls.

“Folks are there,” said Haberstro. “And they’ve learned to use that as an asset. And the malls, the people that run the malls, have been good about this. They allow community groups. We’ve gone to all the area malls, but most recently to the Boulevard Mall and the Walden Galleria malls, and they’ve always been supportive of walking programs in there.”

The Wellness Institute has a brochure of winter wellness information, with advice to stay active, healthy, and safe throughout the season. You can visit their website www.healthycommunitynetwork.com or email BeActive@City-Buffalo.org.

Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter at @SAvery131.