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City of Tallinn says clearing capital's sidewalks would cost around €26 million

Snow clearing.
Snow clearing. Source: ERR

Just a few days after the first snows of winter arrived and a solution to the impasse on keeping sidewalks in Tallinn consistently clear of snow and ice dies not seem to be any nearer.

In the capital, maintaining sidewalks and other thoroughfares is shared between the municipal authority, ie. the City of Tallinn and its districts, and private property owners. The former cleans sidewalks in public areas, cycle lanes and other public thoroughfares including of course public roads, and the latter is responsible for sidewalks in residential areas, for instance.

However, private property owners do not uniformly follow the requirements, which leads to a wide range of sidewalk conditions in winter, from the ultra clean and safe, to those which have not been cleared at all, often becoming impassable in heavy snowfall.

While the city has snow-clearing machinery at its disposal, private citizens generally do not, and in any case some sidewalks are so narrow that using machinery such as tractors would be inconvenient; there is also the issue of where to dump shoveled snow, particularly after heavy snowfall or after snow accumulates through the winter.

On the other hand, the city government says that at this point in time, it cannot clear sidewalks adjacent to private properties.

Tarmo Sulg, deputy head of the Tallinn Environment and Utilities Board, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "At the moment, under the law, there is no good alternative to offer."

"Certainly yes, one complexity is that there is nowhere to place this snow. It should essentially be removed from all those sidewalks. But to do that, very substantial resources are needed, including financial resources, to take on this work in Tallinn," Sulg went on.

Sulg estimated these "financial resources" at around €26 million.

Private property owners can also pay snow and ice clearing services to do the work for them.

The first snows of winter began last week in Tallinn as rain and sleet, in places forming a slippery substrate below the subsequent carpet of white snow.

Mart Liiksaar, whose company, Neider, offers snow removal within Tallinn, said that it would have been better for all concerned if his company were summonsed earlier rather than later, as once the snow and ice pack has built up, the work can take twice as long.

Tallinn residents who spoke to AK said the roads at least are satisfactorily navigable. One, Dmitri, who was driving, said: "The best roads are in Kopli, as there was no snow there. In those places where it has snowed, of course, the roads are blocked up for the first few hours and then they get cleared."

For pedestrians the situation often is not quite as rosy, however.

Anatoly, traversing the streets of Tallinn on foot, said the going was hard. "The housekeepers should clear the snow near their houses, but the maintenance trucks also drive past, while the wet snow that is collected from the road falls from them," he said.

Cleared snow is often taken away in the back of trucks and sometimes even dumped outside the city, to await the spring melt.

"It is very difficult, in general it is difficult for people with mobility issues to get around," he added.

Tallinn authorities can issue fines to home and property owners who do not adequately maintain sidewalks in winter. In addition to clearing the snow, grit should be sprinkled underfoot, while any icicle buildup should be knocked from windows and eaves and anywhere else they form, as soon as possible. Homeowners are also responsible for ensuring a hazardous build up of snow on the roof is avoided.

The AK slot below visually illustrates some of the issues outlined above – and we're still in the month of November.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Iida-Mäi Einmaa.

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