(Note: The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views or the position of BOMA Calgary.)
During any construction project, public safety is paramount. This concept applies equally to those on the job site and members of the public. The Alberta Safety Codes Act is pretty specific about a number of things related to construction.
Yesterday (August 11th) a number of pedestrians were issued tickets for unlawfully walking along 5th Street SW next to a sidewalk that was clearly marked as closed. Most will agree that walking on a busy multi-lane roadway is not the safest undertaking. But apparently one City Councillor is a little riled that the pedestrians were issued tickets for flouting the law and even went as far as suggesting the construction firm should be fined when pedestrians are inconvenienced this way.
Wait a minute!
Holding one party responsible for the illegal actions of another is going too far.
When a building owner makes an application to demolish one building and erect another, there is a very rigorous process that the developer must go through with the City to obtain the necessary permits. There is a process as well for sidewalk closures and the fees associated with such closures can be fairly hefty. On some projects, the developers have adapted shipping containers to cover a sidewalk and keep it open for pedestrians. It is a really creative solution. Will that guarantee pedestrian safety? Not always. Should, heaven forbid, a large chunk of concrete tumble from a demolition project, not even a metal shipping container will provide absolute protection. City administrators keep this fact in mind when deciding to grant a permit to close a sidewalk. There are two general approaches to protecting the public in situations like this: provide some protection from hazards, or remove the people from the areas where hazards may reasonably exist. The final decision is the purview of the City’s Traffic Engineer when no other reasonable alternative is available. There is huge liability exposure for both the developer and the city should someone be hurt, so the risks must be managed or removed. It is a matter of public safety. It is also a matter of City policy.
The City itself often closes sidewalks for its works from time to time. Should it fine itself for inconveniencing pedestrians?
Construction programs are short term in nature. It is not unreasonable to expect public patience for this inconvenience just as it is not unreasonable to expect people to obey laws.
It’s a simple matter of public safety.
And the development industry wants people to be safe.