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"House arrest" through inequitable gritting during cold spells

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  • Simon Baddeley
    ... From: Chris Bradshaw o: Sent: Saturday, January 05, 2002 1:47 AM Subject: Re: Frigid carfree
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2002
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Chris Bradshaw" <chris@...>o:
      Sent: Saturday, January 05, 2002 1:47 AM Subject: Re: Frigid carfree

      Greetings from Ottowa - the second-coldest capital city in the world!...I
      have been a pedestrian activist for some time, including trying to get over
      the inequality of the treatment of walking and driving surfaces. E.g.,
      "Streets are _cleared_, sidewalks are _ploughed_" (yes, Ottawa city staff
      plough -- and grit -- all sidewalks, but all winter the walking surface is
      that of ice, after the first thaw or freezing rain.) The result is that
      seniors, so vulnerable to falls and so unable to heal quickly (or at all)
      when injured, are virtually under house-arrest during the winter, unless
      they have a car ...Chris Bradshaw Ottawa

      Forgive me circulating my response to a message from Ottawa (see above)
      which might be of interest. I acknowledge the ever-present problem of
      resources raised by the need to clear ice off pavements as well as roads,
      but I will continue to grind an axe about the different treatment accorded
      people with and those without cars during spells of icy weather such as the
      one we've been experiencing:

      Reply: "Fascinating Chris! I think there is now a 'fear' of cold that didn't
      exist before the arrival of hi-tech clothing and 'centrally heated'
      transport. I would like in my 60s to be sure I can continue to be mobile in
      winter without being dependent on the protection of a car. Our government
      has recently done quite a lot to ensure that the elderly are helped to cope
      with cold inside their houses, but my worries focus on the gnawing overall
      cold that can possess you if waiting without movement by a bus stop or on a
      station platform. I'm fine if I can keep walking or cycling. How did those
      Russian coachmen in St.Petersburg keep warm during winter as they waited for
      their passengers in their centrally heated palaces? My wife thinks they lit
      wildfires in the road to cope with -30 degrees and worse. Mightn't go down
      too well here that!

      I take your point about the 'house arrest' of the old through inequitable
      gritting of roads as compared to sidewalks. I wrote about this in our city
      of Birmingham last year. This year some local councillors have made a point
      of raising this issue as we face one of our longer icy spells in Birmingham.
      I know our conditions don't compare in cold with cities in Canada but you
      can slip badly and injure yourself on even a thin film of ice. Here the
      council, for a saving of about £50,000 (UK pounds), has apparently removed a
      number of street salt boxes used by residents and street cleaners to salt
      slippery slopes for walkers and cars on otherwise ungritted side roads and
      to clear ice from "desire lines" on pavements especially near bus-stops and
      road crossings. This may have proved a false economy as emergency services
      have had to deal with what I suspect is a correlated increase in casualties
      from falls causing broken bones and strained ligaments.

      The social cost of the corresponding "house arrest" effect of unsalted
      pavements is less visible but I suspect it exists. I notice it in our road
      where I chair the resident's association and try to keep any eye on the
      house-bound. I suspect that council treated sidewalks would encourage the
      more public spirited of neighbours to go on to salt the route from sidewalk
      to a person's front door, especially if there was relatively easy access to
      grit. I have done this to some extent but to get salt I had to get in my car
      and drive to a garden centre about a mile away and load up with three sacks
      of grit. How many are prepared or able to do this? Yet if we are talking
      about quality of civil life or "liveability" (our Prime Minister's recently
      circulated term for issues like this), the walkability of streets during
      cold spells should be part and part of citizenship and a partnership between
      a municipality and its population aimed at not surrendering public space to
      cold weather.

      I recall that I first discovered the joys of walking from railstation in the
      city centre to home when I arrived back in Birmingham in a local snow storm
      and found the city including all taxis in gridlock. I was younger and
      although I did traverse upswept and ungritted sidewalks and roads I made
      excellent progress and arrived home after a two mile walk feeling a great
      sense of achievement.

      I shall circulate this to some of our councillors who I know are sympathetic
      to these thoughts. I suspect this is less a matter of values or even
      priorities but more one of the managerial talent (and technical invention of
      pavement gritting machines ) needed to find workable solutions to an
      injustice. The trouble with it being widely recognised is that the 'house
      arrest' phenomenon has come to be so taken for granted that people find it
      difficult it imagine it could be resolved. Many people resign themselves to
      being unable to get out of their houses in certain conditions and those with
      cars thank their stars."


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