Saturday, 9 January 2010

Protect people on pavements

The speed at which the Facebook campaign to get Kent County Council to grit pavements as well as road has grown has taken me by surprise. Not all of the comments on the site are constructive but the level of debate and feeling has to be seen!

As Jo Anglezarke points out in her post on "Ice Poverty", current county council attitudes towards gritting clearly show how they discourage walking in favour of cars. It was good to hear that Cllr Chard has apologised for not doing enough to grit pavements in Kent, but as far as I can tell, nothing has changed yet.

Ice poverty, like fuel poverty, affects the most vulnerable in society. Not having a car means that you are reliant on the pavements to get food, to work or to school. As many drivers are now finding, they too are increasing reliant on pavements as roads get blocked by snow and ice.

So the answer? There isn't an easy one! Other countries have laws for residents to clear snow and ice from the pavements in front of their homes. A law is a bit too draconian for me, but communities could shoulder more responsibility for clearing snow but are hampered by scare stories of law suits, and a lack of salt bins to use on the path. Salt bins on street corners are essential and I haven't seen one in years.

Councils could (and should) clear key pavements as they clear main roads. They need to put more money aside for this and be prepared to expand the workforce quickly. They also need to continue with other pavements once main routes are clear, to ensure that vulnerable people do not get cut off for any longer than is necessary.

Finally, the people in the gritting lorries are working extremely hard and I am personally grateful for their hard work (especially having been caught out trying to get home to Maidstone on Wednesday evening). This is not a criticism of the workers!

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