By Tony Armstrong, chief executive of Living Streets
Many of us enjoy the snow but a winter chill brings an often dangerous risk from ice and compacted snow. While many roads are cleared and gritted, people travelling by foot often have to traverse thick snow and dangerous stretches of ice.
Last winter, around 20,000 people in the UK were admitted to hospital after slipping and falling on snow and ice.
National charity Living Streets calls on councils to ensure the safety and freedom of pedestrians against such conditions. Blackpool Council was highly commended by Living Streets in 2010 for their pedestrian-friendly improvement programme.
It would be a shame to see icy conditions prevent pedestrians from enjoying the town. As local highway authorities, every council has a legal duty to ensure safe movement along the highway – and this includes the footway – is not endangered by snow or ice. At Living Streets we invited councils and communities to sign up to our Winter Contract, which aims to encourage action from both. We’re urging councils to fulfil their duty and make sure pavements and paths are cleared, giving that task at least the same priority as clearing roads; to send available contractors to help clear icy pavements; help residents by making sure grit is available, encourage those able to clear the street outside their homes and to organise teams of volunteer ‘snow wardens’ to keep things moving. A collaborative effort is the best way to make sure our streets are safe.
Clearing snow and ice can be hard work, so enlist friends and neighbours to join you. Snow shovels are great at shifting the first fallen layer of snow, though a garden spate will work just as well. This should be done before the snow compacts and makes the work harder. Gritting is an excellent pre-emptive measure, before it is walked on too much.
We recommend rock salt, as it is relatively cheap, quick to apply and easy to spread. Visit a large builders’ merchants to get a bag and protect yourself and fellow pedestrians from icy conditions. Wear appropriate footwear; a sturdy boot with a good tread will go a long way towards preventing an unwanted slip. A joint effort between council and community is the best way to tackle dangers. Remember to stay safe yourself, and, if able, do your bit to help your community. You can urge your council to protect people from icy pavements at www.livingstreets.org.uk/ice