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Islington Tribune - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 6 February 2009
Pedestrians left to slip to shops on icy pavements

• DURING the recent snow, I was extremely surprised to find that Islington Council did not think to salt pavements in Upper Street to help residents get around.
This week’s snow and ice were widely predicted and Upper Street is one of the key shopping streets in the borough.
On Monday afternoon I did not see any council employees helping to clear even a small thoroughfare for pedestrians.
While the road was cleared, hardly anything was done to help people use the high street.
It must have been especially frustrating for businesses in Upper Street during these challenging times that the council did not do more to help their customers get to the shops.
Deputy chairman, Islington Conservatives

• THERE’S no doubt that Islington Council environment department managers, contractors and workforce did a heroic job over 48 hours to try to minimise the impact of the snowfall on Sunday night and Monday. But am I alone in wondering whether much of this effort was at all effective?
I know that heavy snowfall does not happen terribly often. But pretty much our only weapon against this kind of inclement weather is “gritting”. This should really be called “salting” because it simply involves spreading crushed rock salt on the highway.
In some circumstances, salting the roads does make complete sense. For example, when road surfaces are damp and the temperature drops to below freezing point, salt undoubtedly stops treacherous black ice forming on road surfaces. That’s because salt water has a freezing point well below zero.
But rock salt is pretty useless when you get a very heavy snowfall. That’s because the temperature is already below freezing and the salt does not have any moisture to dissolve into. Eventually, as a thaw sets in, the rock salt can accelerate the melting but that’s usually far too late. Salt has a catastrophic effect on trees and grass. And it badly corrodes road vehicles and is apparently the cause of much mechanical failure in cars.
This week, the airwaves have been full of people asking why things seize up in Britain (actually, southern England) after a snowfall when they don’t on the Continent or in North America. It’s because we don’t try to clear snow off the roads. We just leave it and hope that gritting with salt somehow will fix it. And then we wonder why it doesn’t.
I know that narrow side streets are difficult to plough (not least because of the speed humps) but our main roads could easily be cleared when a heavy snowfall begins. Sunday’s snow (both its timing and volume) was accurately predicted by forecasters so it was not a surprise. Because we did not move any of the snow, even the main roads were virtually impassable. That, in turn, meant that bus companies decided they could not move their vehicles, thereby contributing to a virtual lockdown across London on Monday.
I grew up in an area that generally got heavy snowfalls once or twice a year. The county used a fleet of general purpose trucks and each of these would have a grit spreader mounted on the rear and a snow blade at the front. They ploughed away the snow and left grit behind on the ploughed road surface. Why don’t we do that?
Labour, Caledonian ward

Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to Deadline for letters is midday Wednesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld . Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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