Shouldn’t pavements be gritted instead of roads??

The recent icy weather has reopened the debate about whether pavements should be gritted as well as roads. Living Streets (and others) argue it is the job of the council, while suggests a more bottom up approach: “local grit monitors”. In this vein I particularly liked Adrian Short‘s google mash up of grit bins in Sutton, and the encouragement from the council to report empty grit bins.

I agree that pavements should be gritted, but I don’t think the “as well as roads” goes far enough. In the sort of weather we have had recently, pavements and footpaths should have the priority. Before you write me off as a madman, listen to my (almost coherent) reasoning:

  1. Four wheels good, two legs bad. This is going to sound obvious, but in icy conditions, cars tend to slide, whereas pedestrians fall over:
    Cars: Icy weather leads to an increase in total car crashes, but a decrease in fatal car crashes1. While some of this affect is probably down to reduced speeds and less traffic, I am sure that some of it is down to cars sliding and dissipating the energy of impact, rather than staying still and absorbing it.
    Pedestrians: Icy weather causes pedestrians to fall over and hurt themselves on hard ice or hard pavement. Ice leads to an increase in total pedestrian accidents and an increase in injuries (and I assume fatalities).
    Unfortunately I can’t find the figures to do a proper cost/benefit analysis, but hopefully this has made you think…

  2. Eeking the grit out. It amuses me watching the gritting lorries spewing grit right across the width of the road, and then later councils complain we are short of grit. If we targetted the grit use (by, ooh I don’t know, clearing a thin strip along a footpath) it could go a lot further!

  3. Gritting will “only encourage them”. Last week drivers were warned repeatedly “not to drive unless it is absolutely necessary” (in at least 231 different news articles if Google is to be believed).
    According to Maslows hierarchy of need, the “absolutely necessary” things are things like food, water and heat (he also includes sex, but lets assume we can manage for a week or so without). When the weather is that bad, we should concentrate on ensuring people can get at those fundamentals – by clearing paths to local shops (92% of people live within a 15 minute walk of a shop selling groceries2) rather than clearing roads for people to try (and often fail) to travel to work. Gritting suggests that roads are safer than they are, and encourages people to drive  for less essential travel.

  4. The manual for streets hierarchy of users puts pedestrians above cars, so why doesn’t that apply when we are gritting? (far too simple an argument, I know!)

So that’s my argument. What do you think?


    1. Daniel Eisenberg & Kenneth E Warner: “effects of snowfalls on motor vehicle collisions, injuries and fatalities”,  American Journal of Public Health Vol 95, no 1 (Jan 2005) pp120-124
    2. National Travel Survey 2008 pp61

    2 comments to Shouldn’t pavements be gritted instead of roads??

    • I heard another agrument – that gritting roads and not pavements encourages people who would normally walk either to shops or to public transport to use their cars instead.

      It’s a completely sensible approach but would need some things resolving – like how would workers in essential services (hospitals, shops, public transport) get to work?

      And it would need a more enlightened approach from employers – the lady at my local shops (which I’d walked to) told me her son had received a disciplinary warning for not getting into work on the day the bad weather started. The next day he had to struggle in with his car in conditions in which the buses couldn’t get around.

    • Andrew

      Thanks for the comment Debra.

      Another thing that struck me reading your comment is that gritting the road also encourages pedestrians into the road (where there is more grip, but they come into closer contact with cars).

      The essential services thing is a bit more of a problem. Surrey Police (who I am currently working for) have reciprocal agreements with neighbouring forces so that, if an officer who lives in Hampshire can’t get to a Surrey Police station, they can turn up and be used by Hampshire. There may be some future in this (I know a doctor who arranged something similar with a friend in a more local hospital).

      And you are right about enlightened employers. Currently about 80% of the population say there is no way they can work from home (National Travel Survey) – so that would need to change (I know it will never be 100%), but a bit more understanding from employers would go a long way too.

    Leave a Reply

    You can use these HTML tags

    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.