Hello Road

Tarmac this way

There was a novel sight for us this morning: long stretches of uninterrupted tarmac on the road. And grass on the hills! And more snow falling, but we’ll cast a veil over that – the Weather Gods like to show us who’s boss, after all. So it was back on the bike once more, to see whether the start of the thaw was going to be any better than the depth of the freeze. And it sort of was – I was 10 minutes faster than I was on Friday, but I probably had to get off the bike and walk more too. And at one point I realised that the puddle I was sailing through had ice, not road, at the bottom of it, and not particularly smooth ice at that. By the time I’d locked the back wheel up and started to skid, I had managed to put a foot down, but also on ice, and between the foot and the wheels, I did manage to stay upright, but only just. It was doable, but it wasn’t anything like as fun as last time.

The problem (apart from the fact that London has got all our grit – I knew it!) is that there is still so much ice and snow packed onto the road, it’s going to take ages to thaw. We haven’t got it as bad as some people, of course, but it’s a disincentive to getting out and about in anything but a car.

But I was wondering, as I pedalled slowly along (you get plenty of time to think on a bike in this weather) if the other problem isn’t that we have all become a little helpless on this matter. After all, rightly or wrongly, the council up here is a byword for absolute uselessness in any area. If you want to see tutting, eye-rolling, or wry, embittered laughter, just mention the council – even to the people who work for it. So why on earth do we think we can rely on it to keep us moving when the snow comes? There’s a really shocking junction half way down our road, with still a good six inches of ice built up on it, and great ruts and puddles across it which are only going to get more lethal when it freezes again. And yet, there are houses there, and the people living in them presumably have to suffer the worst of it every day. But an hour’s work with a couple of shovels would have sorted it out three weeks ago. In fact, my neighbour was all for doing it herself (and I was all for joining her) if it wasn’t for the fact that it would have looked a little pointed, right outside someone else’s house.

Maybe I’m just being naive, but I can’t believe that it wouldn’t be better – on all sorts of levels – if we could just get together as a community and take on some responsibility for making our own roads drivable, instead of sitting around moaning about the council not doing it all Christmas long.  Undoubtedly there are all sorts of reasons why this would be a bad idea that I haven’t thought of – and yes, this is supposedly what we pay our council tax for – but it does seem that a little bit of effort with some shovels (or a tractor) and some grit would have made the last couple of weeks a whole lot more pleasant all round.

Or  maybe I’m in danger of turning into Lynda Snell, and I should just shut up and resign myself to driving everywhere like a normal person.

15 Responses to Hello Road

  1. Dom says:

    That would require the following items that have long since left the public of this once great nation:

    Community spirit

    Remember we all think that Someone Should Do Something About it(tm) – but the unwritten rule is that that someone be someone else.

  2. Dom says:

    Besides, why waste 5 minutes helping out when we can just wait for it to get really bad, slip, fall and then sue the council 😀

  3. sebbie says:

    My parents live in a cul de sac off a small hill. On Sunday all the fit and able residents (a lot are elderly) went out and cleared all the snow from both roads. The were out from 11am till 3pm.

    My dad has gone into respite care today giving my mum a break. It wouldn’t have been possible without that effort.

  4. Lucy says:

    What a nice change to hear some common sense, Town Mouse. Well done. One of the things I have really enjoyed about the snow has been the resurgence of community spirit. I have seen more smiles and walkers the past few days and the slower pace does seem to make the world a happier place.

  5. R::B says:

    Ooooohhhh! Now you’re starting to sound like an anarchist!

    About time too! :c)

  6. disgruntled says:

    Hmm, might have to head out with that shovel tomorrow now…

  7. Stonehead says:

    I dug the first few hundred feet of our road clear, but didn’t really fancy the next two miles to town. Incidentally, if you do clear snow from the pavement or the public highway then you will be liable if someone has an accident.

    A few years back, Lord Davies told Parliament: “No householder is at all responsible, providing they do not touch the pavement, which is owned by the local authority.”

    “The moment they address the issue of the pavement with a view to improving things, which may lead to a deterioration, it may be their action that makes them culpable.”

    It’s the same with roads. I still cleared it, though.

    I also think there should be more onus on drivers to have appropriate tyres on their cars. I’m not talking snow tyres, which I happen to fit to my Land Rover because we’re out in the boonies, but either cold weather tyres or all weather tyres.

    Keeping low-profile summer tyres on cars (and commercial vehicles) year-round and expecting councils to keep the roads in a state similar to summer is daft.

    Cold weather tyres are intended for use below 7C, have softer compounds and tread patterns to cope with water, ice and snow. Braking distances are dramatically improved in those conditions and skidding is much less likely.

    All-weather tyres are made of the same compound as summer tyres but have the tread patterns of cold weather tyres. In cold, wet or icy weather, they’re not as good as cold weather tyres but are better than summer tyres.

    But whenever I mention it might be a good idea to change tyres for the winter, people scream and shout that it’s the council’s job to keep roads clear, that they shouldn’t have to spend money on more tyres, that the UK doesn’t get that much snow (not usually, but temperatures drop below 7C for months, it does get wet and it does get icy), and it shouldn’t be down to me.

    The other thing that would help is better driver training. I just have to stand and watch people trying to drive past our croft to see that 99% haven’t a clue about driving in the wet—much less on ice or snow.

    Anyway, I’m ranting. Again!

    Thanks for mentioning the blog. You’ll be more cautious in future—or this raving nutter might return!!

  8. Excellent post Town Mouse (thanks for the plug) and a great contribution from Stoney too – how sad is that comment about liability? It’s been hard enough trying to clear our own drive although I have done a bit on the public road here and there. One problem is that often as not a few hours trying to clear the snow makes things much worse a day or so later, and that is demoralising!

  9. disgruntled says:

    There’s a debate about liability over on the Magistrate’s Blog. Although Bystander agrees with Stoney about liability, others disagree. I’m a little sceptical. After all, the Americans are far more litigous than we are, yet all have to clear their pavements, so there must be a way …

    I’m fortunate in that the other half comes from Minnesota where they have proper snow, and knows how to drive on the stuff. I’m sticking to my bike – much harder to demolish a wall that way.

  10. littlelegsdad says:

    Well, could this be the start of spring…
    I’ve even got primulars and daffs out in my garden.

  11. Paul says:

    I thought we cyclists were the “normal” ones, perhaps my asumption that everyone else is mad is also flawed.

  12. disgruntled says:

    LLD – we might have daffs but they’re under the snow if they are.
    Paul – we cyclists aren’t mad, obviously, but that doesn’t mean we’re normal…

  13. Never mind daffs – where the ‘ell are me ruddy parsnips. Haven’t seen ’em for weeks.

  14. disgruntled says:

    Ah, but think of how sweet they’ll be when you finally dig them up

  15. […] and done it themselves – I will find out tonight at the community council meeting) unlike our last big freeze. This is nice for me, because even with the ice tyres, rutted icy compacted snow can be a bit […]

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