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4 January, 2010

Frozen out

I've noticed a few news reports this morning about shortages of road salt in certain areas of the UK, so I have sympathy with the need for local councils to prioritise and restrict their use of grit.  However, though Lancashire County Council is responsible for 6,961 km of highway and prioritises 2,418 km, its policy for deicing pavements and cycle tracks seems a little extreme.

We will only... treat footpaths in periods of prolonged severe weather conditions i.e. significant snow, slush, and frozen slush. It does not include general frost and ice.
Cycle tracks are not mentioned at all.

So the designated cycle route to the University, one of the city's primary employers (with 13.1% of its staff commuting by bike in 2007, the highest proportion in the county), goes totally ungritted, accumulating several nights of unthawed frost into thick sheets of smooth ice whilst any thawed frost refreezes into black ice.

Perhaps due to its near-coastal location overlooking Morecambe Bay, Lancaster very rarely experiences lying snow, so the primary source of road ice is frost (and rain, of course). It really isn't some marginal risk which can be safely ignored. Besides, 'significant snow' has a degree of texture so is relatively easy to cycle over – I was doing so quite happily in December – but full-on ice is impassible.

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