Two years ago we had an icy winter in York. For those of us who like to walk or cycle it became treacherous as paths turned to ice-rinks. Every day I’d hear tales of people who had slipped and broken a bone, or sprained a wrist. Others said they didn’t dare risk the “Cresta run” and resorted to taking the car.
This year York council are running a pilot scheme, using special “baby-gritters” to keep 22km of York’s walk/cycle network ice-free. Although it’s been a mild winter so far, when we have had icy mornings it’s been a joy to pedal off and to see the riverside paths just as busy as on a summer’s day. And the evidence suggests that York’s progressive decision may save the city money too.
Statistics from Sweden show that when conditions are icy, pedestrians are three times more likely to be injured than motorists. Back in 2012 the town of Karlskoga in central Sweden switched the order of the snow-clearing schedule to prioritise foot and cycle paths. This simple change resulted in significantly fewer injuries, and consequent savings in healthcare and fewer days taken off work. Hopefully York’s baby-gritters will have similar benefits – bring on the snow.