The snow that has covered Scotland for more than 3 weeks is finally beginning to disappear. It has been very unusual to see this much snow and for such a long time, and I have loved it! It is fantastic that we built a snowman before Christmas and the remains are still there. I much prefer the white snow cover to the endless rain we usually have. This weekend we had a great trip to the zoo, we could see all the animals very easily – they didn’t camouflage very well in the white snow.
It has obviously caused a lot of problems as well, because somehow we are never really prepared for snow in this country, and I do empathise with the people who have been having a hard time, but what it has also done is highlighting how far down the list green priorities are for the councils. This morning it took me 40 minutes to do the school walk, not because we had forgotten the lunch box and had to run back for it, not because my 2 year old refused to walk (both of which can happen…), but because the so called ‘safe route to school’ hadn’t seen a snow shovel or a single grain of grit since the white out started. The path was more slippy than an ice rink and in some parts people were hanging on to fences and lamp posts just to be able to stay upright.
Now I fully understand that priorities have to be made and this extended period of frost and snow is unusual and therefore maybe difficult to deal with for the Councils, but I am not sure I agree with their choices.
Scotland has the World’s toughest climate bill with a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 42% by 2020. How in the world do they expect to achieve anything near that if they can’t even ensure that children are able to walk to school? One of the strategies to cut emissions is to get people to stop driving on short journeys, and the school run definitely comes in that category, but if the road to school is dangerous, there is no chance of people ditching their cars.
I am usually quite persistent on walking to school, even when the weather is showing off its darker sides, but I honestly considered taking the car at pick up time – rather a bit of CO2 than a broken leg! In the end I did walk, only to discover that the path was in fact even worse than in the morning (all the thawing and refreezing is very unhelpful), and we ended up walking back a different route that is twice as long and on the main road – so far from a safe choice.
I don’t want to sound like some grumpy person with nothing better to do than complaining, and I fully agree with the fact that they didn’t grit the path as a first priority – the schools were closed afterall, but the snow had eased off already last week and they knew the schools were due to return after the Christmas break, so why didn’t they at least attempt to make the path safe? A lot of people use this path and surely it is in the Council’s interest to keep the kids safe?!
The fact is that making things safe for pedestrians during this snow spell has received very little attention. The Council’s focus has been on the roads and thereby encouraging people to get in their cars. But what about the people who don’t drive cars, like some elderly people – how are they supposed to get out.
I think it is time for the Councils and the Government to rethink the priorities. On one side they run ads in the radio telling people to drop the car for short journeys, but on the other side they do nothing to make this a safe option – what kind of a signal is that to send?
Maybe it is time for a radical change, e.g. in Denmark it is the house owner’s responsibility to keep the pavement outside their property clear. Sure that can be a real pain, if it has been snowing overnight you need to get up even earlier to do some snow shovelling before work, but I can assure you it is a lot safer to be a snow pedestrian in Denmark than here.
Anyway until the Councils get their act together and get a green ice and snow policy, I shall continue my daily debate whether to persevere with the walking and risking to put myself in the category of eco idiot (especially when I fall and split my head open) or to cave in and go by car. Hmmm…