Snowmageddon 2012: The aftermath

It has snowed here in England, about a week ago, and it has left a legacy (I’m sure) of broken bones and trips to A&E due to snow becoming ice. I would love to see the official statistics. There is an (unfortunately) popular myth in England that bad things might happen (legally) if you clear the snow from the sidewalk (AmE)/pavement (BrE) outside your house. It happens to be untrue. The government says:

And don’t believe the myths – it’s unlikely you’ll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries if you have cleared the path carefully.

But it seems to be ingrained in the British psyche that it is better to not remove snow from the footpaths in front of one’s home or business in keeping to some legal myth that not clearing the snow is the better outcome. Americans, and as far as I can tell, those from many other countries, are used to a law whereas not removing the snow is a legal offense and tickets and fines can result.

As an end effect of the mythology of snow removal from sidewalks in England leading to negative legal consequences, we have this situation, several days after a snow:

And the uncleared footpaths turn to ice, which is how I managed to totally wipe-out and fall on my arse on my way to work a full 5 days after the snow. I have pain in both a wrist and a hip after falling, although I was lucky to fall in an intersection where I was able to catch myself partially on a metal pole. More shockingly from my perspective, considering the ice in front of houses is that even businesses do not clear the way:

This was in front of my local grocery store. This is ridiculous. In most jurisdictions where snow occurs (including the US state of Minnesota but also many others as is evident from my twitter friends) it is actually illegal to leave snow outside your premises (home or business) and you can get ticketed and/or fined for not removing the snow. In some places, the city or local council will remove the snow for you after some number of hours and send you a bill for not having done your civic duty and making the footpaths safe.

England, it’s time to step up and deal with your snow issues. Leaving a pedestrian-based city an ice-rink is not acceptable.

9 responses to “Snowmageddon 2012: The aftermath

  1. Usually Councils just put down salt and grit and leave it at that. Or maybe I’m out of date. Maybe that’s what used to happen. I agree. A bit of snow-shoveling never hurt anyone.

  2. The council did clear our town center, but out here in the hinterlands (1 block away from the center) the sidewalks look like your photos.

    BTW: Thermometer reads 1 degree F this AM. That’s not on!

  3. Italy is in a trechrous situation, everybody is out clearing their paths ,businesses too..Islipped and fractured my right wrist, Icould report the supermarket for not clearing their property, It seems a nonsensical myth, because, as you rightly comment , a broom is all that is needed for a couple of inches of snow. At this moment my husband and neighbours are shoveling away a 5ft snw drift which is blocking paths and driveways from the overnight blizzard, what would happen in UK?

  4. In France, you are required by law to clear the footpath/sidewalk/trottoir of snow and ice!

  5. Speaking from experience – when I have swept my pavement, it leaves a thin layer of water which then re-freezes into a sheet of black ice. Yhe textured (if icy) surface of compacted snow and ice is safer to walk on. There is a big big difference between the thaw freeze cycle here and dry cold in other climates

  6. It’s so self-centered and uncivilized not to clear the snow from your own sidewalks and sand or salt them as needed, not to mention exceptionally stupid for businesses not to. Way to attract customers!
    It just takes a little forethought to stock up on sand, salt, or calcium chloride and an appropriate shovel before it snows.

  7. Just found your blog through Twitter and I think I’ll be a regular reader! How interesting, I had no idea that myth existed. In my Canadian hometown it was also law to clear the sidewalks, but in Austria (where I was last week) it definitely seemed optional.

  8. Rachel… speaking from experience also, Once you have shoveled or swept the snow away… sprinkle a bit of salt over the area ( even table salt will do) and this should take care of any black ice.

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