Winter gritting part 2: what we have learned

A week after Dick’s letter in the Lancaster Guardian, there is an article on the subject of gritting (or, more accurately, not gritting) shared-use paths in extremely cold weather.

Dynamo also asked members for their experiences.  Some had stopped cycling altogether; others had “braved” it.  Regular cyclists on the Millennium bridge know how bad that can get, particularly around Sainsburys, and it never seems to be gritted.  One reported riding on a “lethal mixture of frozen leaf mulch and ice”, but fortunately remaining upright.

(Which led to a bit of a digression about the dangers of a build-up of fallen leaves on shared-use paths and pavements.  One member had skidded and come off on exactly that type of surface, and it’s noticeable that the Lancaster-Caton path is very bad in parts – and still not cleared.)

Obviously there will always be a risk of coming off on icy surfaces, but Dynamo’s view is that busy cycle-commuter routes should be treated as effectively as possible so that a cyclist on a bike with suitable tyres stands a good chance of getting to her/his destination in one piece. And if you prefer to get off and walk the dodgy bits . . . well, you’ll realise that pedestrians need the gritting as much as cyclists.

Communications with the City and County Councils have yielded the following information:

  • The County Council does not class the Lancaster-Morecambe path as a priority network, so it does not grit it. The City Council does grit the busiest sections of that path and the University path if County informs them to expect prolonged periods of sub-zero temperatures.  This appears to be for the benefit of pedestrians.
  • Grit/salt is effective on surfaces where the traffic grinds the treatment and spreads it – e.g. roads (car tyres) and pavements (footfall).  Bicycle wheels do not seem to be regarded as effective. (One reason not to cycle in the gutter on treated roads.)

So, what happens in other places?  It seems that in the Netherlands the cyclepath is first brushed and then spread with a mixture of salt and water, which doesn’t require the same dispersal as just salt to work. Would this require specialist equipment, or would Lancaster’s regular sweeping machines be able to do the job?  Certainly, major cycle routes in the Netherlands remain safe and usable.

Dick remains on the case.


About lancasterdynamo

Dynamo is a cycling group, established in 1994, to work with official bodies, other cycling organisations and interested individuals to promote cycling as a safe, enjoyable and healthy means of transport.
This entry was posted in City and County Councils, Safety, shared-use paths. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Winter gritting part 2: what we have learned

  1. Oliver says:

    I can add another near-disaster: my daughter came off her bike on ice at the the bridge over the Quay on the way to work a couple of years ago. No harm to her, mercifully, but her front wheel was beyond repair. Expensive and surely avoidable. That spot is as bad as the Millennium Bridge and its immediate approaches.

    We cycled to Halton yesterday. The path has been cleared of leaves up to just beyond the Ladies Walk business park but no further. Looks as if a large JCB type machine was used, which seems like a one-off attempt and makes you think it could even be less effort to add the path to a regular road sweeper round in the leaf season. The rest of the path up to the Halton bridge is intermittently pretty bad and could be lethal if/when it freezes, and the bridge itself, especially at the Halton end, is a disgrace – pedestrians and cyclists have no choice but to walk in the roadway, as the bollard-protected strip is shoe-deep, and more, in mud. But, credit where it’s due, the Sainsbury’s underpass was full of broken bottles and glass as we arrived at around 12 (on Sunday) but a council worker with a broom and trolley was out and had cleared it all up when we returned.

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