Sushila Dhall of Oxford Pedestrians Association warns that not all pavements are gritted during the cold weather and wants more salt bins to be distributed.

We believe that for walking and wheelchair use to be encouraged pavements need to be 3m wide (allowing two wheelchair users to pass in dignity and comfort), level, unobstructed, and continuous.

Obstructions usually bring to mind the usual poles, bins, workers’ signs, potholes or loose paving, side street crossings which are round corners or blocked by large puddles, and overhanging hedges etc, but some obstructions are seasonal, and we are now in the season of those obstructions.

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To look at our streets in winter you would think that only the roads are used, and not the pavements.

After gritting, the centre of the roads look damp but clear, but on the margins, which happen to be the pavements, we are not so fortunate. One the most main routes pavements are gritted, but move away from the central streets and only the roads are gritted. Leaves, mud and litter accumulate and are not effectively cleared from most pavements - and then snow and ice are added, and roads, but not most pavements, are routinely gritted. This is because keeping motorised traffic flowing is still seen as of primary importance, whereas most pavements are seen as being of secondary importance and ‘too labour intensive’ to add. However, each winter the number of slip falls increases, as wet leaves, ice and snow on pavements cause falls and injuries.

Oxford Mail: Oxfordshire County Council grits the pavements with the highest footfalls - those in shopping areas and the most highly used routes such as the routes to the rail and bus stations. However it only takes a single stretch to be missed for the risk of slip falls to be high.

This is Oxford City’s official priority list for gritting paths:

City centre: Cornmarket, High Street, St Aldate’s, Queen Street, etc.

Link routes to the railway station and Gloucester Green bus station

Main shopping areas (e.g. Cowley Road)

Cycle route along Marston Ferry Road.

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However this misses routes from residences to bus stops, and quieter routes often preferred by walkers and wheelers, as they are further from the stink and racket of motorised traffic.

At present leaves are not effectively cleared from streets even with high footfalls - Botley Road pavements were cleared of leaves but many of the leaves have remained following the clearing and are fast turning to mud at the sides of the pavements, effectively narrowing them. Adding ice and rain to this is a recipe for slip falls.

Many pavements regularly have puddles forming on them in rain – the north pavement on Park End St is completely blocked by a huge puddle during wet weather – and such puddles turn to slush and ice in freezing weather.

Pavements often dip at junctions and across side streets (rather than remaining level across the carriageway). This is how they have been designed, and drainage of the dips has been inadequately engineered, or not done. Rainwater collects in these dips as large puddles, making roads unpleasant or impossible to cross, and in addition these puddles can freeze dangerously in cold weather. They become ‘black ice’, dangerous because it is both slippery and easy to miss.

OxPA calls for salt bins located in every community so that residents can grit pavements themselves if there are no official resources to do this.

Oxfordshire County Council even has a ‘snow guide’ assuring residents that this is both legal and encouraged, which would support this move.

Otherwise the most vulnerable pavement users are effectively denied the independence of going outside when it freezes or snows - even though official policy is that the most vulnerable pavement users are at the top of the road users’ hierarchy.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.