Like so many others, I have been really frustrated over the past few days as the temperatures have plummeted and our footpaths have become incredible dangerous and icy. Dublin City Council currently has a policy of only gritting the road carriageways when conditions are icy to make it safer to drive but they do not grit the footpaths. This leave the paths treacherous for all who use them. I have written to the city manager looking for an urgent change of policy.
Here are some of the reasons why I believe a change of policy is urgently needed
- The existing policy flies in the face of the hierarchy of street users as vulnerable pedestrians (and all pedestrians) are effectively unsafe to leave their homes at the moment. As a Council, we cannot speak from both sides of our mouths on this. Either the city believes in prioritising walking and cycling or confines pedestrians to their (often freezing) homes when it gets cold - it can’t do both. And it just doesn’t stack up that the current gritting regime is done in order to keep public transport moving - the paths surrounding our transport hubs have been some of the most inaccessible due to slippiness over the past few days, rendering it effectively unusable for many.
- There is a positive equality duty on public bodies to promote equality and non-discrimination. The current policy goes against that. The Council’s approach to gritting puts those who are more vulnerable are most at risk. It has also been well documented that clearing roads but not footpaths disproportionately results in injuries to women (1) . We need to take our positive obligation seriously to enable equality of access to the public realm, even when cold.
- Gritting the footpath is ultimately cost-saving. The costs of injuries to people is estimated to be about twice what it would cost to grit the footpaths. It would be even cheaper if grit were just made available to residents who could work together to grit their own footpaths to take care of their own vulnerable community. This is why we need to work with the HSE to ensure that we are not saving our budget line at the expense of theirs.
- Finally, the current legal situation is very much at odds with our climate obligations. We are cutting down trees because we are liable for falls on the footpaths caused by them, but not gritting the footpaths to allow people to access public transport etc. because we are supposedly not liable. We need to be guided by our climate, accessibility, equality and human rights policies instead of simply getting away with what we can because are not liable.
I hope that we will see progress on this issue soon so that we can ensure that it is safe to walk and cycle year round and not just fair weather choices.