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When the snow falls in the UK there's one thing you can be sure of - the cyclepaths will be left untreated. Roads, you see, are the priority. You can see where the councils are coming from to an extent, and it would be rather extravagant to expect all cycle routes to be cleared of snow and protected against ice when the wintry blasts hit. But it would be nice to get at least a little attention, and not be patronised beyond redemption.

A couple of years ago in Edinburgh I came off the bike a couple of times on one of the main cycle routes in the city - the Innocent Path. Ironically I'd warned the council a few days earlier having come across a girl bleeding profusely from her head having succumbed to the pull of the ice and fallen from her bike. At the time we were told (we being the collective cycling correspondents I knew about, of which I'm certain there were more) that grit boxes would be placed at either end of the route. I'm not sure if the first walker or cyclist was supposed to then grit as they went along the 1 mile route, but it seemed a somewhat peculiar promise of help.

I mean, I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it's a response that singularly fails to actually understand the needs of a winter cycling population. And it's that message that is hard to get across without sounding whingey. But last winter all was to be saved by the addition to the snow clearing fleet of a number of mini-tractors. Mini-tractors that were rather conspicuous by their absence. Walking in the city became a chore, let alone cycling. I would ride 2 of the five miles home to meet my other half from work, then we would walk together the remaining three, not reaching solid grippy ground until our own treated path (and pavement actually, I was one of those who cleared the area in front of my house for the postie and the like).

And when I did cycle, having come a cropper, and seen the bloodied girl, I stuck to the main roads. The cleared roads. Cleared down the middle anyway. The snow banks at the side obscured the cycle lanes, meaning you had no choice but to ride out in the carriageway, amongst a frustrated motorised public who would squeeze past whenever there was any chance of building up more than 20mph despite the conditions; despite the fact you might hit ice at any point; despite the fact you had been given no other option but to be there (or to switch to your car and thereby add to the tailbacks and frustration).

It's hard not to bring up (again) the fact that Edinburgh Council once stated (numerous times) that it wanted Edinburgh to be a 'Model Cycling City'. It's difficult not to come to the conclusion that 'model' in this sense is a euphemism for 'fictional'. And while it might be a cliché to mention Copenhagen at this juncture, it is justified precisely because it IS a model cycling city, with, get this, mini-tractors that clear the snow from bike lanes (I'm not sure if I should bring up the time I cycled there and how they dealt with roadworks and the impacts on cyclists at this point, given the sheer amount of roadworks in Edinburgh and the total blindness to cycling - seriously, I'd invite any councillor to explain to me where cyclists were considered in the closing of Princes Street and the buses diverted down George Street - while in Copenhagen a small road bridge over the canal was closed to traffic so they built a temporary bridge just for the bikes!).

Where was I? Ah yes, hard economics times. That said, apparently there are stockpiles of grit about after last year, so none extra to pay for, and we're often told how damaging to the economy the snows coming are, so surely there would be an economic benefit rather than a cost in keeping the cycle paths and lanes open so that those who ride can continue going to work; can continue to shop; and avoid clogging up the roads more in their cars? And then there's the saving of a potential law suit for someone coming off on an untreated path - it's not at all unlikely, and in Edinburgh in the last year there was a payout Historic Scotland had to make for a chap coming off his bike hitting a pothole in Holyrood Park.

Pedestrians and cyclists alike would simply like to remind their elected representatives... What about us?

 

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