Record saltfall blankets Boston metro in white

Photo credit: Wendy Chao @wendypedia

Photo credit: Wendy Chao, PhD @wendypedia

Public works departments in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline have coated area streets, sidewalks, and paths with a thick layer of salt in anticipation of an underwhelming snowfall earlier this week. The result is sodium-caked public spaces throughout the region. Vehicles kick up clouds of salt as they pass by, providing a burning sensation in the noses and throats of people nearby – as if the icy temperatures weren’t enough to deal with.

Photo credit: Captains of Industry @captainsboston

Photo credit: Captains of Industry @captainsboston

salty boston3

Photo credit: Spiro Pappadopoulos @spirocks

salty boston4

Photo credit: Yesenia Aracely @indecisiveVIEW

City officials will tell you this is all in the name of safety – and that you’re better safe than sorry. But at what cost? The environmental impacts of salt are well documented, particularly with respect to water supply. Salt in our drinking water is a concern especially for individuals with high blood pressure. Not to mention the impact on our pets and wildlife, both through ingestion and on their paws. And then there’s the direct financial cost of salt’s corrosive affect on vehicles and infrastructure.

This is just one example of the “windshield perspective” that afflicts so many decision-makers. Even in relatively progressive Cambridge, the Public Works Department’s actions assume everyone gets around inside a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled vehicle. It shows utter disregard for the pedestrians, bicyclists, dog-walkers, and water-drinkers among us. It’s the same mindset that plows snow into bike lanes and spends millions keeping streets clear while leaving sidewalks in the hands of conscientious neighbors.

Let your mayor, city manager, and council know that their obligations extend beyond simply accommodating motorists. Even in winter we spend time outside and we shouldn’t be subject to salty aggravation.

4 thoughts on “Record saltfall blankets Boston metro in white

  1. cycler
    January 24, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I was at a meeting on snow removal in Cambridge two winters ago and tried to suggest a program of “snow emergency” priorities for bicycles- where the city recorded the most important bike routes and made clearing those bike lanes a priority.
    The head of the DPW, Sue Clippinger, who is generally a progressive person told me that in the winter, she felt that the safest place for bicycles was the travel lane.
    And yes, that’s true if the bike lane is a snowy icy mess, but why do we build bicycle infrastructure only to ignore it when snow falls?

    1. January 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

      In re to Cycler’s comment above:

      To my surprise, the bike lanes and shoulders in the (somewhat remote) areas through which I’ve been riding this week have been cleared/salted just as much as the travel lanes, which gives me hope that things are improving in that regard. But maybe I am being overly optimistic. In the past I have found it problematic to take the lane in winter as Sue Clippinger suggests when traffic is heavy and fast; cleared bike lanes would have been a godsent. If New Balance can sponsor Charles River Trail clearing for joggers, I wonder whether bike manufacturers can be coaxed to adopt stretches of bike lanes for clearing duties…

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