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A vital lesson from big freeze

Most of us can breathe a little easier now that the worst of the snow and ice is receding. We have learned bitter lessons and many are paying the price in terms of burst pipes and flooded homes. Yet we should spare a thought and thanks for the thousands of true public servants who kept the main roads passable and drove buses and trains under extraordinary circumstances.

But one lesson appears to have eluded us so far and it now behoves us to make sure we do something about it before the next big freeze comes. Our footpaths -- frozen, snowbound and covered in slush mountains -- were a disgrace. Someone has to take responsibility. We cannot have a situation where hundreds of pedestrians are forced on to slippery roads just to make their way home or to the shops. Worse still, many of them have had to do so at night without any proper reflective accoutrements or clothing.

Even as the thaw dawned, it was apparent that the footpaths were not passable. There were residues of snow topped with water that made the surfaces potentially lethal. Pedestrians took to the roads. This is an intolerable situation and one that, unless something is done, will almost certainly be repeated before this winter is out.

We cannot allow hazardous road conditions to be made even more perilous by forcing people to walk on them. Someone somewhere in a government department, be it Environment or Transport, has to take the lead here.

Otherwise we run the real risk of pedestrians being killed or injured because they could not use the paths. How come this is not a problem in places such as New York? Paths there are cleared and people can walk freely. A little bit of community effort would go a long way here.

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