Warning: low-level rant ahead
I made the maiden two-wheeled voyage for 2008 today — sunny, almost 40, light winds: a perfect day for a jaunt on the bike. At least I think it was a perfect day — I was too busy dodging piles of road salt to notice much else. There’s a fine line between salting roads for safety and salting roads so that anything that travels over them is instantly corroded, and the patch of Cincinnati I rode today seems pretty much on the wrong side of that line. I mean, the idea of road salt is to spread it around judiciously and let it do its work on frozen water in the form of snow or ice — little and not-so-little mounds of salt piled up on bare roads are just going to get ground up by car tires and tossed into the air, increasing pollution; or they’ll get washed by the rain into the ground, damaging plants, seeping into the groundwater, and affecting other areas of the environment. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the damage to the roads themselves — each and every crack in the road I saw today was rimmed by a rime of white salt, grabbing hold and forcing the crack wider and wider. I’m no road engineer, so I’d love to hear a counterpoint: what’s up with the volume of salt on our roads, and why do we need so much?
Here endeth the rant. I must shower.
Addendum: Now that I’m showered, I wanted to see what the city itself says about its road treatment operations. A set of FAQs about winter operations can be found here, and a nifty brochure that looks like it’s from 2006-07 is here. An excerpt from the FAQs sheds a little light:
7. What methods does the City use to treat ice- or snow-covered
The City uses three treatment methods when addressing snow accumulation. Anti-icing is a pre-treatment product (salt or salt brine) used on the streets to prevent snow or ice from binding to roadways. De-icing occurs by using calcium chloride and salt on streets during the storm to melt snow or ice precipitation. Finally, plowing uses snow equipment to remove higher accumulations of snow before using de-icing products.
My main beef might just be with the pre-treatment, since so often snow is predicted (and prepared for) but never comes — leaving us with salted but bare roads.