Monday 29 November 2010

At-Home Days

The British winter no longer comes as an annual surprise, but we are still not sufficiently certain that it will be so regular and prolonged as to make it worthwhile to invest heavily in snow-clearing equipment on the scale of, say, the Alps.

So when there is heavy snow, as today, the the intermediate solution for avoiding chaos is for local authorities to have the powers to declare an "At-Home Day." This would mean that all non-essential workers - most shop and office workers, teachers and students, etc. - would be instructed to stay at home, leaving the roads clear for essential workers - power suppliers, police and security workers, medical workers, firefighters and rescuers, and of course, the snow ploughs, - to go about their business.

This idea was put to me by the deputy head of a school at which I worked in Bradford in the early 80s. He was called Wally, which as far as I know was his full first name and not a diminutive. It was not regarded as either pejorative or funny at the time


  1. I could have sworn I posted a comment but it seems to have disappeared into the ether.

    The gist of what I said was...

    Motorists could take more responsibility themeselves by using winter tyres instead of leaving all-year ones on for the winter months.

    Modern tyre development has focussed on fuel economy at the expense of road holding. Those all-year tyres might be OK most of the time but proper winter tyres are made of materials which grip better and also have tread patterns more appropriate to cold and wet conditions.

    During last winter I was able to compare a newish vehicle with modern all-year tyres with an ancient vehicle kept as a local runabout which had not needed a change of tyres for many years owing to the low mileage it was doing. Its tyres had much chunkier tread than modern all-year tyres and were much better during last winter's foul conditions.

    In Germany the use of winter tyres is mandatory and many motorists there keep a spare set of basic wheels, shod with winter tyres and change to these for the winter months.

    Maybe UK motorsist need to consider doing the same

  2. I'm broadly in favour of this; although I think the difficult part is establishing quite what is 'non-essential' - for example, should the weather last for some time, are shop workers not critical if they're selling much-needed food and supplies?

    Perhaps a part of the solution is to look at tax breaks and other incentives for companies which invest in technology to allow workers to work remotely, and make these facilities and practices much more widespread. This would help minimise disruption during such times, and also be much more in keeping with helping people keep a work-life balance; it may even, if it becomes more of a cultural norm, help many women who wish to have children but also continue their careers, to do so in a workable way.

  3. Re "Anonymous:I take your point, but unless climate change brings us to a situation in which severe weather is regular and prolonged, even winter tyres are an expense (and for many people a storage problem) to guard against a situation which may occur only once every five years or so. If severe winters do become more "normal" then the situation changes, and both councils and individuals will need to be properly equipped.

    Re Chris: yes I'm sure there would be a lot of quibbling at the edges about what is essential and what isn't, and a lot of people will cheat, but if the principle were accepted then it would undoubtedly help the situation.

    As you rightly say, working from home will become more common and also ease the situation. In the very long run we shall need to revise our practice of commuting long distances to work and go back to the custom of living near it.

  4. Thing is, though, my Left hand drive car arrived in Germany with the equivalent of German Summer tyres, not all year round tyres.

    It now has a set of All-weather tyres that comply with the German law specifying "tyres suitable for the weather".

    There's a misconception here too: winter tyres go on in October, we don't wait for the snow, we use them when it starts to get cold and keep them on until the spring.

    Yes winter tyres are an additional expense, but lets not forget that the summer tyres will last longer as they aren't being used for 4 months of the year.

    I think the main difference here is that people expect to be inconvenienced by snow, they don't try and press on regardless. Busses are cancelled and they accept it. People work from home if they can and don't treat that long distance journey as essential.