Snow - An Uphill Struggle

Children gambolling in the snow; snowballs; snowmen.....snowploughs?

In the early stages of the Blitz of Autumn 1940, the rallying cry was “London can take it”. On 3rd February the Transport for London (TFL) website carried the reassuring words that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, TFL and the London Councils, “have set out the measures underway (sic) to keep London moving during any coming weather”.

Moving? In North London the movement was patchy at least late evening on Sat. 4 Feb - words written by one who had to drive at that hour.

Sunday morning brought the inquest as well as the ice, and it is a troublesome question. On the balance of cost of resource against risk of disruption over a whole winter, how far should the capital gear up to be able to shrug off snow in the way that, say, our Canadian cousins do?

They do seem to do it better in New York, Moscow and Toronto. But then again – duh! – they get a lot more snow. A pundit from NYC on late night radio of weekend 4/5 Feb, whilst saying that the City had coped well in recent years other than during the late 2010 blizzard, pointed out that for US states that get only occasional snow, they also struggle to cope.

Now to the blog title. I didn’t see so many problems on relatively flat, main roads. But note the first adjective. As soon as a hill hove into view, it was a different issue, and by hill I do not mean the likes of the mighty Muswell Hill in North London – Londoners from other parts please substitute your favourites – but any incline beyond an angle that someone technical could explain but for which the explanation is beyond me.

It is in times like this that traction issues become fascinating, as the car in front of you spins wheels violently and wavers alarmingly, with only a push from helpful souls doing the trick.

In fact, not always doing the trick. I can advise that rear-wheel drive is an absolute downer in those conditions, and whoever you are, I do hope that you eventually escaped from the fate of every helpful push turning you another 45% degrees round in the road.

Who suffers most? The older car? Not invariably on my experience of that night, though yes, a good time to run a 4wd Chelsea Tractor and to then tell your next dinner-party guests that it has a purpose beyond giving a better vantage position for the nanny at school pick-up. With the odd wobble, my eight year old front-wheel drive Audi coped ok, but perhaps now I realise that the expletive-filled investment in four new tyres last October might have delivered a return. One feels that for the boys on Top Gear, this is definitely an area to explore if they haven’t done so already.

And it is at times like this that you consult the Web for useful snippets, and find out that Boris Snow is on Facebook. However, Boris appears to live in Australia and lists his interests as scuba diving and sharks. Maybe he is not the best chap to consult on this particular transport issue for London.