The Parallax Brief

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Unrepentant Subjectivity on Economics, Politics, Defence, Foreign Policy, and Russia

Moscow on Ice

Moscow’s refusal to use salt or chemicals on the pavements in winter to aid deicing and snow melting is crazy. These proven and safe methods would make a huge difference to the walking conditions in Moscow, which have at times this winter become so impassable that good old treacherous becomes a halcyon memory.

Yet despite knowing that each year the streets will be covered in snow and ice for a large portion of the six-month Russian winter, and that only a very small number of days will be too cold for salt and chemicals to work, the city still refuses to bow to common sense. Why? Well, of course, because salt damages shoes.

The Parallax Brief has experienced first hand the lunacy of this policy, when Ms. Parallax Brief broke her ankle while slipping an icy pavement; however, even the recalcitrant, shoe-loving Moscow City government may be struggling in the face of this nightmarish winter, according to a fun article from the Moscow News:

Recent weather made the city’s footpaths so slippery that city authorities even called on the elderly to refrain from going out alone – but still the casualties quickly added up.

In conditions where a pair of skates would be the most suitable footwear, hundreds of Muscovites have suffered broken bones, dislocations, sprains and other injuries, peaking with 340 casualties on January 14-15 alone.”

That 340 people must be injured to sufficiently to ram the obvious home should tell us all something about the alacrity of the Moscow City government to make changes to policy for the benefit of its population. How on earth anyone could be so morally askew that they would believe shoes to be more important than pain and suffering is a little beyond my comprehension; however, for those who are, a simple equation can be used to assess the value of salting the streets:

A: accidents without salt
aW: accidents when using salt
cT: average cost of treatment per accident
sW: shoes damaged by winter conditions with salt
S: shoes damaged without salt
cS average cost of shoes

(A-aW)*cT-((sW-S)*cS)=cost benefit of salting the roads

Nobody could think that treating 340 breaks, dislocations, fractures, chips, damaged ligaments, snapped tendons, concussions, bruises, cuts and all the other things that happen when people slip on ice is less costly than the damage that would have been caused to boots by salting the pavements that day.

Of course there is the argument that salt and chemicals hurt dogs, which I imagine to be true if a dog had a cut or scratched paw and stepped in salt. Yeowch!

“[First deputy mayor, Pyotr] Biryukov said that Muscovites’ four-legged friends would not fall foul of the reagents’ effects and that specialists had proven over and over that reagents were not detrimental to animals. “You need to take care of your dogs, not let them run along the roadway, and look after their [adorable little] paws,” he said.” (Brackets my addition)

But surely if dog owners know there will be salt, and they love their dogs, they’ll make a small investment in doggy shoes?

Perhaps Parallax Brief is being too harsh on the Moscow City government. Their efforts to clear snow are extraordinarily efficient, after all. However, I do believe it that does not try hard enough to make many pavements passable or safe, and this results in needless injuries. This situation is especially galling when a simple, well known and common sense solution is eschewed for such vacuous reasons.

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2 Responses

  1. Luna says:

    Hear hear! (Especially because of your inclusion of our furry friends.) Last winter in Moscow, I was always attentive to where I was walking the dog, for fear of reagents (something I was told to be careful of before moving there.)

    I wonder is this boils down to a cultural differece. In Russia (and former CIS countries) it seems that individuals are held responsible for their own safety: open manhole on sidewalk, with no protective barrier, construction sites that aren’t fully closed to the public, etc. etc.) In the US, you’d never see stuff like this (I’m sure not out of the goodness of the heart of companies/governments, but for fear of law suits).

  2. parallaxbrief says:

    It is one of the things that constantly amazes me about Russia that it has gone from a system where the state is responsible for everything, to a system that pretty much everything is the individual’s responsibility.

    Really, Newt Gingrich would literally explode with happiness if Russian fiscal policy and social policy was enacted in the US.

    I think you might have hit the nail on the head, Luna, but I think it’s too much. Luzhkov is pretty that Moscow has a budget equal to NYC and London, but I don’t see what that’s used for beyond the excellent public transport here.

    Surely, placing shoes above people is feeble reasoning? Sometimes I feel like a terrible whiner, Luna, but I think in this case I have a point. Of course, it’s winter and paths will never be perfect, but why should Russians accept this state forever?

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