Students saltier about cold weather than streets

By Kate Cullen

The winter weather has led to a lot of controversy lately. Specifically, a certain snow day (or two) that never was. But that seems to have been beaten to death. So, instead, I thought I would pose a question to the campus community: Why, for the love of all things orange and blue, can’t the sidewalks be safer to walk on instead of large sheets of ice? 

It seems like such an easy task. Pour a little salt here and there so that the downpour of snow and rain will not turn our paths into icy, treacherous trails. Now I understand salting the sidewalks costs money, labor, politics and a bit of science to it that I don’t know about or understand — but people are falling like bowling pins. 

The Facilities and Services department of the University is responsible for snow and ice removal on University property, and, although, they do not post a schedule of how often the sidewalks are salted, they do describe how snow removal is “priority work.”

Just to recap: Last week, Mother Nature kindly decided to freeze Champaign-Urbana over with the second polar vortex of the year. This week, Mother Nature really rubbed it in our faces by adding another six inches of snow on top of all the ice.

As we nursed our frostbite from some of the coldest weather we will probably ever experience, last week, it began to rain. Yes, pouring down rain, creating a lovely slush on every sidewalk and crevice of cement. As if that wasn’t enough, it got colder and, slowly but surely, that slush began to freeze into ice. 

Last week it was frostbite; this week, it’s bruises from the inability to safely walk the streets of Champaign because of the thick layer of ice. All of this could have been avoided with a little salt. It seems like a simple solution for such a horrific problem, but, apparently, we will all have to ice skate around campus this week. 

For those of you who were smart and decided not to venture outside, let me paint a picture of just how hilariously awful the thickly iced sidewalks were. Like many, I stupidly decided to brave the weather conditions to attend one of the watering holes on campus, and the scene that unfolded on Green Street was something out of a movie. 

People everywhere were collapsing as they walked along the sidewalk, and as my friends trudged along, we all warned each other to be careful and use caution. In an effort to escape the cold conditions, I decided to speed up my pace, confident in my stride. 

And I paid for it, in a big way. Right by Potbelly, there is a slight incline in the sidewalk, and I clumsily fell hard onto the pavement. 

But it got worse. 

As I tried to get up, I began to slide on the ice into the ongoing traffic on Green Street. 

As my friends tried to come to my rescue, they too fell, one by one, onto the ice. Hilarity ensued, and while I’ve never laughed so hard, it left me wondering why the little John Deere salt cart was not running rampant all over campus.

Everywhere we looked, there were people falling from simply walking along the sidewalk. And while my situation was funny and I’m able to laugh at it, I’m sure many were actually injured from their tumbles. A little bit of simple salt could have prevented all of this if the University were more proactive in how they prepare for winter weather conditions. I’m not asking for those in charge to be able to read the future, but I am asking that my walk to class not involve ice skates. 

While many could argue that it’s not reasonable to ask that every sidewalk be salted, I do think it is reasonable to expect that the common walkways be salted, regularly. If the city of Chicago is able to do it, then the University should be able to maintain a handful of common sidewalks, like the Quad. 

I’m salty about it, and the sidewalks should be, too.

Kate is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]