A gold star to anyone who got the Crowded House song lyric reference in the title of this month’s blog.
The weather is always there. We love to talk (and complain) about it. In the last few weeks it has very much impacted our social lives, as the easing of the COVID restrictions have enabled us to meet family and friends outdoors. This meant that over the weekend of my birthday I was able to welcome people into my garden to sit out for a celebratory drink. On Saturday, we huddled under blankets and drank tea to keep warm. On Sunday we abandoned the gathering altogether when it started snowing. On Monday the sun was so warm I had to find everyone sun hats and apply suntan lotion. Such are the whims of the British weather!
Apparently, April was the frostiest month on record for over 60 years. The fuchsia plants I bought at the beginning of April still sit indoors because they are not hardy enough to plant out and survive the cold nights. And the first show of flowers on my magnolia tree were killed off by the frost, although some more have thankfully bloomed and not perished.
The early morning frosts have been a nuisance for drivers setting off early to work, not normally accustomed to having to de-ice their windscreens so late in the year. I’ve seen some pretty poor attempts to clear those windows, which will have severely hindered the driver’s visibility as they set off down the road. Don’t cut corners and risk not seeing that pedestrian or the cyclist until it is too late.
By lunch time with the sun high in the sky, the days have been glorious and perfect for walkers and cyclists alike to get out and enjoy some fresh air and vitamin D. I’ve continued to get out for my daily walk but have noticed the traffic getting progressively busier, making my circuit around the village that bit less enjoyable. Some drivers clearly still haven’t got the message about slowing down and giving cyclists and pedestrians space when they drive past. Imagine if I was your wife, daughter, sister or friend. Would you want another driver to be so inconsiderate to them if they were out walking? Maybe that driver is a walker or a cyclist too? They should remember how it feels, without the protection of that metal box around them, when a driver passes at speed or is driving too close for comfort. Afford everyone the space and respect you would like to receive yourself.
May is national walking month so we’ll be celebrating the power of getting about on foot. Walking is good for our minds, our bodies and our neighbourhoods and has been a lifeline during the past year, helping people stay active and connected.
We’re all pedestrians at some point in our lives and at some stage of our journeys so it’s something that we can all relate to. Key to encouraging more people to walk for more journeys is addressing their safety concerns, by providing better facilities, more footways and crossings at busy places as well as tackling issues like inconsiderate parking and lack of drop crossings which can hamper accessibility. Our local authority partners are working hard to address these things by making the highway network more welcoming for pedestrians, but their resources and funds are limited and they can’t do everything at once. It is imperative that as drivers we look out for pedestrians and give them space, be considerate and careful about where and how we park, thinking about the people who will be using that route on foot.
So after an absence of April showers, May looks set to offer more rain in the forecast. That’s typical when we want to get out to promote national walking month! Gardeners will be breathing a sigh of relief. But after a prolonged dry spell, the change in weather conditions can catch us out on the roads.
If you are driving, it’s really important to reduce your speed in rainy weather. Stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads because your tyres will have less grip on the road. So keep a greater distance between you and the car in front, to give yourself a better chance of stopping safely if the vehicle up ahead brakes unexpectedly.
In wet weather there’s an increased risk of spray from large vehicles, so make sure you are using those windscreen wipers and keep your air conditioning on to stop your windows from misting up.
Due to the overcast conditions which often accompany a rainy day, turn on your headlights, to help you to see the road and make you more visible to other road users. As a general rule, if your windscreen wipers are on, make sure you have your lights on to help other road users to see you.
And finally drivers, please be extra considerate of pedestrians and cyclists when it is raining, they are the ones who are getting wet whilst you are sitting in your nice warm, dry metal box. Don’t make pedestrians have to stand out in the rain any longer than necessary, let them claim their right of way at zebra crossings and when they are crossing a road into which you are turning. And slow down when driving through big puddles, trying not to spray pedestrians and cyclists if you have to drive through water as you are passing them.
Whether you are walking to school, to work or for leisure this month, whatever the weather, stay safe until next time.