I’m confused and disturbed by the way southerners use salt instead of sand on slippery sidewalks during winter
Dear Urban Decoder: As a transplanted Northern Ontarian, I’m confused and disturbed by the way southerners use salt instead of sand on slippery sidewalks during winter. Is there a ban on sand in Toronto? Why do people insist on using salt?—Jennifer Cram, Yonge and Eglinton
Salt versus sand. It’s one of those eternal questions, like PC versus Mac, or tea versus coffee—the kind of debate that has ruined lifelong friendships in the traction community. Salt is the cheaper of the two, when you factor in equipment and storage costs, and unlike sand, which merely increases traction on icy roads, salt actually melts ice and snow. But it does have its kryptonite: when exposed to colder temperatures (around -10°C), it is rendered nearly helpless—hence sand’s dominance in chillier climes. Incidentally, both substances are environmental villains: corrosive salt damages trees and can pollute groundwater, while sand clogs sewers, and its fine particles contribute to air pollution.