At Mow May, the campaign to discourage mowing and encourage plant life, branded ‘No Mower Can Die’, is caused by drivers concerned about reduced visibility, they say, caused by overgrown grass, flowers and plants on verges.
In June, motorist Colin Dear, who lives near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, went one step further and claimed a section of the curb he claimed was too large, causing several near misses involving cars.
He told the Bucks Free Press: “Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed the grass is getting really tall on the banks along our fence. There have been serious accidents in the past where cars were unable to see other cars. This year has been really bad and I’ve seen a lot of bad fights. I was convinced that if I didn’t do something, someone would die.”
A council spokesman said it recognizes the need to maintain visibility for road users, but frequent mowing benefits wildflowers and pollinators, with money saved being redirected to road repairs.
Love is not alone in expressing concerns about the state of vegetation in some roadside areas. For example, drivers writing on Sidmouth’s community Facebook page have identified junctions and roundabouts.
One resident wrote: “You can [the council] Do a little more on the sides of the road as it makes the roads more unsafe. I realize the trend is to protect insect habitat, but certainly not at the expense of people’s lives. Another replied: “Maybe it should be, no mower can die.”
Their concerns are reflected in a survey conducted by the RAC last year. He found that drivers were dissatisfied with the quality of grass and foliage maintenance on their local roads. [see bar charts, below] And they blame the practice for deteriorating road conditions.
No Mow May was created by international conservation charity PlantLife to raise awareness of the benefits of allowing plants to thrive. Although they are obliged to maintain roadsides, municipalities have been authorized to adapt their practices and more than 300 local authorities with biodiversity strategies have adopted those promoted by PlantLife.
However, Plant Life’s roadside consultant Mark Schofield says his organization isn’t the only one advocating a no-cut strategy.
Schofield said, “With roads, it’s about managing the margins very intelligently. Dorset County Council initially adopted a cut and collect method of maintaining margins. They are cut twice a year in spring and late summer, but instead of rotting the seedlings where they encourage new growth, they remove them or throw them further back. The margin becomes less fertile, so the grass becomes shorter and requires less mowing.
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