View Grit bin locations in a larger map

Following last night’s snow-fall I thought it might be worth re-publishing the locations of grit-bins in the borough.

The Google map details where they all are (roughly, but they are big yellow things, so I’m confident it gives more than enough information for you to find them) but if you want more information you can find it in the council’s winter service plan (PDF).

Help yourself: Grit bins have been placed in various locations around Wandsworth

Just like last year the council has place a number of grit bins around the borough, and I’ve updated the Google map I did of the locations.

Only two or three have moved (I didn’t keep a precise count of changes) so if you had a bin last year the chances are good it is back. And I added a further dozen or so locations to the map.

View Grit bin locations in a larger map

Two health-warnings.

  1. Wandsworth will still be gritting. Many (I think deliberately in some cases) think this means the council won’t grit pavements. The council will still be gritting as normal, however, this allows residents to look after themselves and their neighbours should they choose – it’s an extra, not a replacement.
  2. Any errors in the map are mine. I took the information from the council’s winter service plan (PDF). While in some cases I’ve been able to use my own local knowledge to make sure it’s accurate, I don’t know the whole borough well enough to do that. However, the grit bins are big yellow things, so this map should guide you close enough to see them.

[You can download the data I used to make this map (location, longitude and latitude) from my data page.

View Grit bin locations in a larger map

I’ve updated my map of grit bins now the council has expanded the scheme. The original 20 were well used so there’s another load being dropped around the borough this week.

As before they are placed in areas that are not part of the council’s priority gritting programme, So as before, if there isn’t one near you it isn’t because of some horrible town hall conspiracy, it’s either that other areas are higher risk, or your area is done by the council directly. Of course, it’s not a science – this is the first year we’ve done this and are learning as we go so placements will be refined over the months and years.

I will relate one anecdote from the last lot of snow. Although these could be seen as a ‘Big Society’ initiative, I was intrigued by the Nudge aspect. I was the first on my stretch of road to grit, doing the area outside my house and a couple of neighbours; a day later I counted five others that had done the same, all on that same stretch and all my side of the road. Around the corner or on the other side of the road where you couldn’t see the cleared pavement (because of buildings or cars obstructing the view) and the pavement remained white.

Statistically not significant, though the theory suggests that people are likely to emulate the behaviour of people like them. In this case, gritting outside their homes because one of their close neighbours has.

Which set me thinking about how well received the new grit bins will be, and I think it will be fascinating to see, comparatively, how well used they are (I have no idea how accurately we are logging usage, grit is inexpensive, and the effort of accurate weighing and recording may well quickly dwarf the cost of the grit itself). However, there are two which I think would be interesting to compare usage with bins in areas of street properties.

Nightingale Lane. This box has been placed outside some flats (I think the legally famous Hightrees House) and I wonder how that will play with the shared entrance and exit. With street properties it’s fairly clear which neighbour has cleared their frontage, but with flats? Will nudge work here, or will people assume it’s someone else who isn’t like them making the effort (perhaps someone from the council or the management company).

Bellevue Road. This box is at the bottom of the footpath on the bridge over the railway line, and isn’t that close to residential properties. The nearest are on the other side of the bridge, while the other sides of the road are Wandsworth Common and The Hope pub. The nudge example I gave, therefore, would only work if people saw someone gritting and recognised them.

[I produced the map using the council’s location list, Google maps and for some addresses Steve Morse’s address converter. You can download the list from my data page. Obviously any errors are mine.]

Help yourself: Grit bins have been placed in various locations around Wandsworth

It’s that time of year when the weather dominates council life. We have been out gritting for days (since Saturday morning to be precise) both priority road routes and pavements.

By far the hardest job is gritting pavements, mainly because these have to be done manually. The council concentrates on priority areas for pavement gritting, for example outside schools, stations and clinics and, because they have to return to these areas often do not get around to many residential streets. To help residents 20 grit bins have been located in various places around the borough (the council don’t seem to have mapped them, so I have).

View Grit bin locations in a larger map

The council’s website is hosting a cold weather update page that has the latest updates.

The location data for this is now on my data page.

I’ll confess I’m finding the bad weather a little tedious.

There are a few reasons for this. First, the fact that it gets cold every year in this country really shouldn’t be a lead news item for days on end – but somehow it is. Second, it makes me talk about it so I become tedious.

I’m also always a little disappointed by it. Yesterday morning I was in Westminster for a meeting and it looked beautiful. But a few hours later, as the snow stopped, the roads and pavements turned into a dirty slush and the white crowns on Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster started to melt and fade it just became a bit cold and miserable. I’m not sure if the few hours of picture postcard scenery made the cold, wet walk I then had to take up to Victoria Street worthwhile. But maybe I’m just a misery by nature.

It also impacts on the council’s services, and it’s hard for the council to meet the expectation that everything will work as normal. However, it almost managed. The main victim yesterday was refuse collection – made worse because the same collection last week was the first hit by the heavy snow and a small number (around twenty) were missed for a second week (given that many boroughs just cancelled last week’s collections altogether Wandsworth has done a good job to minimise the disruption). Many of those, however, are from housing estates, and therefore the refuse is in designated refuse areas rather than people’s homes or gardens.

Refuse collection is back to normal today and teams are also working on clearing back log, so the twenty or so missed collections should be caught up this week.

I will never tire of using the same snow related photo for such posts. I want it to become a cliché for the blog, in just the same way that snow becomes the tired and clichéd news item whenever it happens in this country.

In fact, I’ve not that much Wandsworth-related to write about. I have spent most of this week working away performing what is known as a ‘peer review’ of another borough’s Community Safety partnership (which was generally impressive and has left me with a lot of ideas for Wandsworth). Less impressive was the performance of their neighbouring borough at clearing roads!

While not perfect – and it would be impossible to do everything – Wandsworth has coped admirably with the snow and ice. Yesterday, for example, it made over 1,000 of the 1,400 refuse collections that were due. To put this into context Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham suspended all their collections, while Lambeth collected from main routes only. The latest information can be found on the council’s website.

The council is providing has an update page that has the latest information, but I thought you might be interested in some of the details from an update I’ve received.

The council has been gritting almost continuously since early morning on New Year’s Eve. The priority roads have been gritted six times since then, other roads have been gritted at least twice. Since main roads are usable and free from ice gritting operations will concentrate on the non-priority roads for the next 24 hours.

Pavements, which need to be gritted manually, have been gritted through this time and increasing resources have been put into this. However, because it is manual effort is concentrated on the high priority areas – such as busy roads and outside stations and schools.

The council has enough grit to last the current cold snap, and while it is not offering stock to other councils it have been responding to requests from the emergency services. It has also been co-ordinating gritting operations with refuse collection to ensure as much is collected as possible despite the conditions.

I have had some complaints but pleasingly have had far more praise for the council’s response. Personally seeing the area after working away and seeing some absolutely treacherous roads in other boroughs this week I’m astounded at how clear Wandsworth is. The fact is that it sometimes gets snows and it sometimes get cold and icy. The council cannot change the weather, but can do a fabulous job in responding to it.

I’d like to publicly thank and congratulate all the Wandsworth staff – those who are working do clear the snow and ice and keep Wandsworth moving, and all those who have made their way in despite transport difficulties to make sure the work of the council continues and residents continue to receive the excellent service to which they are accustomed.

Snow in Theatre Street, SW11Last February I wrote a few posts about how Wandsworth had dealt with the snowfall. They seemed (surprisingly to me) well received and, as the country braces for some more cold weather I thought it might be worth repeating what happened, and what will happen again.

Wandsworth dealt with an abnormal snowfall admirably. At a time when other councils ran out of grit and salt Wandsworth’s kept going almost non-stop for five days keeping the roads clear. By the end of the first day of snowfall, for example, the borough’s main roads were clear; they were also very quiet as people stayed at home and struggled to navigate through other boroughs that weren’t as well prepared.

Once the main roads were cleared minor roads were tackled. And while all this was going on staff worked on clearing the pavements – with extra teams diverted to help in the effort.

That’s not to say what we did was universally welcomed. I think many had unreasonably high expectations – perhaps assuming we have a huge fleet of gritters and teams of men sat around all year waiting for it to snow! Wandsworth has one of the larger fleets of gritters and (as mentioned) had the stocks of grit for them to use, but clearly we balance the costs of owning and maintaining specialist equipment against the relatively small amount of use they get over a year.

The process is not an exact science and lots of factors come into play. Rain, for example, will wash away the grit and just the movement of vehicles will blow it away if it spread too early on a dry road. And the task is like the proverbial painting of the Forth Bridge if the snow continues falling.

However, as a brief outline of what we do…

Gritting is undertaken pre-emptively. Teams are on stand-by and activated if the weather forecast predicts cold temperatures or weather that might cause ice to form. The priority for roads is to get main routes cleared before tackling side-roads. This priority stays in place throughout the cold weather.

If pavements get icy a different set of priorities apply. First, a specific set of priority areas where there is a higher risk of accident and injury are gritted and cleared, for example outside care homes or medical centres. This list is reviewed regularly and additions can be made, so if you know somewhere that hasn’t been gritted that you think should be cleared let me know. These areas are regularly visited to ensure they remain clear.

Next major pedestrian routes and then the side routes will be cleared. I had a few complaints last year that only one side of the pavement would be cleared. This is deliberate, since it effectively doubles the amount of roads we can open up to pedestrians (at the cost of a slight inconvenience of possibly having to cross the road). The council will also redeploy staff onto clearance. To give an example, there is little point in having street cleaners out when litter is frozen onto the pavement – so instead they help the clearance effort.

The other issue that cropped up was whether people can clear their own area of pavement. There is certainly nothing stopping you, and assuming you tried to clear the snow and ice in good will (rather than just creating more ice) you wouldn’t be liable for any accidents.

Wandsworth has 210 miles of road and 450 miles of footpaths and pavement – and clearly cannot tackle every inch simultaneously – but I think we proved earlier this year we were up to the task of keeping the borough moving when other boroughs were not.

We can’t accurately predict what the weather will do this winter. But with each year we do learn how to deal with it better (I was in meetings talking about it for months afterwards). If the weather turns bad, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you know somewhere that you think should be cleared.

Resurfacing worksThe council is currently undertaking a thorough inspection of the borough’s roads. You may have noticed the condition of some roads has significantly deteriorated. This is largely down to the severe weather we suffered all the way back in February.

You might think this was a long time ago, but in some cases the effects are only just starting to be noticed.

Essentially, the weather weakened the road surface by weakening the bond between the road’s constituent parts. The extent of this damage varied from road to road – some roads were more sheltered so suffered less, others, where the surface was already coming towards the end of its natural life-span were damaged more.

The time is took for this damage to become apparent also varies, roads that only have light traffic may still appear to be in fine condition while those that get heavy traffic broke down much more quickly.

The council is systematically inspecting each road over a period of around three months. Where it is possible repairs are patched (and the council can do this fairly quickly). Where the damage is more severe the entire road has to be resurfaced. In Shaftesbury Ward Thirsk Road is currently being totally resurfaced.

If you know of any potholes you can report them to the council. Repairs can normally be carried out fairly promptly. Faults can be reported online at Faults on Transport for London roads (usually identifed by the red lines on the sides) cannot be repaired by the council, but can be reported via the TfL roadworks and street faults page.

Snow in Theatre Street, SW11Perhaps it’s just that I love using the snow picture.  Perhaps it’s because I rather liked the snow.  Perhaps because it’s a bit of trumpet blowing.

Whatever it is, I’ve just been reading the council’s report on their response to the recent weather and I’m still impressed with what we achieved.

The task was enormous, as the report states “if all the footpaths in Wandsworth were to be laid end to end, they would reach Prague.”  Let the council’s Operational Services department did a stirling job in keeping the roads and pavements clear.

The gritters were out from 3pm on Sunday 1st February (before the snow started) and continued until Saturday 7th February.  At their peak the eight gritters were using salt at a rate of 500 tonnes a day and by the time they had finished all “the Principal routes had been gritted 6 times, all Borough roads 5 times, all footway priority areas 3 times and all borough road footways once.”

I cannot deny I still get exasperated at the complaints from this period. It was a one in 20 year event and we still responded remarkably well and far better than many other boroughs, one of our neighbours (a prize if you guess which) had run out of grit on the first day!

I have said this before and will say it again, congratulations to all the Operational Services staff.