More useful (and free) internet tools for sharing snow-related information

[googlemaps http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=102012504572852987592.0004965dc6045167b2757&source=embed&ll=51.457323,-0.196037&spn=0.038185,0.110035&output=embed&w=555&h=400]  (James Cousins’ ‘Gritting Wandsworth’ map)

Just following up on my previous posts on how councils and councillors can use free internet tools to get information out to residents about snow-related services and disruption.

I want to draw attention to James Cousins’ ‘Gritting Wandsworth’ piece – which tackles the tricky subject of meeting peoples expectations during periods of harsh weather. In it, he says:

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).

Such data visualisations are, I believe, immensely valuable (and more enjoyable) for time-pressed residents looking quick access to local information. So how such maps done?

  1. Before anything, you need to have a Google account (which I advise everyone to have as it allows for easy sharing and collaboration in documents and spreadsheets)
  2. Find your raw data – here is the public information on the Wandsworth Council website I presume James used.
  3. Go on to your map and add a place mark. See images below – it’s the blue cursor bottom. 
  4. When all are done, click ‘Link’ in the top right hand corner of the map – see images above
  5. Copy the HTML code and embed in to your blog. Or, if you do not have a blog, you can just copy the URL code and email that out to residents who may find the information useful.

What’s good to see is that local residents are clearly  looking to James as a repository of relevant, day-to-day local information, and are using his online activity as an opportunity to engage and question their elected officials – as shown by the below copy of a comment left on James’ post.  

I’d love to hear how and what other councils and councillors are doing online whilst the snow falls. Please feel free to email me on rob.dale@lgiu.org.uk and tell me what you’re doing.  I’ll then profile responses on the blog.

    1. Adrian Short says:

      While the effort and intention here is admirable, a great deal of time would be saved if the council just published the grit bin data in a useful geographical format.

      Sutton Council did this and I made this map from it:

      http://suttonmaps.heroku.com/maps/grit-bins

      Sutton has 352 grit bins and actively encourages residents to use them to grit their own pavements.

      1. Robert Dale says:

        Thanks for this link Adrian. Did you receive any feedback from residents?

        I think you are absolutely right. It is great that James had the enterprise and enthusiasm to do this (aiding too by his internet capapbilities) – however it would indeed make much more sense if the council took that extra step themselves to make the information useful.

        I’m really interested in all these ideas and initiatives so please feel free to send my links 🙂

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