A site about how community groups and charities can make the most of data and open data to do something useful. Focused on Birmingham, relevant everywhere.

The gritty truth about data and mapping


In January Britain found itself in the grip of some of the worst snow storms in recent years. The result was, inevitably, travel chaos. Local councils up and down the country were caught out by the cold snap and found they’d failed to grit their roads properly. Even where the gritting did take place, it seemed like something of a nightmare to work out what was going on.

There were a number of people who took up the challenge of clearing this er, snowstorm of confusion with a spot of ingenuity.

Notably, here in Birmingham Dave Harte, who’d recently taken over duties on Hannah Waldram’s Bournville Village blog, reckoned he could help by taking Birmingham City Council‘s information on gritting and applying it to the roads round the village.

View Bournville and surrounds – gritting routes in a larger map

Also, perhaps the most significant response was the Birmingham Open Street Map group’s gritting project, which is still continuing.

Mappa Mercia gritting map for the West Midlands on OpenStreetMap

Their map has grown and grown and now looks very impressive. As this accompanying blog points out that anyone can get involved. Many councils, not just Birmingham, produce some kind of information on gritting routes.

Interestingly, as is pointed out on Dave Harte’s blog post about his gritting map by Simon Gray, Birmingham City Council wasn’t able to map or express its data in a more easily digested form, because it would infringe copyright on the Ordinance Survey map. This made Dave’s job harder – he’d rather be watching football – and this is something that he hopes councils and the government should work to resolve. It’s evidently something we should all bear in mind when looking at how to create maps. He also points to Adrian Short’s work mapping the London Borough of Sutton’s gritting bins – using the KML file data that Birmingham can’t make available and Yahoo Pipes.

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