Councillor Lesley Macinnes: Muck in when weather chucks it at us and keep city moving
The nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping. While there’s a festive feeling beginning to build, there’s no ignoring the challenges that the winter months can bring.
Today, midway through the Scottish Government’s annual Resilience Week, we’re reflecting on our own preparedness for the colder period ahead – and for whatever the weather might throw at us.
You might have already spotted the odd gritter circulating the streets as we begin treating the city’s road surfaces overnight, with temperatures dropping below zero along with the first frosts of the year. Soon, you’ll see our brand-new fleet of 16 mini-gritting tractors too, primed to salt Edinburgh’s network of pavements and cycle lanes and clear away snow, if it comes.
As ever, we’re geared up for ice, frost, snow or hail, with more than 13,000 tonnes of salt in stock and a 96-strong roads services team working round the clock to treat the city’s network. Not to mention the 60 volunteers from across the council on standby ready to step in and help us keep Edinburgh moving if needed.
Many of the team responsible for winter weather maintenance were also crucial to our efforts to manage the impact of flash flooding when the city was hit by extraordinarily wet weather over the summer, with half a month’s rain falling in a matter of hours on one occasion. Thanks to their dedication, often working throughout the night, we were able to clear blocked gullies, reduce surface water and minimise disruption as much as possible.
This is the kind of response needed to make sure our city is resilient to the elements, along with the work of other council departments along with blue light services, to manage the effects of any emergency that might hit us.
It’s essential that residents feel able to do their bit too, where possible, when it comes to keeping our homes and streets safe and accessible. As Resilience Week reminds us, we all need to be informed, ready and thinking of others when the situation calls for it.
In the throes of the ‘Beast from the East’ last year we witnessed a real community spirit, when residents and parent groups joined forces to help grit and plough streets and playgrounds and make sure the more vulnerable among us were kept safe and warm.
Of course, we don’t want to see such heavy snow this winter, but we do hope this enthusiasm continues, the likes of which we’ve seen in the Grange, with residents helping to clear leaves from pavements, or farmers in the south of the city mucking in to grit higher ground. While we do have dedicated squads dealing with every element of the city’s maintenance 24-7, with the best will in the world we can’t be everywhere at once. We have more than 1500 kms of roads and 2300 km of pavements and cycle ways to manage.
Over winter months, our gritting night shift must focus on priority routes, making sure roads and pavements leading to venues like fire stations, schools, care homes and hospitals, as well as bus routes, are as safe as possible. For this reason, we might not get to your street, which is why we’ve located hundreds of grit bins around the city so you and your neighbours can pitch in to treat surfaces.
Everyone can do their bit when it comes to making sure Edinburgh is safe, accessible and fully-functioning this winter, whether it’s checking in on a neighbour, keeping up-to-date with travel disruption or clearing snow from your local pavement. Only by working together can we make sure we can enjoy the festive season, whatever the weather chucks at us.
Councillor Lesley Macinnes is transport and environment convener at Edinburgh City Council.