Bin position campaign

We are campaigning for a flexible approach to where bins should be put out for emptying, so that narrow pavements are not obstructed. The following positions should all be considered as legitimate options as well as on the pavement:
  • at the front of the property
  • in the gutter of the carriageway
  • in side alleys (where available).

We are backing the campaign of one of our members, Keith Dawson. Here is Keith's report on his progress (November 2012):
A member of Wirral Pedestrian Association has contacted the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) about Wirral Council's advice to residents on the placing of wheelie bins for collection. Keith Dawson lives in a very narrow street that has a pavement on only one side of the road. The pavement is very narrow and causes problems for pedestrians at the best of times, especially as the street is used as a cut through by thousands of motorists each week. When wheelie bins are placed on the pavement ready for collection, the risk to pedestrians is greatly increased as they are forced to walk in the roadway.

Following a comment made to him by a passing pedestrian who was having to walk in the road on bin collection day, Keith wrote to Wirral Council on 9th November 2011 asking if it was acceptable for residents to leave their wheelie bins in the gutter, so that the pavement remained clear on collection days. The Council told Keith that it was not acceptable and the response he received confirmed his belief that Wirral's Highways staff afford more importance to keeping vehicle drivers and passengers safe, than they do to pedestrians. One particular email stated: Whilst it is appreciated that the existing footway provision is narrow, pedestrians are expected to take due care and attention and approach with caution when passing a bin that has been presented for collection. Keith wondered why the Council could not apply the same standards to vehicle drivers by allowing residents to place bins in gutters and expecting drivers to take due care and attention and approach with caution when passing a bin that has been presented for collection in the gutter. He decided to bring a complaint to the Council in an effort to have it consider the issue properly, balancing the rights, needs and safety of pedestrians, against the need to keep vehicles moving and drivers and their passengers safe.

The essence of Keith's complaint was that in issuing instructions to place bins on such narrow pavements as the one found in his street, rather than in the gutter of the roadway, the Council's highway's staff had: (a) Failed to take account of the risks to pedestrians and/or failed to give due weight to the risks faced by pedestrians when compared to those faced by vehicle drivers and passengers; and (b) Not given due consideration to the needs and safety of people with disabilities, and thereby failed to meet the requirements of equalities legislation and specific duties under this.

Keith received a letter from Wirral Council in April 2012 which he felt did not address the specific grounds of his complaint and he decided to elevate his complaint to stage 2 of the Councils three-stage complaints procedure. Keith says that the Council failed to even acknowledge his correspondence at stage 2. He emailed the Council again in June 2012, asking that the complaint be escalated to stage 3 and when the Council still failed to respond or acknowledge his complaint, Keith decided to contact the LGO.

In Keith's view, some very important issues were raised by his original complaint to the Council, not least about the impact on disabled people. He points to the problems the bins cause to people in wheelchairs or people who are blind, for example, and the inequality caused in Wirral's narrow streets on a daily basis. Keith is calling on Wirral Council to review the advice it gives to Wirral residents on where to place wheelie bins for collection. In undertaking this review, he says the Council should take account of the risks to pedestrians and give due weight to the risks faced by pedestrians when compared to those faced by vehicle drivers and passengers. Keith has suggested to the LGO that Wirral Council could avoid discriminating against people with mobility problems by granting permission to residents to place wheelie bins in the gutter in streets where pavements are too narrow to allow a person to pass by a wheelie bin, as long as placing a bin in the gutter does not prevent vehicles from passing along the road way. No pedestrian, disabled or not, should have to endure unnecessary risks in favour of allowing vehicles to travel along roads without the inconvenience for their drivers of having to look out for a wheelie bin placed in the road gutter, he says.

A member of the LGOs staff is undertaking an initial assessment of Keiths complaint. She is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether Keiths complaint requires a full investigation by the LGO.