Boosting sustainable transport and urban renewal in one of the most polluted cities of the UK
Rosa Fernández Cerdán
Spring 2019 - 12 weeks
How can the Bradford City Council incentivise its citizens in becoming active shareholders of green infrastructures and in adopting sustainable ways of transport, in order to reduce CO2 emissions and shape a healthier city?
“Pedalstal”, an online and offline community platform that increases adoption of cycling as a way of transport. It enables a beneficial sharing and ownership of infrastructures, technologies and services between citizens, cycling communities, local authorities and businesses;
A design toolkit delivered to the Bradford City Council to develop user-centred strategies and community engagement;
“This process was completely new for me and my team. The workshops and the materials produced have allowed us to understand our citizens and make choices accordingly. I hope to use the tools contained in the kit often and to involve my whole team."
Project manager, Highway team
“Pedalstal enables balanced relations. If the council wants to engage citizens and stakeholders in their interventions, sustainable relationships and partnerships might be designed and explored with us along the process”
Founder of a cycling group in Bradford
The City of Bradford is one of the main polluted areas in the UK, resulting in 4.2% of total mortality caused by PM 2.5 and in an increase of asthma cases in children (38%). Air pollution is mainly caused by private cars, so the Council is investing in low-emission strategies and in new green infrastructures such as cycling lanes and green spaces, focusing on the main pollutes spots of the district. However, citizens' adoption of sustainable initiatives is poor, which is why we have been asked by the Council to develop and test new ways of public engagement in order to support Bradfordians in shifting towards sustainable ways of transport.
WHAT I DID - THE PROCESS
The process itself worked for me as a prototype to test new ways of community engagement by shaping multiple design and research activities. The approach used was human-centred, starting with research to understand the needs and perspectives of both citizens and decision makers.
Alongside with desk research, it was essential to engage with citizens and community groups since the beginning of the process. That's why I immersed myself in the city through site visits, guerilla research, observation and in-depth interviews. This allow me and the team to gather citizens’ needs and their positions with respect to air quality, mobility and the strategies undertaken by local authorities.
On-street field research focused on collecting citizens' needs and perceptions about air quality, urban mobility and green spaces. The activities engaged people in an informal way and in a relaxed environment.
On the other hand, I worked closely with the Planning, Transportation and Highway Department. Through in-dept interviews, discovery and co-creation workshops we mapped strategies and priorities on the council agenda, ideated and tested ideas in order to lead them toward a more user- centred orientation.
Discovery workshop in the Town Hall:
Mapping issues, priorities and opportunities with project managers and landscape architects in the Highway Team and in the Infrastructure and Plan Implementation Team.
INSIGHTS: BARRIERS TO CYCLING
Clustering findings and breaking down complex concepts
Field and desk research led my team and I to focus on enabling cycling adoption among citizens. Given the morphological characteristics of the site, cycling could be an ideal and sustainable mode of transport in the city. However, even if council investments seeks to support cycling as a form of sustainable and active travel, yet, cycling levels remain low. Through our research we realised that citizens actions are guided by a deep rooted car culture that blocks sustainable practices and goes beyond the availability of infrastructures and tangible resources such as cycle tracks and bike sharing systems: normalisation of cycling is a dynamic and unstable process necessitating the ongoing integration of materials, competences and perceptions. We synthesised our findings into 4 key insights:
1. Cycling is not a convenient and appealing mode of transport in Bradford
There are numerous material barriers that prevent citizens from consciously adopting the bicycle as a means of transport. The bike sharing service is poor and expensive, many people cannot afford to buy a bike or have no space to park it. Moreover, the benefit on personal and environmental health is not perceived.
2. Citizens perceive the streets as an unfriendly space to cycle
People don’t feel safe to cycle on the streets since roads are perceived as highways ruled by car driver. Even though the council is investing in new cycle paths, crossings and streets to reach them are often dangerous because of inappropriate infrastructures and bad driving behaviours.
3. Bottom-up and top-down strategies are not aligned
There are many cycling groups running activities such as training, learning workshops and bikes refurbishment. However, they work under their potential because of resources’ shortage and lack of consideration by local authorities. This results in misaligned interventions and in citizens not participating in council’s initiatives.
4. Cycling adoption requires new capabilities from both cyclists and drivers
Adopting cycling as as a mode of transport rather than a funny activity to do over the weekend requires the development of specific skills that build confidence and allow cyclists to travel safe. It also requires the establishment of new driving behaviours for car drivers that are now used to dominate the streets.
Persona: Turning barriers and findings
into scenarios and real users' needs for a co-creation workshop in the Town Hall
How might we trigger a cycling culture along the area by enhancing and exploiting the current cycling ecosystem?
The strategy focuses on triggering a cycling culture in citizens by ensuring accessibility to resources, triggering placemaking practices and building abilities.
STRATEGY: SPEEDING UP THE CYCLING CULTURE
We turned barriers into opportunities and we developed a strategy for the council aimed at developing a cycling culture in the area. Cycling worked for us as an artefact able to explicit strategic elements and show how to actively involve citizens in the shift towards sustainable ways of transports.
Pedalstal is a community platform that works both in physical and digital level. It connects and mobilise citizens, cycling communities, the council and local businesses by leveraging existing resources in the cycling ecosystem, optimasing initiatives and linking other key participants.
Citizens become active members of the platform through 4 main features:
Track your ride is a GPS tracking system. It registers and show to the users the miles and the equivalent carbon footprint. Users can track how much they cycle per day, showing positive effects on health and environment.
Get a social bike offers an easy and affordable way to get a bike. It is an instant borrow service of refurbished bikes. It is run and maintained by refugees, reformers and volunteers from local cycling organisation
Co-produce public space allows citizens to influence and actively participate in the design of public space, prioritizing their needs and perceptions based on the daily use of infrastructures. They can contribute by send messages and photos of dangerous crossing as well as participating in place-making and tactical urbanism interventions.
Pedalstal community brings together all training activities and events around cycling available in the area. It nurtures and strengthens relationships between citizens and stakeholders.
Track your ride
Rent a social bike.
Real time reports
Co-produce public spaces
LOW EMISSION CURRENCY
Citizens are incentivised to use the platform and engage with cycling activities by earning Cadence, a low emission currency. They can earn Cadence based on the miles they cycle per day, their use of refurbished bikes and by participating every to community event. The currency can be spent in local businesses, for purchasing services offered within Pedalstal (workshop and training sessions) or can be donated to nurture top down initiatives included in the platform.
AN OPEN SOURCE DATASET
Pedalstal enables the collection and the sharing of valuable data from different sources producing mutual benefits to multiple shareholders of the platform:
Empowering citizens to take control of their lives by showing the impact of their sustainable actions on their health and on air pollution
Discovery of new routes and short cuts by riding patterns
Bringing evidence to the council for future urban planning and infrastructures by detecting hot spots early on and potentially ways to improve the tracks or build new ones
Creating new opportunities for social or private organisations.
Pedalstal is shaped by a diversity of players and entities following new distributed rules of creating and capturing value. The platform collects and mobilise existing actors, amplifies their potential and optimise initiatives to trigger a cycling culture in the area. By leveraging existing resources in the cycling ecosystem and linking other participants through open data and a low-emission currency system Pedalstal offers:
a booster for sustainable choices in citizens resulting in lower asthma cases in children and in reduced mortality caused by air pollutants
a collaborative and cost-saving policy-making model
a tool to balance and regulate top down and bottom up strategies
a collaborative ownership and shaping of public places and infrastructures that incentives citizens in li
a new revenue model for local businesses and social organisations
All the actors are producers and consumers at the same time; they use features and data produced by the platform but they also have the power to shape the ecosystem and participate to decision making processes.