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Discover the Tranquil City | City of London, London Bridge and Deptford

We at Tranquil City are kicking off our new experiment this month with the smart city initiative OrganiCity, in partnership with the co-op Outlandish!, the City of London, Better Bankside, Team London Bridge, Lewisham Council and the Pepys Community Forum.

We are exploring how by focussing our efforts on three very distinct areas of London we can encourage more participation with growing the Tranquil Pavement map, as well as demonstrating how the map can be used to challenge the very way we experience and navigate the city. We have teamed up with Local Authorities, Business Improvement Districts and Local Community groups in order to engage with local concerns and priorities. Our engagement areas will be the City of London, London Bridge and Deptford.

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Our key concept is that by getting the Tranquil Pavement map out to as many people as possible, we can help people find time for tranquillity in their daily lives, promoting better mental and physical wellbeing in doing so, encourage a better connection with nature in the city and help us all find cleaner, greener, more pleasant and lower polluted routes as we travel through London.

How are we going to do it?

We are doing this by conducting tranquil discovery walks, exploration events and co-creation workshops for all to get involved with. These will allow us to listen to and work with the community to understand how they would like to discover and use tranquil spaces in their area whilst helping to protect and improve them. We will post when and where these events will be taking place on our website, Twitter and Instagram so stay tuned to get involved.

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We will also be producing a freely available web-app version of the Tranquil Pavement in partnership with Outlandish! It will display your Instagram #tranquilcitylondon crowdsourced spaces, alongside easy to understand information on low noise and low air pollution routes. You will be able to see where you are on the map and use it to explore new and undiscovered tranquil spots. Watch this space…

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Our impact

By conducting this experiment we hope to understand how we can relate Tranquil City to local needs and people, whether it is how to combat air and noise pollution in a personal way, protect a threatened community garden or park or to provide people with access to spaces where they can escape the stresses and anxieties of daily life in this city.

“Tranquillity is the place you go to when you want to escape the stresses of the city, reconnect with nature and reflect. We believe the spaces that help invoke this feeling are essential to our cities and to our cities of the future. Join us in putting these spaces back on the map of London, embracing them, celebrating them and helping to improve and create more for all of us to enjoy.”  Tranquil City, 2017

Follow our blog here for regular updates!

Thanks to OrganiCity for the support. Thank you to David Wood, wiggle_icious and Michael Colman for the photos. Additionally, the Tranquil City project is proudly supported by Anderson Acoustics.

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The Defra Air Quality Plan: Forget the Flashy Headlines, What’s Really Needed is Support for a Fundamental Change to the Way We Travel…

The new Defra plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations was published this week. The plan proposes targeted actions to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen including through promoting public transport, cycling and walking, and actions to accelerate road vehicle fleet turnover to cleaner vehicles. Disappointingly, the majority of the actions, and the much-publicised commitment to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040, focus on tinkering with the motor vehicle industry and accepts our current culture and understanding of transport. There is nothing new on promoting walking, cycling, and ways to reduce vehicle trips. At Tranquil City, we believe that a fundamental change is required in the way we live, work and travel in order to reduce air and noise pollution and exposure to it, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the impacts of climate change. We are working on several projects to encourage active travel in London and are aiming to expand our reach and influence over the coming years.

This week saw the publication of The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plan-for-roadside-no2-concentrations-published). The plan states that poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. It is recognised that addressing road transport emissions presents the most significant opportunity to tackle the nitrogen dioxide problem. The focus is on setting new policies and incentives to promote new technology and innovation, speed up the move to cleaner vehicles and support the industrial strategy to deliver cleaner air for UK towns and cities. The plan proposes targeted actions to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen including through promoting public transport, cycling and walking, and actions to accelerate road vehicle fleet turnover to cleaner vehicles.

However, there is very little focus, and nothing new, in the plan on supporting walking and cycling. The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cycling-and-walking-investment-strategy), which identifies £1.2 billion which may be invested in cycling and walking from 2016-21, is mentioned. Whilst this a welcome source of investment, this strategy, which was published in April is not something introduced as part of the plan. Also, mentioned is a programme of technical and strategic support to assist local authorities in the development of their Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. An expression of interest process was launched alongside the publication of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in April 2017.

The majority of actions detailed in the plan focus on driving improvements in technology reducing emissions from existing vehicle trips. This includes the highly-publicised commitment to end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. This seems an unnecessary, ill-considered and attention-grabbing measure. This proposal is largely an irrelevance in relation to nitrogen dioxide concentrations. Although there has been much controversy around the real-world emissions of diesel cars, and it is clear that they do not perform to the required standard, progressively tighter emission standards have certainly led to reductions in emissions. Vehicle testing regimes are being updated, so it is to be expected that by 2040, they will be performing close to the emission standard, and emissions of oxides of nitrogen will be very low (as they are currently for the latest petrol cars). The nitrogen dioxide limit values will not be exceeded in 2040. Nitrogen dioxide concentrations will be at a level that is highly unlikely to have a detrimental effect on health. Widespread uptake of electric cars would be required to replace the conventional cars. At present, the country seems absolutely unprepared for this. Only a few weeks ago, a National Grid stated that widespread use of electric vehicles could result in an additional 8GW of demand without smart charging (http://fes.nationalgrid.com/fes-document/fes-2017), over two times the capacity of the new reactors being built at Hinckley Point.

So, why are we so disappointed with the lack of any new, tangible measures to support greater walking, cycling and use of public transport? The plan focuses on tinkering with the motor vehicle industry and accepts our current culture and understanding of transport. Even with more electric cars, resources still have to be procured and processed to make the cars, and energy has to be generated. We believe that a much more fundamental change in society is required. There should be a much greater emphasis on reducing private vehicle trips. This will help reduce air and noise pollution, and perhaps even more critically, reduce carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change. The plan could have been used to help government, companies and individuals answer much deeper questions:

  • Why (Do I need to make this trip? Could I do this activity somewhere closer to home?);
  • How (Do I need to drive? Could I walk? Are there new public transport options?);
  • When (Do I need to travel at rush hour? Could I allow my staff to use a more flexible work schedule? Should HGVs be allowed to move around at rush hour); and
  • Where (Can I change my walking route to reduce exposure to pollution? If I need to drive, can I change my route to reduce congestion?)

At Tranquil City, we believe that a fundamental change is required in the way we live, work and travel in order to improve air quality and reduce exposure to air and noise pollution, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the impacts of climate change. We are working on several projects to encourage active travel in London and are aiming to expand our reach and influence over the coming years. Our first experiment with this is our development of the Tranquil Pavement, a map that encourages an exploratory approach to navigating the city, seeking tranquillity, prioritising sense of place and relative low pollution pathways. We believe this is a way to encourage active transport, increasing the appeal of walking and cycling for city dwellers. Follow our blog here and our Twitter feed @tranquilcityapp for updates.

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The Tranquil Pavement – A map that encourages active exploration of tranquillity in the London.

#Tranquil City Exeter

Tranquil City has been invited to launch a #tranquilcityexeter campaign by Exeter City Futures this summer, as part of their goal to increase the well-being of Exeter’s citizens through energy independence and zero congestion by 2025. More information can be found her at https://www.exetercityfutures.com/

Using images tagged to #TranquilCityExeter from Instagram we will create a map of tranquil spaces in Exeter. The aim is to encourage low-impact mobility such as walking and cycling, celebrating nature’s presence in the city and also highlight the benefits of periods of respite for our mental well-being, which are all in line with the ECF’s goals for the future.

The #tranquilcityexeter map can be seen on our website at Tranquil City Exeter and can be loaded as a Google Maps layer on your phone or tablet.

We are interested to understand how our open approach to urban tranquillity can be transferred to a new city, and if the key characteristics of the tranquil spaces collected may be different to our results in London.

We will launching the campaign on Wednesday 14th June as part of their Princesshay Sustainable Transport day, alongside RideOn and GreenRide Sharing that are both challenging congestion in the city.

Come and be part of the Tranquil City movement if you live, work or are visiting the city in the next couple of months, and help create the cities that we all want to live in.

Engaging the public – ‘Walking through the Tranquil City’ Workshop

On the Wednesday 15th February we held a workshop to experiment with our newly created Tranquil Pavement Map. We wanted to observe how people interact with the map to see if it was able to help people find healthier routes through the city. More than 40 people participated and were grouped together to form 5 teams.

 

Each team was assigned three tasks:

  1. Draw on a (plain) map a typical walking route that you take from point A to B
  2. Contribute your tranquil spaces based on your experiences of the city
  3. Consider the same A to B route but prioritising passing through tranquil spaces and areas of low pollution

We presented some examples showing the reduced pollution exposure that could be achieved by using the Tranquil Pavement Map to devise routes across the city. The benefits in terms of exposure were quantified using our GIS map.

The graphs demonstrate that by using both the crowd-sourced and open data sets, we can actively reduce our exposure to noise and air pollution when travelling around the city by significant amounts.

screenshot-2017-02-22-00-19-03Figure 1: Comparison of noise and air pollution exposure with ‘typical’ route and the ‘tranquil’ route.

We considered the health and wellbeing benefits of these reductions in exposure. Using the routes mapped by Grant as an example, based on available guidance and average exposure, we found that if he was to change his route to the ‘tranquil route’ every day for a year, he could be expected to gain an additional day of healthy life! This is a tangible benefit of seeking out tranquil spaces and quieter, less polluted paths along his journey to work.

We believe that this research (which will be detailed further upon completion of the project) is powerful in that as much as we rely on planning and government policies to clean up our air and provide liveable cities, we can actively reduce our exposure to noise and air pollution by choosing routes that are more beautiful, greener, quieter, wilder, sometimes longer but definitely more tranquil.

We are seeking to raise awareness of this so that the profile of the liveability of the city is raised and that planners listen to citizens who want more green spaces, more trees, more wildlife, more pedestrianisation, more waterways and water features. As the Tranquil City experiment has demonstrated, these features can actually result in reduced exposure to noise and air pollution and can help empower people to find more scenic walking and cycling routes through the city.

We will be publishing the results to each of the workshop group’s tranquil routes very soon… watch this space!

screenshot-2017-02-22-00-24-32Figure 2: Visual representation of Tranquil City’s ability to help define tranquillity in the urban context and how it may be placed to aid Local Authorities protect it in the city.

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Humankind’s “great urbanisation” is real and now!

A recent article in the Guardian, coauthored by Professor Lord Stern, called upon our generation’s “great urbanisation” to be conscious and to not limit future generations to cities that are unhealthy and unsustainable.

Bad planning can limit our potential to fight climate change and limit emissions but also create poorer conditions for city dwellers. The article also notes that bad planning can intensify levels of air and noise pollution and it’s obvious health and wellbeing impacts.

“In less than 100 years the world urban population is expected to double to 8 or 9 billion.” Stern and Zenghelis

A debate held at the LSE in November 2015, which also featured Stern, made an urgent call for cities to be forefront of the battle against climate change, citing one way to do this is to adopt a more “compact city” model that encourages efficiency and more sustainable forms of transport such as walking.

Also, a few weeks ago in Quito, Ecuador, the UN New Urban Agenda set out a 20 year plan of urban regeneration and a vision of more compact cities and public transport-based development. This is expected to help encourage communities and cities to take action and reorder how cities are designed.

An example of how planning can result in significantly reduces emissions is that of Atlanta and Barcelona. Both cities have the same population and similar GDP per capita rates. However, Barcelona has 4% of the urban area of Atlanta, and therefore generates 7 times less emissions. It is evident that planning laws should encourage denser developments and avoid urban sprawl if it really wants to reduce emissions.

However, there is a balance to be made where ultra high rise developments can sometimes alienate it’s inhabitants and reduce overall wellbeing and sense of community.

There needs to be a focus on the human scale and the health and wellbeing of city dwellers to lead the forefront of this “great urbanisation”. Understanding peoples needs can help refocus how the city is to be structured and inherently take the focus away from inefficient modes of transport.

Cities that are compact, connected and coordinated are more productive, socially inclusive, resilient, cleaner, with lower GHG emissions, quieter and safer.

Stern emphasised the importance of strong interaction between local city governments and the private sector to take action. There should be strong interaction between community groups that highlight peoples needs directly to these local city governments, and push the private sector into driving a more sustainable and healthy urban future.

I’ll end on a couple of linked poignant quotes from the article,

“The future of the world’s urban population will mostly be built in our lifetime”

“The consequences of bad urban planning and design will last decades or even centuries.”

We need to make our generation’s “great urbanisation” truly great for us and our future generations.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/nov/08/mankind-great-urbanisation-era-act-now-planet-pay

 

Kick-starting OrganiCity experiment into the health impacts of urban tranquil spaces

Tranquil City is very excited to announce that we have been selected as one of the 16 winning projects of the OrganiCity Open Call for urban experiments to help solve key urban problems. The call is sponsored by the Horizon 2020 Program of the European Commission and it calls for applicants from all over Europe – organicity.eu

Tranquil City has been awarded with funding to develop our first phase of research, investigating the health and wellbeing benefits of tranquil spaces in London. We have now begun this three month experimentation that will continue until February 2017.

With this project, we aim to map noise and air pollution in London and investigate the correlations with the spaces that Londoners find tranquil, using our Tranquil City map points. This will allow us to research the health and wellbeing benefits of visiting and walking through tranquil spaces. Finally, we will experiment with prototypes of ‘tranquil routes’ through the city.

By better understanding what tranquillity is in the city, we hope to encourage the discovery, enjoyment and protection of tranquil spaces and how they can positively impact urban mobility.

According to the OrganiCity team our project not only tackles one of the most important urban challenges, but it does so in way that can truly make a difference: by engaging and empowering the citizens.

“London is one of the busiest and most hectic cities in Europe and people suffer from the stressed caused noise, air pollution and congestion. Finding ways and places for people to relax is an important element for the wellbeing of the population.”

These are exciting times for Tranquil City and we will be very busy over the next months. So get involved, post more spaces to #tranquilcitylondon and tell us what you find tranquil in the city to help create a more liveable one.

Watch this space.

Tranquil City team

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Tranquil City London map now live.

Hi Everyone,

The Tranquil City map of London is now available on the Tranquil City homepage http://www.tranquilcity.wordpress.com.

All posts have been gathered from the #tranquilcitylondon page so thank you to everyone who has contributed so far.

The map is still at beta stage but is available to all, so you can start exploring areas of calm in the city and help us to find more, watching the map grow. Be part of the movement by posting a Instagram video or picture along with the location to #tranquilcitylondon.

There is a lot happening at the moment at Tranquil City, stay tuned for updates.

All the best

Grant and the Tranquil City team.

A greener city is better for wellbeing

The promotion of a more ‘tranquil’ city can for some people mean more access to green spaces, such as parks, canals or rivers. A lot of the posts currently collected on the #tranquilcitylondon Instagram page are green spaces and therefore show their value in our cities.

The fact that we are drawn to these types of spaces may well be linked to their benefit to our own wellbeing. Research conducted by Exeter University has found direct links with the amount of green space in a persons urban environment to better wellbeing and mental health.

“We’ve found that living in an urban area with relatively high levels of green space can have a significantly positive impact on wellbeing, roughly equal to a third of the impact of being married.” Dr Mathew White from Exeter University stated in 2013.

Other research conducted by the university by Dr Ian Alcock has specifically linked moving to a greener area improves people’s mental health, and has a lasting effect even well after they have moved.

One issue that Dr White states in the press release of this research is the limited funding opportunities to promote the benefits of these spaces. How should this research be funded? How should what it finds be enforced? We feel that this should be at a policy level to ensure that open spaces remain accessible to all and are not developed on for any financial benefit, especially in centre of London ‘prime’ locations.

Dr White says that “this research could be important for psychologists, public health officials and urban planners who are interested in learning about the effects that urbanisation and city planning can have on population health and wellbeing”

We want to encourage this link with wellbeing at a citizen level, presenting what areas you find that are better for your health and wellbeing and hopefully exposing us all to more of them that we don’t know about yet.

Links to the full Exeter University’s articles are here.

http://www.ecehh.org/research-projects/urban-green-space/

 

All the best,

Tranquil City team

Welcome to the tranquil city

We are a team that believes the urban environment doesn’t have to be polluted, noisy and ugly. We believe cities can be good for our health and wellbeing. Our vision is to actively encourage urbanites to discover areas of calm in their cities and to use them to enhance their health and wellbeing when living in the city.

This is the first post of what is hoped to be many, to actively encourage tranquility in the city.

Have a look through our webpage, and read about how we intend to raise awareness of a healthy city, and join us in creating a better urban future.

All the best,

Tranquil City team