Using big data to find the safest street design: NYC example

New York City has teamed up with a big data company to estimate which street designs result in fewer crashes. While the results have not been conclusive so far, certain interventions – such as wider and highly visible pedestrian islands- have been proven to significantly reduce pedestrian crashes. Linking these known street designs with predictive models and more data may be just what cities are looking for in their quest for Vision Zero goals. To see the full article click here. tumblr_mq06t2ajEy1ruig9zo1_1280

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Not everyone finds nature relaxing: new research

New research seems to shed light on what some have long argued- that not everyone finds nature relaxing. In a recent paper in The Society for Consumer Psychology lead authors Kevin P. Newman and Merrie Brucks found that neurotic people tended to find stressful situations- like bustling traffic and street noise- more calming than scenes of nature.  The thinking is that the environment mirrors their chaotic, stressed thinking, rather than being the opposite. There is even some suggestion that different personality types are drawn to different environments, and that these mimic stereotypes in the U.S. (such as relaxed Southerners and uptight northeasterners). However, as other posts on this blog have argued, not all nature is relaxing, and not all urban experiences are stressful (think being lost in a dark wood versus sitting in a sidewalk cafe on a bustling, tree-lined pedestrian street). To read more click here, and to see the original article click herecce0c7db236b5e269c7721de801bb8f7.

Barcelona creatively finds ways to add greenspace to a crowded city

Many cities struggling with increasingly hot temperatures are trying to find ways to cool the city. Adding greenspace is being recognized as a multi-benefit way to do this, as it also reduces stormwater runoff and improves the quality of stormwater, while providing habitat and social spaces for humans.  The problem is that the areas that need greenspace the most- often densely-built downtowns- are often the areas that have the least amount of available space in which to add greenery.

Barcelona is tackling this issue in a particularly creative way- by redistributing traffic to tunnels, replacing some low-density courtyards with parks (though not uncontroversially), aggressively encouraging green roofs and walls, and linking green corridors to existing parks. This approach to urban greening, in which cities are having to add greenspace to previously unused or underused urban areas, is a great example of the trend around urban greening and the approach taken in my upcoming book with Routledge (out in 2018). For more information click here

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Image courtesy of Citylab and Ajuntament de Barcelona

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London calls for a unified approach to parks and measuring greenspace

In the new report on London Parks, Park life: ensuring green spaces remain a hit with Londoners, the London Assembly has made a number of recommendations including:

  • In the forthcoming Environment Strategy, the Mayor should:
    • clarify his plans to increase London’s green space in terms of quality, multi-functionality and accessibility
    • set out a specific action plan to improve green space data collection to help target investment which improves access to, and quality of, green spaces.

The report also calls for a unified approach to accountability and oversight. See the full report here.

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Photo credit: The landscape institute.org

 

Philly doctors are now prescribing nature visits to kids

In the continued recognition that access to nature improves health and well-being, as especially important to children’s growth, development, and socialization, doctors in Philadelphia are now prescribing time in nature for underserved youth. See the full article here.

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At the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in South Philly, a group of kids — including Safir Wearind (foreground), 10 — participate in a camp. In the background is Brianna Patrick, environmental education supervisor. (CLEM MURRAY/Staff photographer)

The chicken and egg issue of green gentrification

How do you add much-needed greenspace to neighbourhoods without driving up prices so much that the original residents are displaced? This is an ongoing issue in many cities and is currently being debated by academics, some of who are arguing for a ‘just green enough’ standard for urban greening that they argue will reduce exposure to environmental health risks but not make the spaces so desirable that it pushes gentrification. Other academics have argued that this further marginalizes the poor and disadvantaged, giving them once again second-hand goods that may or may not provide the same health and well-being benefits of better quality greenspace (see my upcoming book with Routledge on this matter, due out in 2018). For a real-world case study, see this recent article in USA Today on concerns with Chicago’s new 606 elevated rail line converted into a walking and biking trail606.trail.