Authors: Alexander Nurse, Richard Dunning, Diane Fitch, Todd Lithgow, Ahmed Makki and Trung Thanh Nguyen (2022)
This report relates to a project which explored the potential of a mixed-method approach of using sensor monitoring and community planning techniques to co-design ideas of the 15-minute neighbourhood. The project, a collaboration between researchers at the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, used the neighbourhood of Toxteth, Liverpool as a base to explore how real time sensor-based monitoring would affect resident perceptions, understanding and support for active travel measures in the places that they lived, and thus could be used as a method to support place-based decarbonisation.
The project deployed two motion sensors over a longitudinal basis in Toxteth, each on a busy thoroughfare through the neighbourhood. The sensors monitored traffic count by mode, speed and flow (e.g. turning direction), allowing for analysis against time of day and conditions.
The sensors found that traffic patterns on site one – Hartington Road – broadly matched expected modal share. Site two, the site of an active-travel intervention by Liverpool City Council, saw cycling rates double the expected modal share. Across both sites we observed excess speeding.
The sensor data underpinned community-focused workshop activity which worked with residents to explore how they perceived their neighbourhood and the potential for future activity. We found that the sensor data broadly aligned with resident perceptions of what was happening on their street.
When presented with different options for the future of their street (as CGI visualisations) we found that residents favoured more ambitious interventions which would reduce traffic flow (e.g. modal filters) and could visual themselves in that space.
A key finding of the workshops is that, understandably, residents focused on their neighbourhood and the potential for those who live there. It raises an important issue about the people who may travel through that street (i.e. the traffic we measured) and how they may feel about such an intervention. As such, the question goes to the heart of the nature of consultation: Who is involved, and whose views carry the most weight in determining outcomes? Do resident’s rights outweigh broader utility, or vice versa?
In all, the project determined that there is merit in this approach, and value in expanding beyond this proof-of-concept to upscale for broader use. In doing so, we acknowledge the opportunity to incorporate more sophisticated sensor-based techniques including air and noise pollution monitoring, and the monitoring of more complex junctions and spaces.