Meeting #2 – Traffic

The second Tenison Road community meeting, held on 29th January, had about 30 of us come together to talk about the traffic-related issues on Tenison Road and how we thought data might help.

Frank Gawthrop, secretary of the GTARA residents association, brilliantly summarised the situation, reviewing the data available on the levels of traffic (especially around the station); the proposed traffic calming scheme and calming options being considered; and the potential impact of the CB1/Station Square redevelopment plans.

Much of our time was spent absorbing Frank’s thorough review and the various details of the data, maps and planning documents he brought with him. We did, however, have some time to see examples of the data that could be collected and to think a bit about why the traffic issues are so important to Tenison Road residents.

Example of Cambridgeshire Count Council survey data from 24/5/12.

Example visualisation of County Council survey data.

For the data examples, we showed an idea for visualising some of the County Council’s traffic survey results collected in May, 2012. We also presented some early results taken from our own efforts to monitor traffic with a heat sensor. Both kinds of data prompted discussion about where we’d want to monitor traffic on the road. Predictably, the intersection with Station Road was seen as a real problem, but also the general flow and speed of traffic were raised as things we’d want to track. The volume and speed of traffic were seen as only part of the problem. There was general consensus that air quality and noise were worth measuring, as well as parking, and that all were indicative of the numbers of people and cars using Tenison Road.

Preliminary heat sensor data of all vehicles and bikes, 24 hours, Tuesday 28th January, 2014.

Total numbers.

Traffic intensity over time.

Volume of traffic over time.

The clear importance of this traffic for the street was found to be based on a number of not always compatible concerns. Some spoke about a more peaceful street, a street that might feel more like a neighbourhood than a major thoroughfare in Cambridge. Others were less concerned with peace (or tranquility), or indeed with the speed of vehicles, and more with the noise and poor air quality resulting from the traffic.

Consensus did appear to form around a wish for a better quality of life for the street’s residents and stronger sense of them acting as a community. There was agreement that a difference could be made and that there might just be ways to use data to impact planning in the area and thus improve Tenison Road’s traffic conditions.

Much of this raises questions for Tenison Road and its use of data. First and foremost, it shows that some choices need to be made relatively quickly about what should be monitored on the street and where. With several decisions to be made, immanently, about local planning (and some already made), it’s an opportune time to begin measuring some of the affects traffic is having on the area and what changes if any are occurring.

More generally, the traffic concerns raise questions about how data might be stored, collected and used for the community’s best interests. We’re immediately confronted with the problem of the ‘collective good’; who’s good might we be aiming to satisfy here? What tensions exist in making things better for ‘the community’? And, in what ways does data (and how it is stored. collected and used) help or stand in the way of making constructive and meaningful decisions for the ‘collective good’?

With these matters in mind, the Tenison Road project is putting together a group to make some plans and no doubt tackle some of the controversies. If you’re interested in participating please email us.

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