Meet WeCount’s citizen scientists!

17 March, 2021
Citizens are at the heart of WeCount’s activities. Our worldwide army of citizen scientists are collecting data on urban traffic, helping local authorities to make informed shifts towards sustainable mobility. At a time when cities are seeking effective and accessible alternatives to private passenger vehicles, such data is critical.

One community, Grangetown, based in our WeCount case study city of Cardiff (Wales), is a fantastic example of how citizens are making tangible contributions. Cardiff is a dynamic, rapidly growing city, with a diverse range of transport challenges which require ambitious solutions. The city needs to work with neighbouring authorities to affect change as everyday approximately 90,000 commuters travel into the city, 75-85% by car. Cardiff has a £2bn, 10-year transport vision designed to tackle the climate emergency, reduce congestion and improve air quality through substantial investment in active travel and public transport.

We spoke to one of the citizen scientists at the centre of Grangetown’s efforts, Dafydd Trystan, about the importance of measuring traffic and how the local community has mobilised to tackle this issue.

What made you want to get involved in the WeCount project? Why do you feel measuring traffic is important?

On my street we have lots of cars and bikes. I was really interested to see quite how many cars and bikes, and how fast the cars were travelling. It’s made me more determined than ever to think about how we can reduce the number of cars travelling through residential streets (at speed).

What issues have traffic volumes caused in Grangetown?

Speeding, air pollution, making the local area unsafe for children to head out on their bikes or to cycle to school safely. We're making progress and the Greener Grangetown area is fab (and could go even further) but there's so much more work to do.

Cardiff plans to introduce a congestion charge; do you believe this will be successful in reducing traffic volumes?

Congestion charging has almost always worked internationally in reducing volumes. But to be really successful it needs to be backed up by significant investment in active and sustainable transport; and designing neighbourhoods and areas for people not for private cars. I want people to choose to walk, cycle or take the bus because it’s the easiest, safest, cheapest option.

What has been the response to the project from the local community?

Terrific. I was part of the Grangetown COVID volunteers and we organised over 150 volunteers to support neighbours in the community with day-to-day tasks

What do you think are the remaining challenges inhibiting individuals and communities from adopting more active and sustainable transport options like cycling?

The design of our communities is I think the place to start. Build communities around people walking, cycling, taking public transport - and if you make those choices easier and simpler for people; while making private car journeys a little more difficult and a little more expensive - we'll be able to make amazing progress.

We have seen several low-traffic neighbourhoods trialled in cities around the UK, do you feel they have potential for expansion? Might one work in your neighbourhood?

They're fab. Yes - absolutely, but we need proper consultation and good community-led design to ensure widespread support and enjoyment of the LTNs.

What is next for Grangetown?

We need to be thinking far more about people with limited mobility and a range of disabilities. At the moment our city environment doesn't encourage many people to walk or cycle - but it makes it impossible for many of those with more limited mobility. Building neighbourhoods for people not private cars is as much about dropped curbs, regular benches / resting places and reducing street clutter as it is about high qualify segregated cycle paths.

Find out more about Cardiff’s involvement in WeCount here.