‘Shaping a resilient future for Edinburgh’ by Daisy Narayanan
Article 2 of 7 in the Smart Places illustrated blog article series featuring thought pieces from a diverse line up of thinkers, practitioners, experts and leaders in this field. View the other articles here, or find out about the full programme of events, including Daisy’s live Twitter Q&A on Friday 5 June 3–4pm.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Over the past few weeks, I have found myself reflecting on resilience. Resilience that you find within yourself, within communities and within our neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Resilience that we see all around us through our individual and collective response to the COVID19 crisis.
At work we continue to learn new ways of moving forward whilst ensuring that we don’t lose our sense of togetherness and empathy. At home, I have watched in admiration as my children and their friends have adapted to their strange circumstances, finding new ways to communicate and stay connected to one another. And last week I lost someone I loved dearly. Like many others, I have had to find a new way to grieve from a distance.
Our relationship with each other, as well as our connections with the built and natural environment around us, are being completely redefined by this public health crisis.
I read somewhere that ‘Moments of crisis can provide a heightened insight into the problems of everyday life pre-crisis’. Looking at the uncertain future ahead, we need to acknowledge that many parts of the ‘normal’ that we long for were broken. And now we have an opportunity to take a proactive approach in shaping the evolving life after lockdown, ensuring it can eventually lead to the fairer, healthier and happier world we want to see.
Exactly one year ago, I was on secondment to the City of Edinburgh Council, leading a 10 year project to transform the city centre: changing how we live, work and play in the city by making it better for people on foot and bike and public transport, reducing vehicular dominance and giving the city centre streets back to people.
One year on, the need to create more people-friendly streets and neighbourhoods has not changed. If anything, there is a much stronger sense of urgency and an imperative to do so.
As we look ahead to the next few months, Edinburgh’s citizens will need to build individual and collective resilience to deal with significant challenges. How we continue to maintain our human connections whilst staying physically distant will be one of the most significant issues we need to address.
We need a public discourse on the connection between better public spaces and economic recovery, and the recognition that making space on our streets for walking, cycling and wheeling is central to getting the city reconnected and back on its feet.
As the lockdown loosens — new travel patterns and mode choices will emerge. Without action now, there is a real risk that the car will become the default mode of socially-distanced transport.
Sustainable, low carbon and active transport will be at the heart of the recovery as we face an uncertain future.
Positive change will happen through real collaboration, with people shaping the places that they live, play and work in. The discussions and decision-making will be truly inclusive. By ensuring that voices of underrepresented groups are integrated in policy and planning, through meaningful community engagement and participation, we will truly understand and address the specific needs of Edinburgh’s citizens.
Because a city that works for the young and the old, for the most vulnerable on our streets, is a city that works for everyone.
This pandemic has highlighted the crossovers between the quality of our places, public health, economy, transport, education, air quality and social justice. We already have evidence of the positive impact of active transport on Edinburgh’s economy, environment and public health. For example, the Sustrans Bike Life Edinburgh report showed that 24% of Edinburgh residents cycle at least once a week, leading to 27.1 million trips made by bicycle in the past year. The direct benefits have included a saving of 14,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas, £1.6 million saving to the NHS and prevention of 251 long-term health conditions.
Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
We can only respond to the unprecedented scale of change we face today by harnessing our individual and collective strength and help shape a future for Edinburgh that is fairer, healthier and truly resilient.
Interested in discussing this article? Leave a response below or join Daisy for a one hour Twitter discussion on Friday 5 June from 3pm–4pm. Take part in, or follow the Twitter discussion using #SmartPlaces.
You can find out more about the Smart Places series on the Edinburgh Living Lab webpage, including other upcoming authors and key dates for our online events.
Illustrator response to Daisy’s article and future vision, by Katie Quinn
My task when making this illustration for Daisy’s article was to represent a range of themes including human connections, sustainability and collaboration within the design. A lot of my work involves making data comics, where I have the opportunity to create detailed characters and environments to tell stories about things such as health and community. For this project I needed to use a different process to include different stories within one illustration, which I hope I have achieved!
‘Resilience’ was the first word I wrote down after reading Daisy’s piece; and in the design I’ve tried to reflect the idea of the citizens of Edinburgh collaborating to find a way forward after lockdown. From making the first pencil drafts of the illustration I focused on people, streets, transport and conversation. In this completed design, the characters within the buildings and on the street are having a conversation despite being physically distant from each other. I’ve represented as many modes of transport as possible and have given the most space to active travel and public transport to match Daisy’s vision for a healthy and resilient future. The motif of the arm / countryside that is wrapped around the city is a means of showing the togetherness and empathy that is needed for us as individuals as well as our physical surroundings.
Though it was tempting to develop the individual characters, in the end I chose not to add too much detail to them, as the illustration needs to be readable both as a smaller/ on-screen image as well as a larger print. As always, I used the bright colours and solid lines that are recognisable throughout my work. I hope that my concept successfully compliments the themes of community, collaboration and positive change within Daisy’s article.
Daisy Narayanan — bio
Daisy Narayanan is the Director of Urbanism for Sustrans, where her role involves interweaving policy, public realm design and a broad integration of key place principles to help create liveable towns and cities. Daisy is on the Board of Architecture & Design Scotland and a member of the Edinburgh Climate Commission. She was on the Active Travel Task Force set up by the Minister for Transport and the Islands and will join the Scottish Transport Awards judging panel from 2020.
Drawing on her previous experience working as an architect and urban designer in India, Singapore, England and Scotland, Daisy believes passionately in the importance of creating places for people: places that reflect and complement the communities that live in them.
A music aficionado, a bookworm and a linguist, Daisy spends her time enjoying the Scottish outdoors with her husband and two children.