Archive for May, 2016

Sewer Systems in the District of Columbia - Graphic

Designing to Connect Communities

Graphics and images serve as a universal language for communication. The first records of human communication are drawings, and they have served as a means of communication among many cultures and throughout many generations. Even today, as children, we start learning names and ideas through colors, graphics, images and drawings. Why do we stop as adults when it is clearly a useful resource for communication?

Transportation engineers, urban planners, environmental scientists, and architects are some of the specialists that use technical language as part of their day-to-day communication. Although technical terminology might be very helpful to communicate complex information in a specific field, it might also create a barrier in interactions with people without that technical knowledge. For instance, imagine a group of experts in psychology participating in an engineering technical meeting about how to construct bridges. Even though all participants might have extensive professional trainings, they do not share the same technical language, which will can make communicating difficult. Now instead of psychology experts, imagine people from very different backgrounds, education levels, and even languages going to that same meeting.

When we organize public meetings at Nspiregreen, we experience these types of situations where experts in a field want to share their ideas and obtain feedback from community members. Graphic designs, maps, and other ways of content visualization help to simplify ideas.  We develop graphics, content visualization, designs, and interactive activities to help connect these two groups, experts and non-experts, and support their communication. Visually appealing and colorful designs for posters, handouts, and informational boards translate technical information to help the community visualize and understand complex processes. The interactive activities we design allow people not only to understand, but also to generate informed decisions to provide feedback for the projects.

For example, compare Figure 1 and Figure 2. The figures show two different ways to describe the same concepts related to stormwater management.

Sewer Systems in the District of Columbia - Document vs Graphic

What figure did you look first? Did you look at the Word document or the graphic?

When organizing and designing public engagement events, we have to consider that people have limited time to understand new complex and technical ideas, and give feedback based on informed decisions. The graphic on Figure 2 summarizes the process of how stormwater is conducted through a system in Figure 1. In addition, there are are no unnecessary technical details. It highlights the basic elements of the system that people need to know to understand the process in a visually appealing and even fun way.

Surprisingly for us, not only has the community found the graphics valuable we have created for them; but, also the project team members who are experts in their fields, have found them very informative, visually appealing, and useful. Artistic and creative resources such as graphics are highly underused and undervalued in the scientific communities. Our society tends to separate art from science as if they were opposites, but in reality they complement each other. If used together, they might even create a more powerful impact in engaging more people to participate in public events and local projects.

Fabiana I. Paez has a background in Geography and Cartography. She is passionate about creating visual designs to communicate and engage people in social and environmental causes.

homebgimg-feat2

Transportation Safety Means More Than Crashes: Beginning to Heal

See Part 1 of this blog discussing the issue of international and domestic transportation safety for women.

“Pink Transport” is a gender-segregated bus or train car that currently operates in over fifteen countries as a solution to personal safety for women. However, these gender specific mode options do not provide the capacity or service that make for equality and safety for women. Women entering the general boarding cars of trains-  which are now referred to as “men’s cars”- are targeted and harassed for not using the women-only cars. Women in cities like Beijing are even advised to dress more conservatively, and avoid wearing so-called “provocative” clothing like miniskirts. However, all of these transportation interventions and messaging puts the burden of personal safety solely on the victim of harassment.

With the goal of sustainability and the movement toward a greater non-auto mode split, the perception of safety on and around public transportation is paramount for success. People, especially women, will not travel on alternate means of transportation (bikes, bus, rail, etc.) if the system lacks the proper measures to protect personal safety. There are steps that agencies, the community, and women can take to help with this problem:

  1. Transit operators need to have the knowledge and practical steps to better deal with this issue. Sensitivity training, knowledge of proper actions to deal with crises, and a streamlined method of reporting these offenses to transit or local police could be implemented.
  2. Women should be encouraged to speak up or report offenses. Women need to feel empowered to recognize when harassment is occurring and how to report it. Public awareness campaigns in transit systems as well as on television and radio media could be used to increase awareness of the issue, provide easy information on reporting offenses, and help women to understand that they will be heard and action will be taken when they report harassment.
    Women are feeling more and more empowered to speak out and tell their stories of injustice, harassment, and sexual assault. Groups like the Collective Action for Safe Spaces DC and HollaBack help give women a platform to share their stories and avoid the isolating effect that harassment in a public spaces can bring. In the District, WMATA has a platform to submit instances of harassment on the Metrorail and Metrobuses but often this is after the fact.
  1. Harassment is everyone’s problem. The public must realize that everyone has a hand in making transportation systems safe. According to HollaBack, all it takes is harassers to have the mindset that their behavior is acceptable or will go unnoticed, and a community around the person that are unwilling to intervene. Everyone has the opportunity to make transportation systems safer for all users. 

Everyone can and should take part in ending harassment and violence against women both locally and globally. Harassers need to be confronted about their behaviors and made to understand that it is not acceptable, nor will it go unnoticed. It takes a community of allies to help stop this behavior and help defend women that may feel- in the moment- embarrassed, alone, and helpless.

No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something”- HollaBack

 

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and interests. She has been called a “renaissance woman” by her coworkers and is interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grass-roots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems that meet the needs of all users. 

 

IMG_0532

When Biking is a Way of Life

In hoIMG_0561nor of National Bike Month in the US, I will share my experience in Playa Del Coco in Costa Rica. As a transportation nerd, I spent part of my vacation observing how people move through the main street.  How people move would give most traditional traffic engineers a mild heart attack. There are very few rules of the road, but at the same time it was an organic chaos where everything seems to work. The thing that I found myself observing the most was the bike culture.

In Playa Del Coco, biking is a way of life. All day and night long people bike on the main street. Here are some takeaways and photos from what I observed:

  1. IMG_0631No one wears a helmet. I did not see a single person wear a helmet while biking. I also did not see any crashes. Perhaps given the volume of people biking, motorists know to look out for bicyclists. This would support the findings of a study from University of Colorado Denver that concluded the safety of people biking increases with more bikes on the road.
  2. Woman Power! Anecdotally, most of the people that I saw biking were women and girls. Many of these women and girls biked around with small children. A few had bike seats for the children, however, the majority of children were sitting on a back rack meant for a pannier or the top tube.
  3. IMG_0629Tandems not required. It is not uncommon to see two adults on a bicycle built for one person. As a child, I remember riding around with my cousins on handlebars or seats. However, until my experience on Costa Rica, I had never seen two adults on a bike.
  4. Feet to the left. Whether it was adults or children, most “passengers” sit on the top tube of the bike with their feet to the left. Perhaps since most people have their children sit that way, it is a habit that carries into adulthood.
  5. Take your time. Compared to people biking in the District, people in Costa Rica biking for transportation bike slowly. Most of the bikes were beach cruisers that do not lend themselves to Tour de France-esque biking. In addition, the culture has a slower pace than urban areas in DC, which likely plays into the slower biking culture.
  6. Bike Lock Optional. One thing we can file under, “I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it,” is people in Playa del Coco rarely lock their bikes. They leave their bike on the bike rack or leaning against a building or street post. Some people lock their bikes, but it is rare.

Often time planners in the US look to Europe for examples of bike culture as seen in the growing popularity of protected bike lanes. My experience in Costa Rica has shown me planners should consider lessons from other parts of the world including Latin American.

IMG_0498       

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.





BEGIN NOW

TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECT!



We would love to help you with your sustainability goals.
GET STARTED