The impact of research on city living

27 Jun 2011

Kevin M Leyden, an honourary research professor of social science and public policy at the CISC, spoke of the importance of research when designing more liveable cities.

Speaking at the IRCHSS & IRCSET Postdoctoral Symposium in Dublin, Leyden agreed that the 21st century will be “the century of cities,” referencing a quote from former mayor of Denver Wellington E Webb.

He noted that 2008 marked a turning point in global settlement patterns and, by 2030, two-thirds of the global population will live in urban settlements.

In the developing world, 5m more people live in cities every month and in 20 years, India will have built 500 new cities.

From an economical perspective, half of the income in the US was earned in 22 metropolitan areas. Those who live within those regions are more than 50pc more productive than those in smaller urban regions.

Leyden also highlighted the cultural importance of cities, referencing a quote from American urban studies theorist Richard Florida: “When large numbers of entrepreneurs, financiers, engineers, designers and other smart, creative people are constantly bumping into one another inside and outside of work, business ideas are formed, sharpened, executed, and – if successful – expanded. The more smart people and the denser the connections between them, the faster it all goes. It is the multiplier effect of the clustering force at work.”


Leyden notes that a well-designed city can allow for creativity, sustainability, good health and innovation. He believes that developers have taken the lead too much with city development and that research will be essential to help make them more livable.

Well-designed public transportation can offer huge benefits and cities built primarily for car transport can have a particularly damaging effect. In the US, car crashes were the No 1 killer of young people aged 3-33.

Leyden said that cities focused on cars also discouraged walking and cycling, pointing out the increase in obesity rates in the US in recent years. He believes Ireland could be heading in the same direction, as there is now one car for every two adults, a 62pc increase since 1990.

This compares with Freiburg in Germany where, after much of the city centre was destroyed in 1944, it was rebuilt with improved transportation and energy-saving principles in mind.

Leyden said that 65pc of people travel to work by public transport and the city has a 500km long network of bicycle lanes.

The city’s building design standards were changed in 1992 to require all houses to use no more than 65 kilowatt hours of heating energy per square metre per year.

For further coverage, visit our IRCHSS & IRCSET Postdoctoral Symposium microsite.

View a highlight of the talk by Prof Patrick Cunningham, chief scientific adviser to the Government, here:

Prof Patrick Cunningham, chief scientific adviser to the Government