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People and places

Introduction

Dr David McKee

CEO, Slingshot Simulations

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Dr David McKee

CEO, Slingshot Simulations

“The Neville Street tunnel in Leeds has some of the worst air pollution in the UK,” explains David. “I drive it every day, but while it’s extremely unpleasant for motorists it’s worse still for others. A lot of homeless people live there and it’s impossible not to link the pollution and the police tape that regularly marks off a place where another person has died.”

David’s knowledge of the challenges facing Leeds was a major factor behind Slingshot Simulations, one of six Open Data Institute initiatives supported financially by Lloyd’s Register Foundation via a joint-stimulus fund. “As a team, we’re very passionate about making sure that climate and environmental considerations should be part of every project, everywhere,” he says. “In March 2020, we started the ‘Breathing City’ project to show how open data can be used to create a digital representation of Leeds. Our digital twin gives valuable insights into the impact of pollution and provides reliable What if? data support to local decision makers. We can simulate different scenarios to show how changes to infrastructure – to road systems, for example – can improve the wellbeing and safety of city populations.”

The project brings together data from sources including satellites, traffic cameras and NASA, among many others. And it’s currently informing and supporting Leeds City Council as it strives to meet its targets of reducing air pollution and improving planning for pedestrians, particularly around Neville Street.

“These are early days, and it’ll take time before we see the full impact,” says David. “But in Leeds we’ve already increased awareness of pollution, not only among policy makers but the general public too. We’ve also won new funding which will allow us to expand the depth and scope of our work, and we’ve been approached by another council keen to explore how we can help.”

“You can smell and taste
the air pollution. I wonder how
many years of my life I’ve lost
queuing in this traffic”

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