In November 2018, several PML scientists attended the AccessLab workshop in Plymouth. AccessLab is a new public engagement format that aims to improve access to and the judgement of information, through direct citizen-scientist pairings. At the November 2018 event, scientists were paired up with local policy makers to help use their scientific skill to help solve a problem raised by a local policy-maker.
Idling coaches in Dartmouth
Tessa de Galleani, a town councillor from Dartmouth, came to the 5th AccessLab event in Plymouth with a specific problem that she wanted to address with the help of a scientist. Dartmouth is a small and beautiful town on the west bank of the River Dart in South Devon. In the summer months, Dartmouth is a particularly popular tourist destination and many tour coach companies make a stop on their tour of South Devon. The coach parking area is on Embankment Road, along the river bank in the town centre. On any given summer day, there are typically between 8-15 coaches parked to drop and collect their passengers for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Unfortunately, the coaches invariably leave their engines running while parked. The coach drivers declined to turn off their engines because they didn’t want to turn off their air conditioning. Near the coach parking, there are several park benches and a riverside cafe that are subjected to concentrated exhaust fumes and diesel particulate pollution. Tessa wanted help to convince the District and Town Councillors that this was a meaningful problem.
Collaborative research with PML researcher
At the AccessLab event, Tessa was paired with Dr Lee de Mora, a marine ecosystem modeller from Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Over the course of the workshop, Tessa and Lee did some collaborative research and found several resources about idling diesel engines, news articles from various towns in the UK that have implemented idling fines, and some scientific papers about the links between air pollution and deaths in the UK. In addition, Lee produced an estimate of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by the coaches while idling (approximately 4kg of CO2 per hour per vehicle).
Armed with this new evidence, Tessa convinced the County, District and Dartmouth councillors to ban idling in Dartmouth. Permissions and funding were put in place and four signs were erected along Dartmouth Embankment asking drivers to stop their engines idling. In addition, the Dartmouth police sergeant agreed to help and is now asking coach drivers to turn off their engines.
Dr de Mora said: "The Access Lab workshop was a very positive experience for me. It really was an eye-opener to look at science from a non-scientist's perspective. Also, it's amazing that such a brief collaboration between Councillor de Galleani and me could lead to such a positive result for the people of Dartmouth, as we estimate that this effort could reduce the amount of CO2 emitted in Dartmouth from idling coaches by up to 15 tonnes of CO2 per summer. I feel that future AccessLab style events could be very beneficial to both scientists and policy makers."