All posts by Stuart Neilson

Gender and age inequalities in space and housing in Cork City

City centre population by gender and age group
Population by gender and age in the centre of Cork City and in Ireland (overlaid lines).

There are striking differences in the age and gender composition across Cork City, with an abundance of male, young and single people in the city centre. The absence of children, women and older people leads to several intersecting inequalities in access to education, work and housing that are effectively a tax on girls, women, disabled and old people. The increasing focus on single and small apartments – which may seem oppressive or even dangerous to women and disabled people – is transforming the city and the centre into a population of transients. The lack of family, own-front-door and accessible dwellings means that most of life’s transitions – forming a relationship, having a child, unemployment, retirement, disablement or long-term illness – necessitate a move, and the only available and appropriate dwellings are either in poor repair, or increasingly further away from the centre.

The renewal of small parts of Cork City disguises an ongoing decline and dereliction of large swathes of the city, with poor maintenance and high rents increasing the volume of substandard single occupancy dwellings in divided former family dwellings, high levels of neglected vacant property, and indeed physical collapse of older buildings.

Girls, women, disabled and older people experience a double burden of excess journey times to education, work and essential services, as a direct consequence of moving out of a centre and out of a city that increasingly lacks appropriate and secure housing.

A change in decision-making to more adequately include all parts of the community would change the direction of planning. The much-parroted term ‘sustainability’ is a nonsense when the city is unable to sustain its own residents across changes in family structure, sickness and employment.

(Click on the graphs or maps to enlarge them.)

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Mapping shared public space using motion intensity

The junction of Grand Parade and Washington Street, with bollards and lamp-posts obstructing pedestrian desire-lines, which are fluid and can not be contained by the designed crossing layout.

As part of another project, I started created “heatmaps” of the motion intensity into video recordings of everyday events. These are not images of literal heat, but assessments of the amount of visual change across the video field, converted into a coloured scale, where “heat” (from blue to red) is a readily-understood representation. My main motivation was to assess where and to identify what attracts attention, or distracts from attention, and to express how the environment feels from an autistic, attention-deficit (ADD/ADHD) perspective. These heatmaps of the amount and location of visual change became quite informative maps of how people use space, and how design constrains people from using space effectively.

(A minimal, fully-functional code sample is appended to the end of this post. You will need Python, and the OpenCV and Numpy libraries installed.)

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15 minutes from the Lee-to-Sea Greenway

As the prospect grows closer of a continuous cycle and walking route from the Inniscarra Dam to the harbour, this post assesses how many people and schools are within a car-free catchment area around the route. Two boundaries are displayed, a 2 km zone in which most people will be within a 15-minute walk and a 6 km zone in which most people are within a 15-minute cycle ride of the route. The number of post-primary schools and total pupil roll are separately counted.

These figures matter greatly because car park provision will be immediately raised, with the potential to induce additional motorised traffic to and around the route. In reality, large numbers of people, Bed & Breakfast, hostels and restaurants already lie directly on this resource, with large volumes of existing on-street and business parking space.

  • The proposed Lee to Sea route provides 46 km of mixed woodland, lake, river and seaside greenway, with an elevation range of just 45 m;
  • 157,000 people live within 2 km of the route and 229,000 within 6 km of the route – most could walk or cycle from home within 15 minutes;
  • 60 primary schools with 16,922 pupils lie within 2km and 82 primary schools with 24,012 within 6km;
  • 34 secondary schools with a total of 16,072 pupils lie within 2 km of the Lee to Sea route, and further 3 schools (Scoil Mhuire, St Aidan’s Community College and Douglas Community School) with a further 1,711 pupils lie within 6 km of the route;
  • The route directly connects 37 of Cork County’s 85 secondary schools, with one another, and with the city and sea;
  • 19 hotels offering 2,212 rooms lie within 2km of the route.
Within 2kmWithin 6kmIn Cork City + County
Residents157,356228,731417,211
At Work65,43997,103179,890
Primary schools6082342
Primary pupils16,92224,01263,574
Secondary schools343784
Secondary pupils16,07217,78342,893
Hotels192349
Hotel rooms2,2122,538>3,943

All analysis was performed with open source software using publicly available data, and all software and data sources are provided in the links at the end – also annotated R code used to generate these outputs. The technical description may be a helpful tutorial in using public data and mapping sources. This analysis was proposed by Orla Burke and Pedestrian Cork.

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Car-free Cork in 15 minutes, walking and cycling

Cork City centre is within 15 minutes walk (green) for 22,000 residents, within 30 minutes walk (cyan) for 53,000 residents and 45 minutes walk, or 20 minutes cycling (pink) for 106,000 residents.

Cork City centre is compact, varied and contains all the amenities for most people’s everyday needs. The City centre shops and facilities are within 15 minutes walk (green) for 22,530 residents, within 30 minutes walk (cyan) for 53,481 residents and 45 minutes walk, or 20 minutes cycling (pink) for 106,200 residents.

These residents are, equally, the consumer base of many of the businesses within Cork City centre, and the audience for appeals on footfall and invigorating activity in Cork.

I use the boundaries of Cork City, as defined at the time of the 2016 census, to count and plot how many can (and do!) walk, cycle, use public transport and live without cars or private motorised vehicles in Cork City. Links to the full CSO Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS) are included (and repeated in full at the end), as well as some excellent sources of information about the City, including the Pedestrian Cork Survey 2020.

(See also “Conserving accesible urban space” for a discussion on accessibility and sensory overload in Cork City).

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Modelling an epidemic

Two contrasting approaches to predicting (guessing) the outcome of an epidemic are 1) projecting data from similar situations observed in the past; and 2) modelling from varying degrees of first principles. Models must match reality for any reasonable usefulness, but are often extremely sensitive to intitial (unknown) conditions and the slightest variation in input parameters.

Here are both approaches, in broad outline, to generate boundaries around expected outcome.

NB1: Code in R (requires population and death or case time series)

NB: My thesis “Mathematical modelling of inherent susceptibility to fatal diseases” has some relevance, but not to epidemic modelling.

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“My Autistic Fight Song” by Rosie Weldon

Rosie Weldon received an autism diagnosis at 25, by no means either the beginning or end of her journey of self-discovery and world shaping. In her memoir, “My Autistic Fight Song”, she presents a raw, intense and very positive view into family, education, love and work from her autistic perspective.

“My Autistic Fight Song” by Rosie Weldon is available in print or ebook form from 1 April 2020.

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How I (sometimes) cope with anxiety

Ian Dury wryly noted that anxiety crippled (his word) him more than polio and in his wonderful song “Crippled with Nerves”, anxiety is both disabling and a potential loss of social opportunity – but it’s a pain worth enduring for a sufficiently rewarding end result (marriage and two children, in his case). I’d like to emphasise the role of choice and (social) reward.

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Lacunae: Interview with Stuart Neilson, on the Lived Experience of Asperger’s Syndrome

Last year I was interviewed by Marie Walsh for a special issue of the journal Lacunae, the International Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis. Issue 16 of Lacunae had a special theme of autism reflected in Jean-Claude Maleval and Michel Grollier “Mottron’s Happy Autist is Not Kanner’s,” and Rob Weatherill, in “Being (Not) in the World Without a Father” in addition to this interview. (You can read the full table of contents or buy a copy from Karnac Books).

The full text of the interview is reproduced below with permission. Marie Walsh did an excellent job of shepherding my rambling thoughts into a cohesive narrative.

You can cite this interview as: Walsh, Marie. (2018). “Interview with Stuart Neilson, on the Lived Experience of Asperger’s Syndrome”. Lacunae, 16, 54-63.

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Conserving accesible urban space

Urban space is changing fast and despite the potential to increase urban space through growth, technology and social progress, the reality is often increasing exclusion and isolation. My own experience is one of a city increasingly paved over, squared off, noisier and lacking in calm spaces. Traffic, busy people and blank commercial facades have replaced more welcoming districts, because accessibility and family-friendly features are not a developer priority – they maximise borrowings, ramp up local property prices, take the increase in plot value and move on. Sustainable community is not a short-term money-spinner.

My perspective is very much the social exclusion and sensory impact of unsympathetic development. This post includes some images of Cork City and data maps of changing city demographics, at the level of the 74 electoral districts, to outline how the city is changing.

Further reading:

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