London has always been, and probably always will be, a great tourist destination. Its unique climate, amazing architecture and long history win the hearts of millions of tourists every year. But London isn’t only about history; it is a city which is constantly being updated.
There really is no need to introduce London, the ultimate choice for a holiday for millions of tourists every year, and yet it has aspects that only residents are aware of. It’s worth taking a moment to find out about those aspects, because, as the famous israeli singer Chava Alberstein once wrote, in London “despair becomes more comfortable”. Not that we are desperate, but Londoners are definitely more comfortable and there are reasons for that.
London is one of the “smartest” cities in the world. What is a smart city? Glad you asked.
The truth is that it’s difficult to define and there’s no single definition that everyone agrees on, but what’s certain is it involves the use of technologies that streamline citizen services, reduce costs, lower air pollution, improve resident and municipal work and provide safe public spaces.
Today, when the growth-rate of cities is high and the influx is almost constant, the existing infrastructure is becoming overburdened and therefore the integration of smart urban technologies is extremely critical.
How does London make use of smart technologies?
Here are three interesting examples that can be adopted in other countries:
In London, sharing has become more convenient
London has a completely free database open to the general public. It stores vast amounts of information about the capital city for the use of the entire public, whether you are a city resident, a business owner or even an app developer. This incredible information portal contains more than 700 data sets that can easily help anyone who is interested in getting to know and understand this spectacular city better, and more importantly – develop and offer solutions to the urban problems that exist in it.
The site’s developers created it to facilitate urban improvements, and upon entering the site, residents, business owners and app developers are invited to submit their ideas simply and conveniently, after surveying the city via the information portal.
“Hello, I’m going” (that’s a quote from the Chava Alberstein song!) – just pay attention to where and when exactly you are going, OK?
Recently, we have also heard the term “congestion charge” here in Israel. Before we get upset just from the name itself, it’s important to understand what it’s about. First of all, our Transport Minister is really not the one who invented the idea and in fact it has been around in London for many years. The congestion charge is a toll that is collected in specific areas of the city, which have been marked as congestion areas for particular vehicles.
What is it really good for? – The goal is, of course, to reduce traffic congestion, whilst at the same time also fund investment in the city’s transportation system.
The fee in London is currently £12.50 per day for particular vehicles entering the congestion charge area, during congestion hours. If the fee is not paid, the resident will be fined between £60 and £180. In addition to the congestion charge, and as part of London’s fight against air pollution, about three years ago the municipality decided to update and extend the list of vehicles banned from entering the “low emissions zone”, and it now also includes vehicles manufactured in 2015 which were not necessarily previously defined as heavy pollutants.
It is important to remember that in London this change is possible, and even welcome, because the public transport network works exceptionally well seven days a week, with convenient and accessible options for all passengers, both in terms of payment and in terms of connections throughout the city. In fact, public transport in the city is not only a suitable transport alternative, but often preferable to traveling by private car. Food for thought as to how our tiny country could be improved. Because before any changes can be made, it is essential to examine the infrastructure system that will support and enable those changes in such a way that they will not become an obstacle for the residents instead of fulfilling their main goal – to make life easier for them.
Sweetheart, we need to talk …(another quote for the song!)
Usually, when you hear a sentence like this, you can be sure that it is bad news, but this time you can breathe easy (more-or-less … we’re still talking about London and the soot may interfere with breathing a bit!). London has an internet community that was established at the initiative of the municipality called “Talk London”. This online community was established in 2012 and its ultimate goal is that the city can easily hear from Londoners about the issues that are most important to them, whether it’s about clean air, municipal budgets or recovery from COVID-19 and returning to routine. Another feature of the online community is to submit ideas to the municipality. New ideas can be posted which can then be commented on or even added to by other residents.
The site staff collects the ideas, researches them, and brings the best ones to fruition.
Overall, it can be said that the City of London loves the idea of collaborating with its residents in everything related to urban living and resident comfort.
Our score: four “Big Bens” out of five!