After her visit to New Zealand at the end of last year, Modacity’s Melissa Bruntlett posted a thoughtful reflection on gender and urban activism:

Here’s a pretty common scenario – we are invited to an urbanist meet up or a group ride and I look around to find I’m one of just a handful of women in a sea of men. Each time I think to myself, where are all the ladies? I can’t be the only one who has an interest and passion for urban design and mobility, can I? And of course I’m not. If Facebook and Twitter have proved anything, there are tons of us sharing stories and opinions on social media, supporting each other from all over the globe. So then why do so few come out to events and activities that directly link to their passions?

It’s a dilemma I’ve been pondering since we were visited New Zealand last autumn. While travelling throughout the country, we had the opportunity to meet some pretty spectacular women, all passionate about multi-mobility, be it improved cycling, walking or public transit infrastructure. From the Frocks on Bikes, a national female-oriented advocacy group focused on promoting normalized cycling with a “show not tell” approach, to politicians like Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington, and Julie Anne Genter, a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives with the role of transport spokeswoman for the Green Party. Both are working to move their cities and country away from car-dominated transportation. They were all inspiring women to meet, and I returned home emboldened by this passionate group of women and how they are impacting change in New Zealand.

Melissa’s observations definitely ring true for me. Although most of the people working in the transport profession are men, many of our most effective advocates for transport choice and quality urban environments are women. Melissa mentioned Julie Anne Genter and Celia Wade-Brown, but there are many others who could be on the list: Penny Hulse, Barb Cuthbert, Pippa Coom, Christine Fletcher (who, remember, pushed Britomart through), and so on and so forth.

This is a good thing. As Melissa observes, men and women can have quite different perspectives on what needs to happen to improve transport options:

Maybe it’s because I know that the only way to ensure that, regardless of gender, everyone’s needs are being met is to collaborate. Women offer unique and different ways of looking at problems facing urban designers, because we think about them differently. Even between Chris and I, two people that have been together for nearly two decades and discussing all sorts of issues and challenges, it is very common that I offer a new way of looking at things because of my experiences as a woman and a mother. What works for him, a thirty-something male, doesn’t always work for me, a thirty-something female who travels by foot and bike with our two children more regularly.

Transportblog also grapples with this issue. All of our regular authors are (to be blunt) white, educated professional males, mostly in the late 20s to mid 30s. We care about issues that affect Aucklanders of all shapes, sizes, and origins, but we certainly aren’t demographically representative. (Or geographically representative – we’ve got authors in the inner suburbs and the west but not in south, east, or north Auckland.)

My concern – shared by other authors – is that there are important issues that we don’t write about of because we seldom experience them. For example, I think that we don’t write enough about transport issues facing south Auckland, even though it’s a big area of the city, with relatively low incomes, whose inhabitants could really benefit from better walking, cycling, and public transport choices. There are a lot of tricky issues that deserve close attention in the south – but I don’t spend enough time there to know what they are.

Fortunately, the available data suggests that Transportblog’s readership is a bit more diverse than our authors (or the people who post comments). Here’s a chart that Matt from Google Analytics, which shows the gender balance of readers. It really bears out Melissa’s point that women (Green) are interested and engaged in urban issues:

Gender Balance
Google Analytics breakdown of transportblog readership

So, my question is: Can Transportblog facilitate a broader conversation about urban issues that allows more voices to be heard? I think – and hope – that the answer is yes. I’d like to propose a couple of things that we could do:

  • First, we should encourage people to submit guest posts, especially if they offer a different view on transport or urban issues than we normally offer. In particular, we’d welcome posts from people who see a different side of the city than we do or who use it in different ways.
  • Second, we should recognise that writing in public can be a bit nerve-wracking. We’re all used to it by now, but the public-facing aspect of blogging can pose a barrier for entry. We should try to lower this barrier for submitters – for example, by allowing the first guest post to go out under a pseudonym or by moderating comments on guest posts. (Not that our commenters aren’t generally constructive, but the conversations can be fairly intense.)
  • Third, when writing about an area of the city that we don’t know well, we should solicit comments from readers. A quick email from one of you could give us valuable context – or a good quote – for a future post. For example, I think we should ask for reader feedback when discussing New Network consultations or proposals to build bus/train interchanges. Local perspectives can be valuable, and if people email them to us, we should use them in posts.

Now, I’m not an editor at Transportblog, so these are just suggestions rather than new editorial policies. We’d welcome your views – by comment, social media, or email – about them.

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  1. Quoting:
    Transportblog also grapples with this issue. All of our regular authors are (to be blunt) white, educated professional males, mostly in the late 20s to mid 30s. We care about issues that affect Aucklanders of all shapes, sizes, and origins, but we certainly aren’t demographically representative. (Or geographically representative – we’ve got authors in the inner suburbs and the west but not in south, east, or north Auckland.)

    My concern – shared by other authors – is that there are important issues that we don’t write about of because we seldom experience them. For example, I think that we don’t write enough about transport issues facing south Auckland, even though it’s a big area of the city
    First, we should encourage people to submit guest posts, especially if they offer a different view on transport or urban issues than we normally offer. In particular, we’d welcome posts from people who see a different side of the city than we do or who use it in different ways.
    and finally
    Third, when writing about an area of the city that we don’t know well, we should solicit comments from readers. A quick email from one of you could give us valuable context – or a good quote – for a future post. For example, I think we should ask for reader feedback when discussing New Network consultations or proposals to build bus/train interchanges. Local perspectives can be valuable, and if people email them to us, we should use them in posts.
    End quote

    [Waves hand] over here guys. While I can comment on Auckland wide stuff my main focus is Southern Auckland (Anything Otahuhu and Tamaki River south) so I could help with the Southern Auckland void (seeming the South makes up 38% of the population and houses all but one of the heavy industry complexes where quite a few of the South work). “Credentials” and portfolio is over at my Talking Auckland blog site

    1. You write a lot of good stuff. Perhaps the solution is to (in a non-spammy way) link to your posts when they are relevant to the post in question, in a way that contributes to the conversation.

      1. Thanks George 🙂
        I have done so in the past either through providing a direct link to the post I have done myself on the topic TB is talking about and add some extra summary content to it.

        The other although not a fan of it is that I will write my own post at Talking Auckland and link Transport Blog’s piece into my blog as a reference link. Often it triggers a ping or trackback at TB and it pops up in the comments section. Now the reason why I dont like this method is that it is automatic and does seem spammy.

        So bringing back to the suggestion you have raised, sure I can continue to do that. If the Admins have any further guidelines when I am doing collaborating posts on a particular matter I am all ears

    2. I think you will find that many Aucklanders have had the experience of living in different parts of the city whether that be central, south etc. This blog generally covers a range of perspectives.

  2. There are quite a number of highly geographically localised public Facebook groups. ‘XYZ Community Group’, Residents Group etc. Is it possible to engage with these groups and encouraging them to join to convo. Like the idea to lowering barrier to guest posts. Suggestions seem entirely reasonable and practical.

  3. I’m early 30s, male, brown and interested in transport issues. I am currently studying for a change of career into international business, but the amount of time I spend reading this blog and about transport and urban design issues in Auckland makes me wonder if I’m not missing a trick here and should get some sort of urban planning qualification under my belt.

    A different perspective that I can bring to the table growing in Auckland is the need for active modes to be encouraged in poorer areas. It’s no secret that Maori and Polynesians face some pretty horrid health outcomes in NZ and I feel that auto-culture and city design focused on shifting metal boxes as quickly as possible to the detriment of active citizens (as was so tragically demonstrated last week) have played a role in the stats we see today and that better urban design that prioritises humans propelling themselves under their own steam could play a huge role in reversing some of these terrible trends. Priority funding for protected cycleways on all major arterials in South and West Auckland would be a start. There would also be significant cost savings as was demonstrated in one of the posts here not too long ago to Auckland’s poorest citizens forgoing their vehicles and hopping on a bike.

    Another is changing the perception among poorer Aucklanders that cycling is a child’s past-time or for middle-class, white males in lycra into something that is far more functional, beneficial and generalised. But I fear that that won’t happen until the infrastructure is built first and people are confident. I know it can make people feel uncomfortable to point out some of the awkward truths about groups outside their own, but I feel it has to be said and that a lot of people, within minority communities as well, have ignored the possible links between positive transport policies and the health, social and economic benefits that may arise as a result.

    1. Brilliant I can definitely see the passion in your argument and the qualities in which you could bring forth to the greater Auckland public and indeed the many readers of Transportblog. As a young brown male myself who is studying, it’s great to know there’s another individual of a similar background who takes an interest in the urban environment of Auckland, and someone who shares a similar perspective to my own.

      Perhaps we could collaborate in bringing forth a “brown” perspective focusing on the south and west primarily. Who knows, but it’s great to hear of you.

      1. Hi Brandon. And thanks guys. I’m always keen to throw a few ideas on the table. I think we follow each other on Twitter (I’m quite knew to it), so maybe we could get a collaboration started there and, who knows, before long we may have something to contribute to the blog.

    2. Hi Kurt and Brandon – great to see your passion for urban issues! If you are ever interested in a guest post, please feel free to run some ideas by me at pnunns [at] gmail [dot] com.

      A degree in urban planning is not required to write convincingly and insightfully about cities. (I don’t think any of the regular authors here have planning degrees.) Sometimes better to just keep your eyes out – and, often, look for opportunities to “cross-pollinate” ideas to and from other disciplines.

      Lastly, you’re dead right that the lack of safe cycling infrastructure is the major barrier to cycling in west and south Auckland. People’s behaviour is shaped by their environment, and the road environment is often saying “you’d be an idiot to get on a bike”! Really can’t blame people for hearing that message – but I do hope that we can organise to change the way we build roads.

  4. Problem is Ben Ross that anyone with an alternative opinion is jumped on straight away in the comments section, most often by Patrick Reynolds.

    This is stifling debate and may well be playing a factor in the narrow demographic currently posting comments here and discussing wider issues.

    Until the moderators stop getting so defensive about alternate opinions things aren’t going to change.

    1. I couldn’t possibly comment… except to say it isn’t alternative opinions that get ‘jumped on’ but daft ones, particularly conventionally daft ones. Alternative opinions are our core business.

    2. Rather good point from Sailor B; What blog are you reading? The Daily Blog or something?

      I suppose we will see how things go in here with the invitation open to guest posts and comment.

      Patrick and co know where to find me if they want me to put something directly into here otherwise I leave the odd essay in the comments section behind 😉

    3. How people react all depends on how people comment. If you come in here with an alternative viewpoint that is fine but if you do so aggressively or abusively then people will push back. There are many who often have different views to us but engage constructively and as such are treated respectfully.

    4. I occasionally disagree with the articles and comments, but haven’t felt that my opinion is unwelcome or irrelevant. It’s I think as Matt has said all in the delivery.

      Real Matthew, I enjoy your comments as they show a different perspective than what I’d normally think about, on reflection I don’t normally agree with you, but that is the privilege of living in a democracy. I hope you keep commenting.

    5. I’ve not agreed with everything and have been challenged by Patrick on this blog. However I normally find he’s more interested in a discussion with facts etc. than shutting people down. Somethings I’ll still disagree, somethings I have re-valuated my position as a result. In the end I think he actually adds a lot to the discussions eitherway. If you want to get shut down, I can suggest the Daily Blog, the Standard, Whale Oil or kiwi blog.

  5. Good job Peter, and I’d note that although Peter and I write posts under our full names, others don’t have to – we’re happy with a “Suzie Q” or a “Celia W-B” or maybe even a pesudonym if people are worried about their privacy. We’re definitely wanting more female and other perspectives.

  6. I read transport blog from time to time – I am definitely interested in improving transport across Auckland. I live in Central-East Auckland, with kids that I have to drop off in neighbouring suburbs each day, followed by a long 50-odd km commute South for work. Then I do the whole thing in reverse at the other end of the day. I see horrendous traffic queues coming into the city from the South each day and am very grateful that I am heading away from that traffic. Co-workers from Pukekohe who have to go into town occasionally for work tell me that they need to leave home at 6am in order to have a reasonable commute.
    But the thing that bothers me personally is that dropping off my kids each morning in two different places in rush hour can take me an hour before I even leave the city, even though in total I am travelling less than 10km in total for those drop offs. Part of the problem is that before school care and daycare don’t open until 7:30, so I have to travel in rush hour. And there is little alternative with my route but to take a car.
    I should add that I am a public transport advocate, who used to use it before the demands of kids and my work. I am happy to develop these options, in order to get more cars off the road.

    1. Hi Suzanne – thanks for reading the blog and stopping in to share your views. Sounds like you’ve got a fiendishly difficult commute… I hope you’re at least sharing the responsibility for picking the kids up!

      It’s really valuable (and encouraging) to know that other Aucklanders perceive the value of PT even if they can’t use it for most trips. With luck, AT’s frequent, all day bus network will be up and running in your area by the time your kids are teenagers seeking a bit of independence.

  7. If it helps, I offer comments from my perspective that fits all but one of the categories describing TransportBlog contributors. For example, I find that giving priority to street grids in cycling strategy, is of greater relevance to the non-white, non-cis-male, ability-variant, economically underprivileged, etc., sectors of the population. However, it’s a hard sell at times, even within the monocultural advocacy community, let alone politicians, bureaucrats and engineers. It’s increasingly difficult to believe this is a coincidence.

    It’s good that TransportBlog is aware and reflecting on this, though.

    1. “giving priority to street grids in cycling strategy, is of greater relevance to the non-white, non-cis-male, ability-variant, economically underprivileged, etc., sectors of the population”

      This is a really interesting comment. Care to explain further? I’m aware how important grids are for our ability to run efficient and useful public transport services, but I have to admit I haven’t thought about the distributional effects on different groups of city users.

      1. Peter,

        I’ll try…

        Streets, as conduits and as public realm, are a lifeline to those who depend on others for anything; well-connected streets moreso, as they expand the resource and opportunity pools available to anyone. The nature of streets can even generate a feedback loop of connection or isolation for a community over time.

        Technically, there are two aspects to consider: street network geometry (bird’s eye), and street design (human eye). Various types of geometries and designs will obviously yield all kinds of cost and benefit tradeoffs. People who happen to be underpriviliged or in a minority are most sensitive to the costs, as it threatens their basic needs, not discretionary interests — essentially the same distinction as inelasticity vs elasticity of demand.

        Geometrically, grids are multipliers of all the benefits of access and scale, due to their inherent spatial efficiency; disconnecting a grid likewise produces deficits in multiples. I believe this is the same math underlying PT services, but at different scales for each mode.

        Design-wise, streets could accommodate people, exchange and interaction, or they could be non-places optimised for motoring. For those people who are (mutually) dependent on neighbours, public services and public space, human-friendly street design really matters.

        [You could stop reading here, the rest elaborates in detail.]

        Some general praise for street grids and equity, in no particular order:

        * The natural surveillance of a busy (and well-designed) street environment can be safer and more accessible for a greater diversity of people, including women, children, older and disabled people. Busy streets are an economy of scale. Such scale is made most accessible to the greatest number of people across 2-dimensional space, only by a roughly rectilinear grid. This same geometry — with the flow and mix of people in all directions — also produces customers, neighbours, friends, acquaintances, partners, and communities. (Jane Jacobs)

        * The typical post-WW2 suburban street network (Christopher Alexander’s “tree”) is antithetical to transport equity for the same geometric reasons — PT, walking and cycling are all worse off with culs-de-sac. Economically underprivileged people are most sensitive to this. Grids provide optimal connectivity for PT, walking and cycling (at their respective altitudes, but fitting together), which can be more affordable, but also open to more ages and abilities and kinds of trips (such as Melissa Bruntlett describes in the original post).

        * Suburban communities (which I’d define by the tree-like street network) are infamous for being less open and tolerant of social diversity, are more prone to depression or isolation, etc. I believe these places lack spatially overlapping spheres of interest with neighbouring places (Alexander’s semi-lattice) and thus foster stifling monoculture. The opposite tends of be true of well-connected, urbane, integrated environments. People on the fringes of any local statistical distribution of human traits are most seriously affected by this variance. (Note: this one is a fascinating topic with way more nuance than my simplified assertions show.)

        * Strong functional classification of streets (naturally encouraged by auto-oriented, tree-like networks) can exclude the kind of busy street described at the top of this list, as the design drains the ability of a street to function minimally as a place or link for people not in cars. Street design that excludes people on foot or bike, or people who generally depend more strongly on their immediate surroundings, primarily impacts those who happen to be underpriviliged.

        * Jarrett Walker’s “abundant access” is important to everyone, but desperately important to underprivileged people for obvious reasons — to meet minimum necessary thresholds of access to trade, employment, education, healthcare, fellowship, welfare, counsel, etc. Street grids also best enable density in land use and building types, and density produces local economies of scale, which is a lot like abundant access, only with fewer or shorter trips.

        * The environmental effects of sprawl are well-known. The costs are usually absorbed by vulnerable people first.

        * The risk of mass automobile travel (made necessary without street grids) is unevenly distributed. For example, in terms of socioeconomic disparity, consider (for non-fatal injury) the effect of healthcare costs, insurance, or loss of work. It’s even worse for fatalities as well as for risk exposure, given longer travel times, poorer public services in cheaper locales (like South Auckland), job types, general accessibility, modal risk share, and so on. You could find similar contrasts with age, ability, etc.

        I could go on. Lurking somewhere in there is a general theory of grids, access, geometry, efficiency and equity that might help describe all this more simply, but it’s beyond me here and now.

        In terms of Auckland’s cycling strategy, I argue against radial networks of off-street paths because they tend to be exclusive on two levels: (1) they are not streets, (2) streets are not being rehabilitated anyway.

        1) The strong argument is that by not being streets — which I’ll loosely define as the space between the front doors of buildings — these paths tend to lack the kind of benefits described above, such as:

        * Natural surveillance is reduced because only specific groups of intentional participants enter these long off-street paths, and also because buildings do not face them.

        * The radial network is laid out like a tree, and plotted at an altitude not suited for cycling (it’s rather like a PT map in span). This forgoes the multiplying effect of a local grid, minimises access (i.e. degree of exposure to front doors, in cycling terms) and filters out large classes of trips and people of various abilities (e.g. making short, local trips).

        * Off-street paths tend to invite a kind of gentrified, intentional participation (people going out of their way to use it) rather than being incidentally part of one’s way as streets are. This robs the path of the kind of unpredictable, serendipitous “bumping” quality that a well-designed street with cross-traffic has, which is amenable — even necessary — for a wide variety of people.

        2) The weak argument is in terms of opportunity cost:

        * The radial network is not designed to cure severance in the tree structure of suburban streets; it merely entrenches it. It would be nice to have short off-road paths to link up culs-de-sac, or numerous crossings between severed local streets over motorways, but that’s not what we get. Instead our network tends to rely on existing links across barriers and focuses on adding linear metres to the books wherever nothing — not even anything useful — is in the way. This produces a deficit in connectivity and access, with the greatest disbenefits for underprivileged people.

        * The radial network fails to leverage and amplify the benefits of the existing grid structure of streetcar suburbs, local centres and the city centre.

        * No other plan exists, at a suitable scale for cycling, or with a strong grid geometry focus. The Auckland Cycling Network is designed with the wrong granularity; the Metro/Connector/whatever functional classification is a parody; the Future Streets programme is promising but obscure; and so on. It’s hard to prove direct causation of a non-event, but suffice to say that focusing on the wrong strategy certainly doesn’t seem to be helping to rehabilitate the street grid.

        One of the reasons Copenhagen etc. have a successful mass bike culture lies in their street network: grids for bike paths (largely on-street, exposed to front doors), but pruned trees for motoring (i.e. filtered permeability). It’s an interesting contrast with Auckland.

        Reiterating all this with concrete examples:

        * The Chinese grandparents who do cycle or would cycle short distances on Dominion Rd and its surrounds need neither a cycleway by any motorway, nor a “parallel route” elsewhere. The streetcar-suburb grid matters most — in catchments of front-door-to-front-door trips around local centres and bus stops, not necessarily up a single linear corridor.

        * Likewise, the main radial route that matters to a schoolkid in South Auckland is the one that takes them from the front door of their home to the school gate, preferably via Aunty’s house, and not via SH1 or NAL. Except, we have to multiply this in every direction for a targeted proportion of the school population. Secondarily, we can repeat the process for extended family, babysitters, local shops, houses of worship, and PT nodes. Only a local street grid can encompass all of these assets to enable all of these trips and support such a community, space- and cost-efficiently.

        * K’Rd is where it is and what it is for a reason. There are a number of streets that could have evolved to do what K’Rd does (Ponsonby, Symonds, Beach, Fort, maybe), but these would all share certain highly-connected network-geometric traits. One function of K’Rd is evident in its massive importance to Auckland’s queer peoples, starving artists and the like, who have historically been underprivileged, and often relied on the social support of this neighbourhood of scale. These same network-geometric qualities are why it is among Auckland’s busiest cycling, walking and PT-carrying streets already, and why it deserves better treatment. (Note: the same geometric rule applies to Queen St and finance, or Shortland St and law, but keep in mind the initial premise of servicing basic need vs discretion.)

        I’ve never articulated this argument before, so I don’t know how convincing it sounds. Questions, comments, or challenges welcome, if you’ve made it this far.

        1. I’ve never tried to elaborate on my thoughts in such detail, but that’s pretty much the crux of how I feel about the infrastructure going in. Vancouver is held up high but it fails in the same ways that Auckland will fail unless this is addressed. Cycling here is great, if there happens to be a cycle route in the direction you’re going. Otherwise you’re in constant danger from aggressive drivers like anywhere in Auckland. Overall it’s as you describe – more of a leaf meaning you need to treat it as a highway – you don’t go where you’re going, but rather you get as close as you can on a cycle lane and then wing it the rest of the way, going further than necessary and still fighting traffic. It’s not terrible, but if you take a wrong turn somewhere you’re going to be in trouble. That’s where Auckland is heading – piecemeal long distance routes rather than a strategy of cycling everywhere – you’ll get the numbers up, but never bulging enough to really justify the full grid. It needs to be a political directive and I don’t see that happening in NZ where cyclists are all “MAMILs or Hipsters who break the law”.

          On that point, and tying in with yours, is that it NEEDS to be a political directive. Public Transit and cycling infrastructure is a social leveler – something NZ used to be quite proud of. Everyone should be able to afford to get to where they are going without the absurd expense of car ownership (ignoring entirely the health aspects) and no one should die on city streets – it’s 100% a design issue and could be change tomorrow if the will was there. Pedestrians and cyclists (and Transit users to some extent) are seen as outliers and their time and lives (and contributions to society by not congesting/polluting and reducing their burden on the health system) are not valued which is pretty appalling. We still live in the age of people-are-cars. I am not out to ‘punish’ people in cars, I am looking for an end to the punishment of everyone else.

          I too believe that suburbia is a disease, not the people living there, but the actual existence of if – on people’s health, civility, culture and society as a whole. There is a long process the west has been through been in the last 80 years resulting on a continuous trend of selfishness which I think culminates various things but is best exemplified by the suburbs and single occupancy vehicles. I want NZ to be a world leader in some social aspect and I wish it were this, because we’re falling behind on a lot of other accounts.

          The current work (around cycle infrastructure) is to be applauded but it does not meet the criteria for social change.

        2. If you edited this slightly and illustrated it with a few pictures and maps, it could be a really great guest post. Just sayin’…

  8. There are some exciting PT projects such as the Manukau and Otahuhu interchanges and electrification to Pukekohe which will make a huge difference once they are completed. Such a shame that there is no funding for them yet. What is lacking though in the south, in order to decrease the car dependence, is a focus on creating multimodal streets with cycle networks and bus lanes where suitable. Instead people are expected to park and ride.
    I live in rural Karaka and although I rely on my car, I see much greater merit in govt and council investment in sustainable transport, so well done to the efforts of the transportblog team in advocating for this.

    1. Bus interchanges will make little difference in South Auckland as it does not address the peoples needs. These include issues of personal safety and lives that are often in perpetual change. Many have limited or no access to the internet.

    1. No idea, really! It’s possible that they’re only counting Google users, or that they may make some errors with people using shared computers.

  9. I’ve toyed with writing up my experiences in Vancouver – the good stuff and the disappointments – I might try finish it off before I leave in June and decide if anything is worth submitting here. After that I’ll be in the Netherlands for 6 months (fingers crossed anyway) and have some perspective there. Back in Auckland in January to reflect on the changes since I’ve been away in relation to the above. I don’t assume my experience is widely applicable and further’s our ’cause’ much – I’m an unmarried sans children almost 30 white male who lives in an apartment without a car – I don’t think that ticks the kind of boxes we’re looking to add and gives everyone else (the herald and stuff commentators) ammunition around the fact that we’re a certain ‘type’.

  10. Non Motorway and Davidjroos – great exposé of the ‘bolt-on cycleway’ phenomenon. I.e. no change to the basic flawed transport model. Just brush-on a coat of cycle-wash.

    The long-term answer has to be a transfer of major investment from roads to public transport and rail freight, as a means of breaking our excessive dependence on cars and road freight. This is the crux of the problem, and until this is dealt with, all else will be little more than a sticking plaster on a festering sore.

    1. Although I’d agree that’s the sort of monetary shift that would be required the crux of the problem is one of design.

      If we had a list of criteria for our cities that included things like car use optional, kids to school via walking and cycling without requiring a suit of Kevlar and a ventilator, breathable air in downtown etc; then the money would flow into these things anyway.

      I’m hopeful that kind of change in mindset will occur eventually but it’s a bit of a bugger that human evolution is so damn slow.

  11. I’m a women in my 30’s (just) with two young kids. I read your blog daily and find it very interesting. I moved back to NZ in 2008 from HK so used public transport for everything. I was frustrated with the PT here and wanted to understand why it was so poor – this blog has given me some real insights. I’ve seen great improvement since I’ve come back. I do not have the depth of knowledge to write any posts and that is probably why most of the post are written by people in the industry who tend to be male and have more time. A couple of points I’d like to make from family perspective is I didn’t realise how much we were dictated to by cars until I had kids. Then you realise how often you have to stay watch out for the road, cars constantly when you’re out and about. As an adult you’ve learned these things and take it for granted. Shared spaces are great but it is confusing for kids as it seems like a pedestrian area so harder to realise it is a type of road and they need to watch for cars. Also my kids are not school age yet but when they are it will be easier for me to use public transport as they are not reliant on me to get to school. So things like improving walking and road crossings would make a huge difference.

    1. Hi Angela – thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      I think you raise a huge, underappreciated point, which is that having children can really change the way that people use and perceive the city. Streets that are (more or less) safe for adults can be pretty unsafe for children. We really need streets that are safe at any age.

      Your comment also illustrates why it’s important to have a lot of voices in the conversation – if we’re only hearing from people who don’t (say) think about how children actually get across the street, we’re going to make some mistakes!

  12. This is ridiculous
    some of the world’s best public transport systems and networks have all been designed by men, many cases just WHITE men…
    if women care they will speak, no one restricts them especially not in our age!
    also I thought gender did not matter anymore so there is thus nothing ” unique” a woman can give just like there is nothing”unique” a man can give…
    focus is better cities, Gender/race % do not matter if you get it right
    you can have a 100% female management team that thinks in a ” white male way” and vice versa…aka Gender is irrelevant.
    most of these white men have wives and females in their life if they only cared about males then why would they even build female toilets etc?!!
    fyi I ain’t a white male but
    most of what you have and the freedoms is because of white men…
    so if you want to get rid of white men to add more women to make it more proportional, to be fair also remove anything white males, planned or created…see how you survive then!

    1. I think you’ve misread the post and misunderstood the discussion that’s happening in the comments. My point in writing this post, and I quote, was to express “my concern… that there are important issues that we don’t write about because we seldom experience them.”

      This is simply about having good information. I am not arrogant enough to think that I can speak convincingly about the needs and problems of all 1.4 million Aucklanders. I can check my intuitions against the available quantitative data, but that data doesn’t have the fine-grained resolution needed to understand all of the issues faced by Aucklanders. We’re simply too varied for that to be possible.

      Nobody is saying that we should “get rid of white men to add more women”. If the problem is that we don’t hear enough voices and perspectives, the answer is not to _reduce_ the number of voices being heard, it’s to _expand_ them.

  13. i very wonderful to see these comments! From a personal perspective – I especially connected with the women with the pre-school kids. Its great to know I am not alone in finding that use of public transport is certainly tricker with young kids to drop off etc. For now after an adult life pretty much dominated by public transport use (even with 2 young kids) small person number 3 has led me to a partial mode shift away from public transport mostly to car (and walking sometimes with the odd bit of PT thrown in ) – one day I will probably move back I guess.
    Anyway what would be great would be if as part of your guest posts at some point you can find someone with expertise in looking at gender issues in public transport use to give a post or (more interestingly for me anyway) a look at the ways in which we could make public transport in our NZ cities more friendly to those travelling with younger kids – even if its just looking at travelling with young kids friendly (or unfriendly) things present in our PT systems or great ideas from overseas. For an example (and one I have given before on these blogs) – the tag on/off system – it has its pluses but tagging off with little ones can be tricky (todays bus trip to town with 2 under 5’s and 2 bags on a standing room only express bus – no pram I given up on that for bus and just “Mummy pack horse” it all -springs back to mind; its even odds I will be able to co-ordinate all safely and get off in a timely manner and I am not the only one I am sure to have e.g.s). One thing that strikes me about this is that often having kids (both females and males) would be a life point where a “shift in modes” is likely to occur – for some people that will be temporary and for others permanent (once you get into the habit and all) – this mode shift in many place will be toward car usage due to the logistics of things. Of course 20’s-40’s is a common time for people to start families so thats a lot of people shifting modes…….I would love to hear of see what sort of data or studies have been done around this issue – has it find to have significant impact or not on mode of transport ?

    1. JJay, do you know that you can tag off anytime between your stop and the one before it? Not sure if that helps your situation, but you can often tag off 30 sec or a minute before you actually have to get off the bus.

      1. Hi Nick – no I did not know that. But I suspect that would be worse actually – bus is moving
        and I am carrying a very little person and leading a small person who would not stay
        sitting while I tagged off -so we would all be walking while bus moving – not
        safe as we would have worse “sea legs” than your average bear
        – also if bus has people standing that add issues …if it was just me and I was near the tag
        machines (or if I was sitting near the machines with the kids) that is good to know.
        Also as soon as I get my HOP card out baby steals it with delight and tries to eat it ….so
        I tend to be digging that back out at the last minute to avoid that

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