The other week, I reposted Melissa Bruntlett’s great reflection about gender and urban activism, and asked: Can Transportblog facilitate a broader conversation about urban issues that allows more voices to be heard?
Judging by the diversity of views and perspectives that came out in the comments, Aucklanders from all different walks of life are clearly passionate about the future of their city. As many readers don’t look at the comments section, I thought it would be good to highlight a few of the many great responses we got.
Kurt T calls for a focus on active modes in south Auckland, where people could really benefit from the option to get around without a car:
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.
Suzanne reports on the realities of transport for someone who’s got both kids and a job:
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.
@ByTheMotorway makes some fascinating and well thought-out points about the value of street grids in providing safety and accessibility for all users:
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.
* 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.)
Chris seconds Kurt’s points about transport priorities in south Auckland, and adds his voice as a car-using supporter of better public transport and walking and cycling:
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.
Angela talks about how having children has changed the way she uses and perceives urban transport systems – safety for children walking or cycling by roads is a huge concern:
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.
Lastly, an anonymous (female) reader wrote in to discuss the challenges of publicly expressing one’s views while working in government:
The reason I’ve taken it to email rather than in the comments section is that as a public sector employee I am bound by a code of conduct that makes me very wary about commenting in a public forum about matters relevant to my employer that isn’t official policy. As an individual I am very passionate and hold some strong views that are not always in alignment with my employer, but feel I can only express them verbally in the company of friends. So I am a silent voice on the blog, I read it and discuss it with friends, but don’t feel it is appropriate for me to comment. This could be impacting on why some voices are not heard on the blog. Particularly when women are more likely to be employed in the public sector, and often take a more cautious approach interpreting codes of conduct.
Thanks to everyone who responded – please continue the conversation!