Last week, I wrote a piece explaining why I write for Transportblog and setting out some of the broader social goals that encourage us to spend unpaid volunteer time writing blog posts. An active and well-informed public conversation about policy issues is a vital bulwark for representative democracy – meaning that people have to participate in that conversation.

We do our best to foster the public debate over transport and urban policy in New Zealand, and provide useful evidence as a basis for discussion. But we’re not the only ones having the conversation.

As a follow-up, I want to highlight some other people that are also making a positive, evidence-based contribution to public discussions about policy. This isn’t an exhaustive list – it’s mostly focused on transport and urban policy and/or blogs that I read semi-regularly. It excludes Twitter and Facebook – I’m not a member of either – although people are having important discussions on both forums. I’ve also excluded journalists and others writing for money – volunteer contributions only! If you have more suggestions, please leave them in comments.

Without further ado…

Bike Auckland

Bike Auckland provides one of the best examples of a volunteer group that has changed things on the ground. They’ve been instrumental in pushing for safe separated cycleways in Auckland (and bike improvements in general). They always seem to be out there promulgating new cycleway ideas and encouraging people to get involved in consultations.

Here’s a recent post that I particularly liked: “This is what efficiency looks like“:

Here’s the thing. Like a railway line, a bus lane or a bike lane can look ’empty’ much of the time – even when is carrying significant traffic. That’s because, especially at peak travel times, it’s moving people more efficiently than the rest of the road.

Iconic image created in Seattle, from a poster by International Sustainable Solutions.

In city traffic – or alongside it – a bike can get you there almost as fast as a car (sometimes faster), while using only a fraction of the space.

Latvian cyclists make a point about space and time (image via This is Colossal).

Cycling in Christchurch

Cycling in Christchurch is exactly what it sounds like – a blog about bicycling in the South Island’s main city. Like Bike Auckland, they play a strong role in advocating for better cycling facilities and road rules, as well as highlighting the good things that the city’s doing. (Including construction of a citywide network of safe separated cycleways.)

Here’s a recent post I quite liked: “Suburban car parking and the bike“:

So how is car parking relevant to biking? Here are a few ways that the right or wrong policy here can influence what happens with cycling:

  • If the policy doesn’t put enough emphasis on safe movement of all travel modes, then poorly located parking will continue to be allowed to create an unsafe environment for biking past pinch-points (and creating those lovely dooring opportunities…).
  • Well-designed separated cycle facilities typically need extra space that will require the removal of on-street parking in some locations; so policies need to support this.
  • If there is too much car parking available (and with few restrictions on time or cost) then there will be little incentive to bike (or bus or walk) instead of just driving there. It also makes it harder for the central city (where those restrictions are more commonplace) to compete with the suburbs.
  • Policies that make it easier to drive and park also lead of course to more traffic, putting extra strain on our roading network as well as a less pleasant environment for cycling, and delays to everyone, leading to calls for more expenditure and more space allocated to them.

Making Christchurch

Also from the Garden City, Making Christchurch was set up to document the post-quake rebuilding of the city and promote some new voices on the city’s prospects and problems. It was founded by publisher and architect Barnaby Bennett and has drawn contributions from a range of people, including occasional transportblog commenter Brendon Harre. While Making Christchurch as been more focused on telling stories than activism, it’s still been an important critical voice.

Here’s a recent post that I quite liked: “Central Christchurch – August 2016“:

I wouldn’t say the city has exploded with activity and new buildings. It still feels strange, quiet, and uncanny. Unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. But there is a definite increase in people, and a thousand small changes are evident. The main thing that made me (slightly) optimistic is the slow accrual of different urban things — most of them are a bit ugly, some ungainly, but with increasing density and activity. Slowly different scales, different temporalities, and different types of activity are emerging. As if the city is gradually, but steadily, taking over from the planners visions of it.
The rapid changes that took over the city during and after the quakes are slowing down. Instead of the demolitions, rezonings, large openings, and new beginnings we are now getting a more steady and increasingly stable realisation of streetscapes and places.
It’s becoming a place again — or even better a city full of different and varied places. It is amazing to see a place lose 80% of its central city buildings, and yet still keep enough of its character and identity to be able to reinvent itself with some consistency of character. Thank god for the river.

Public Address

Public Address is a community of blogs managed by media commentator and general man-about-town Russell Brown. It draws in a range of smart contributions, most of which aren’t directly related to urban issues – music and the health system are other common topics. But Russell’s an urbanist and Auckland enthusiast, so Public Address often keeps its eye out for interesting city happenings.

Here’s a recent post I enjoyed: “After the King’s Arms“:

A lot of people lived in Newton and we are going to see some of that residential population return in the next 10 years. That is not a bad thing.

The forced relocation of so many local residents in the 1960s and 1970s had another effect: it spelled the end of Karangahape Road’s identity as a mainstream department store destination. And when the motorway split K Road, it stranded the west end of the ridge. It was pretty much a disaster for the existing merchants – but it led to the red-light era and thence the edgy, bohemian K Road we know and value today.

I think we need to start having a serious discussion about cultural infrastructure as residential building returns to this part of town. Because it’s quite possible that this isn’t the only venue at risk. The Powerstation only opens for shows three or four times a month. It could be used more often, but its owner-operators, Muchmore Music, demand a pretty substantial room hire fee, which isn’t economic for many shows. They seem committed to running a venue, just not very often.

But when the City Rail Link opens in five years time, the venue will be just up the hill from the redeveloped Mt Eden station. It’s going to be an attractive place to live and it’s easy to see the owners being tempted to sell up for residential development.

What the King’s Arms and the Powerstation have in common is that they are reasonably large rectangular boxes, which makes them ideal rock ‘n’ roll venues. That’s a hard kind of building to find – and an even harder one to build – in the current environment. While the Wine Cellar and Whammy have done a good job of making the most of their space and Galatos seems to work well, the only real “big box” on K Road is The Studio.

The second half of this post – highlighting five more worthies – will be up tomorrow.

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    1. Speaking of which, the quote under “Cycling in Christchurch” is the second one I’ve seen with somewhat mangled mark-up over here. On the desktop every list item is in a separate quote box.

    2. I’ve actually gotten quite used to the older-fashioned look – at least commenting (mostly) works intuitively here – but keen to see what greater minds can come up with…

  1. Biggups to the Latvian cyclists! It would be amazing to do that here (K Rd, Ponsonby Rd, etc?). OnlyI’d wrap the bamboo frames with a coloured mesh to make them look more solid. I love the idea!

    1. I think the bamboo frames do a good job of showing they’re really mostly empty (wasted) space.

      For trips of up to a few kilometres within cities, cycling is as close as the proverbial silver bullet as it gets. If you assume an average speed of 15 kph, then a 2 km trip will take 8 minutes. It’s really hard to serve those short trips efficiently using PT, and cars just take up too much space. And you can have a lot of people getting around on a bike before things like bike parking and congestion on bike paths and shared paths become a problem, especially in Auckland, where even the smallest streets have huge right-of-ways.

        1. That’s the space between cyclists and cars, not between bikes. You can easily ride 2 abreast on a 1.5m cycle lane. And additionally, unlike with cars you don’t need a large stopping distance between bicycles following each other.

  2. Temperatures in the last 3 years are worrying scientist as to how close we are to tipping the climate into irreversible change, this is a good article among many.

    We have ways to combat climate change if only the media was not so easily distracted by none issues like at the last election were Nicky Hager and Kim Dotcom hogged the limelight to the extent that the election was as big a farce as the current US presidential race.

    2017 will be an election and top priority should be to cut CO2 other counties are at trying not like our current government so for me I’ll be looking at policies that matter like, 1 walking, 2 cycling, 3 public transport, all I hope is we don’t have the same sort of crap we did last time and some real issues are focused on.

  3. I really enjoy public address and we always recorded Media Take on Maori TV. Russell Brown and Toi Iti are the best commentators since Brian Priestly on Fourth Estate and News Stand. So it is a shame to see Russell brown buy into the argument that the motorway came through and 30,000 people left so Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    1. The motorway did destroy the entire economic basis of K Rd whatever the precise number of local residents displaced. The severance did that. That is indisputable, and Russell is completely correct, even if Wiki isn’t a reliable source on those figures. That doesn’t mean the motorway isn’t useful for you suburbanites, of it is, that’s exactly who it is for. It is precisely the result of prioritising those further away over those already there. The value of urban motorways is very doubled-edged, and none this close to a city centre have been without enormous cost to their host communities, almost always resulting in a terrible hollowing out and decline of their entire economic basis.

      The disaster for K Rd was not fixed by the generally accepted solution at the time; multi-storey car parking, which was provided, but just dragged more place ruining vehicles through the streets. That’s kind of like more heroin as a solution to heroin addiction for a place. Perhaps if the trams had be left to run of streets as in Melbourne less would have been lost, but we did everything meanly back then; even half-arsed the motorways. Now only the re-creation of community and connection without severance will fix it. This is now, at last, underway.

      The post-war motorway sprawl era was characterised by building transportation through communities, the fix is to build community through transportation [a bit cute; but nonetheless accurate]. it would be good if we did this with more urgency and a better understanding of how we got to this point; through decisions that were not a inevitable.

      1. K Rd was a really busy place when I got to Auckland in 1984. I lived in Grafton and shopped there regularly. What killed the retail was the reinvention of Newmarket which involved the removal of controls on retail floor areas and the development of more parking than any other centre of its scale. The final blow for K Road was the council unloading its parking area to a private company to run for max profit. That meant leasing out as many long stay spaces as they could. If you want a case study on how to destroy a retail area this is it. The reduction in walkup catchment was more than replaced by the increase in catchment by car. Strip shopping can compete with malls if it is run like a mall. As to the 30k leaving, they were headed for the suburbs with or without the central motorway junction.

        1. I prefer Patrick’s version. K Road had its own local population (Newton) in those days and in addition drew on a large catchment in Mt Eden,, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn etc. But I would couple the importance of the tramway system to the health and vibrancy of the K Rd shopping area because with trams it was on the main route to CBD. If you lived in distant Remuera in the 1940’s and 1950’s as we did – actually just off Victoria Avenue where horses were kept in the paddock across from our house – it was on our main route to City although we did have an alternative via Parnell if we chose the Meadowbank tram.
          Poor old K Road just couldn’t handle the double whammy of the motorway severance and the destruction of the tramway network. With the benefit of hindsight these have proven to be the worst of decisions if you value ‘quality of place’

          1. Except that Patrick’s version requires us to believe that somehow the motorway system was responsible for people having smaller households and for the destruction of inner city houses for the University expansion and commercial sites in Newton Gully. They were the real drivers of a loss of inner city population.

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