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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.