Hi, and welcome back to Sunday Reading. Here is a collection of stories I found interesting over the week. Please add your links in the comments below.
I’m a big fan of “unbuilt” city plans and designs. Part of the fascination is living in the time period that forms the basis for the idea. Here’s a great 99% Invisible show focusing on”Unbuilt” San Francisco. Along the same lines here is a book review about the ‘never-built’ projects in New York. Laura Bliss, “How Never-Built Architecture Negotiated New York City’s Grid“, CityLab.
The Sir George Grey Special Collections at the Auckland Library has numerous plans and models depicting schemes both built and un-built. Time is the ultimate critic. Below is the “Harbour Skyway” proposal for the Auckland Waterfront.
Many cities have undone their Futurama mega projects like the Central Freeway in San Francisco. Vancouver is taking the next steps in removing a set of viaducts near downtown. Since Vancouver ultimately rejected the urban motorway experiment the viaducts remain incongruous in a dense and multi-modal city. A few days ago the city council voted to pay for the engineering investigation to deconstruct the viaducts. Estafania Duran, “Georgia and Dunsmir viaducts one step closer to extinction“, CKNW.
The Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts are analogous to the Dominion Road Flyover; legacy infrastructure from an era that is well past is used by date.
The Vision Zero concept is slowly creeping into the public conversation in New Zealand. Here is a good article on how the Vision Zero approach is different than conventional road safety practices. Charlie Sorrel, How Sweden Has Redesigned Streets To Route Around Bad Human Behavior“, FastCoExist.
“In Vision Zero, the accident is not the major problem. The problem is that people get killed or seriously injured,” says Belin. “And the reason that people get serious injuries is mainly because people have a certain threshold where we can tolerate external violence, kinetic energy. And we know quite well now how much violence we can tolerate.”
One way to reduce injury is to reduce speed, because being hit by a car going faster is way more deadly. Wherever cars and pedestrians or cyclists are forced to mix, the speed limits are set low, at 30 kmh, or 18.6 mph. That reduces the risk of a fatal accident to 10%, instead of 80% when the limit is 31 mph.
At some point it would be useful to take a step back and document how quickly and successfully the parking reform movement has swept across New Zealand. There are many small towns, unfortunately, that haven’t quite figured it out. Here’s the Stuff story from Hutt City.
Mayor Ray Wallace said that after years of lobbying by retailers the council felt it had to give free parking a go.
Retailers had consistently argued it would be a “silver bullet” but Wallace said the results of the trial proved otherwise.
It had not had the impact desired and the results showed there was little point continuing with it.
Councillors agreed to the trial in December 2015, despite advice from officers that nationwide they could not find one example where free parking rejuvenated a struggling retailing area.
If it’s any consolation there are many big global cities that are still grappling with the fundamentals. Here is a good opinion piece on the relationship to providing parking and getting traffic. Andrew Fraser, Mikhail Chester, and Juan Matute, “How do you ease traffic in Los Angeles? Make it harder to park“, Los Angeles Times.
It is not a coincidence that where there’s the greatest concentration of parking spaces —the downtown core, Hollywood and the Wilshire corridor — traffic can be particularly bad. The abundance of cheap or free parking spaces encourages Angelenos to choose cars over other transportation options and creates localized congestion, which makes driving more painful for everyone.
Many large European cities are rapidly de-carring their city centres. Some faster than others… Beth Gardiner, “Breathe less … or ban cars: cities have radically different responses to pollution“, Guardian Cities.
When a thick cloud of air pollution settled in over London last week, experts warned those with health problems to avoid strenuous exercise. The advice to Londoners essentially boiled down to this: breathe less.
Meanwhile, as Paris suffered a similar pollution episode – its worst in a decade – officials swung into action, waiving charges for public transport and restricting the number of cars allowed on roads, alternately barring those with odd and even license plates.
Unexplicably, New York seems to lag it’s global competitors when it comes to re-allocating road space, but the conversation may be changing. Elisabeth Rosenthental, “It’s Time to Set Broadway Free“, New York Times.
Closing just a small portion of Broadway merely created a self-contained three-ring circus. Instead, why not close off Broadway to traffic for a far longer stretch, – perhaps even from one end to the other – creating an unfettered corrdior for bicycles and pedestrians that would slice across much of Manhattan?
Other cities, mostly in Europe, have aggressively “pedestrianized” long stretches of major avenues by banning automobile traffic, with few regrets and many positive results.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan received a lot of attention with his massive budget increase for cycling: “London Will Double Its Spending on Cycling Infrastructure“. Less reported, but perhaps more groundbreaking, were his appointments to the transportation board. Martin Hoscik, “Mayor Sadiq Khan Unveils Transport for London’s Most Diverse Board Ever“, Mayor Watch.
Mr Khan said: “I promised to reshape TfL’s Board and make it reflect London’s diversity, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
“I’m delighted to be able to announce a Board that brings together a huge range of talent, experiences and backgrounds, while being more efficient.
“There are still not enough women in senior positions across London, and I’m proud that we have brought gender parity to the TfL board and increased BAME and disability representation.
It should be self evident why a transport department would find value in having a diversity of perspectives and experiences in its leadership ranks. But maybe it’s not so obvious?
Marianne Cooper, “The Infuriating Cancellation of Good Girls Revolt“, The Atlantic.
The failure of companies to put women consumers at the center of their R&D or business strategy is common. A classic example is that it wasn’t until a few years ago that carmakers began regularly testing female crash dummies in drivers’ seats. For 30 years, it was just assumed that using male crash test dummies would suffice, even though women are typically smaller than men and the smaller a person is the less force they can tolerate in a crash. That cars were not tested to be safe for female bodies helps to explain why women are killed and injured in car accidents at disproportionately higher rates than men. It’s because women were not included in the analysis—at all.