Democratic America. How one acre of space is organized in typical counties that voted strongly for Clinton. Environment as Politics: New drawings of the relation between residential density and voting behavior.

Hi and welcome back to Sunday Reading. Here’s a bunch of links we’ve compiled over the week. Please add your links in the comments section.

Separated cycleways are safer according to new research by Ralph Buehler and John Pucher. The results are unsurprising but fill a research gap in countries lagging behind in the development of quality cycleway networks. Mark Sutton, “Physical separation of cyclists from traffic “crucial” to dropping injury rates, shows U.S. study“, Cycling Industry News.

The authors write: “bicycle infrastructure can indeed help improve cycling safety and increase cycling levels. That is clearly demonstrated by decades of evidence from Europe, by the 10 US cities listed in Table 1 (below), and by the article on Boston by Pedroso et al. However, the type and quality of bicycle infrastructure matter as well. It is crucial to provide physical separation from fast-moving, high-volume motor vehicle traffic and better intersection design to avoid conflicts between cyclists and motor vehicles. More and better bicycle infrastructure and safer cycling would encourage Americans to make more of their daily trips by bicycle and, thus, help raise the currently low physical activity levels of the US population.”

I posted this video a few months back but thought it would be worth linking to again since it’s Road Safety Week. Also, in case you missed it, Bevan Woodward provided this guest post as few days ago, “It’s Road Safety Week 2017. That got me thinking…

In the race to disrupt (or whatever we call this now) urban transportation through technology Horace Dediu argues that it’s the bike that will win: Matt McFarland, “The case for bicycles’ inevitable triumph over cars“, CNN.

Dediu points to the explosive growth of Chinese bikeshare systems as well as the versatility, low cost and efficiencies of shared bicycles.

Bikeshare bikes of the future, according to Dediu, will be outfitted with cameras and sensors, collecting valuable data for cities. When a cyclist rides over a pothole, it can be automatically reported to a city. Cameras on the bicycle will provide real-time data, such as pedestrian traffic and pollution. Google Street View will look like an antique compared to near real-time imagery collected from bikeshare cameras.

Here’s the latest update on city centres removing cars, this time in Stockholm. Feargus O’Sullivan, “Stockholm Is Coming for Oslo’s Car-Free Crown“, City Lab.

Stockholm’s plans have been openly acknowledged by local urbanists as an attempt to put the city back in Scandinavia’s top spot when it comes to clean, green planning—but there’s more to it than that. In retooling the way people access the city core, these new plans will also unravel the mistakes of what was once seen as the boldest, most progressive urban plan in Europe—a plan that many in the city have since come to regret.

The new plan should do a lot to turn things around. Building on projects already underway to extend pedestrian streets, improve bike lanes and trim road space, the plans envisage a city center where cars become bit-players in an ensemble piece, boosting the roles of people on foot and on two wheels. In some places, such as the squares closest to the waterfront, this could mean total pedestrianization, in others it could mean extending sidewalks, bike lanes and tree cover into the roadway. As a way of discouraging drivers from even reaching the area, access from a major road tunnel underneath the district could be blocked.

Don’t miss the motivation for the proposal.

Scandinavia’s capitals vie with each other to present themselves as the greenest, most sustainable, liveable cities in their region—not just as a source of pride but as a way of attracting workers and investment. Stockholm is no slouch in the department, but as Alexander Ståhle says, it faces pretty stiff regional competition.

“I think some politicians and planners are starting to look at Copenhagen, Oslo, and even Helsinki and seeing that they are getting ahead of us in some ways, so of course that’s some driving force,” he says. “However, the things that really drive Stockholm right now is the image of being the high tech, creative hub for Scandinavia. We could be rivalling the largest cities in all Europe and making Stockholm an even better place to live in.”

Here’s Ed Glaeser reviewing Richard Florida’s new book The New Urban Crisis, “Gentrification and Its Discontents“, Wall Street Journal.

Quite often, urban success generates positive “spillovers,” through which the wealth of one person improves the lot of her neighbors by reducing the risk of crime or increasing the demand for their labor. But sometimes, especially when urban growth is restricted, success creates negative spillovers. Most obviously, the flourishing of a single urban industry, such as finance, can increase housing costs for everyone else. As a result of such processes, over the past 35 years urban inequality has become more extreme, generating gentrification and political upheavals. “The New Urban Crisis” bracingly confronts this tension between big-city elites and the urban underclass.

The strongest part of “The New Urban Crisis” is the author’s discussion of how to combat such segregation, particularly by building more middle-class housing. His excoriation of NIMBYs—the exponents of a “Not In My Back Yard” anticonstruction ideology—is delightful: He calls them “destructive” urban rentiers who “have more to gain from increasing the scarcity of usable land than from maximizing its productive and economically beneficial uses.” He coins a wonderful phrase, “The New Urban Luddism,” to describe the antigrowth advocates who oppose not only home-building but all infrastructure, including “the transit and subway lines required to move people around.”

These NIMBYs have transformed some of the world’s most successful cities, including New York and Paris, into zero-sum spaces, where each new elite pushes out a poorer household. Urban areas that enable growth, such as Houston today or New York in the 1920s, have historically remained affordable for middle-income residents by enabling abundant new construction. When San Francisco and Boston stymie development with an “enormous and complex thicket of zoning laws and other land use regulations,” these cities ensure that they are too exclusive and expensive, and their poorer residents inevitably view the rich with envy and anger.

Anthony Ling, “Interview with Parking Guru Donald Shoup“, Market Urbanism. Here’s Donald Shoup answering some softball questions.

Marcos Paulo Schlickmann: What is your opinion on legal parking minimums?

Donald Shoup: In The High Cost of Free Parking, which the American Planning Association published in 2005, I argued that minimum parking requirements subsidize cars, increase traffic congestion, pollute the air, encourage sprawl, increase housing costs, degrade urban design, prevent walkability, damage the economy, and penalize poor people. Since then, to my knowledge, no member of the planning profession has argued that parking requirements do not cause these harmful effects. Instead, a flood of recent research has shown they do cause these harmful effects. Parking requirements in zoning ordinances are poisoning our cities with too much parking. Minimum parking requirements are a fertility drug for cars.

Creating new schools in dense urban areas sounds like a great idea and something that is inevitable as Auckland continues to grow. Of course schools like this are common in bigger cities. I heard a story that the Pearl District in Portland had to urgently add a school since they didn’t predict families would choose to locate there. I wonder if the something similar will happen in Wynyard Quarter?? “‘Metro schools’ would lease land, use parks“, RNZ.

Inner city schools that lease land and rely on council parks rather than their own green spaces are being proposed by the Education Minister as an alternative to buying land for new schools.

Nikki Kaye said such ‘metro schools’ could be a way to provide education in intensified urban areas, where the large areas of land associated with a traditional school could be hard or expensive to acquire.

They could be located on compact sites, which might be leased rather than bought outright, and use council parks and gyms rather than owning their own, she said.

The schools could make full use of the extra opportunities available in the middle of cities, such as access to museums and libraries, Ms Kaye said.

Douglas Murphy, “Where is the world’s densest city?“, The Guardian. Try to guess the answer before clicking through.

But what causes high density? While the roots of urban growth are complex and interlinked, there are factors that simply force people to live in high-density environments. Prime among these are natural boundaries. Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is an island city with an area of just 5.8 sq km and a population of more than 130,000 people. It doesn’t have super tall buildings or other spectacular architecture, but having to build on all possible scraps of land means it has a density of 23,000 people per sq km…

It’s not just about physical restrictions. People must find places to live, and when there is a strong economic force drawing people with few resources into a city with little regulation, then slums grow. From the Rookeries of old London, to 20th-century population explosions in favelas and barrios, economic pressure can force the poor into ultra-dense living conditions. This creates packed neighbourhoods often without political recognition and thus no recourse to protection from crime, drugs, disease, natural disaster, deprivation and lack of education.

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  1. The schools question is an interesting one. Even in suburban areas, schools have been building out onto their playing fields because they can’t find the funds to build proper blocks and prefabs are cheaper and quicker to add. We could very well end up with no schools with any playing fields, adding yet even more pressure to local sports fields.

    1. Treasury – which runs the country via their sock puppet prime minister – has been determined to get rid of school playing fields since the 1980s, as economically they don’t add up as rational uses of valuable land to the cool headed neoclassical Ebenezer Scrooges who work there. Children playing on a field when it could be an office block returning high rents???


      IMHO, a school without playing fields cannot discharge it’s function as an educational facility for children properly, and therefore is not a suitable place for educating young people.

    2. In the Pt Chevalier school situation, I believe the school had to put single story classrooms in for the junior block, and weren’t even allowed to increase the footing and foundation sizes to accommodate a second story at a later time. The Ministry wouldn’t pay for that forward planning.

  2. “…In the past week the Herald has been doing its best to position Takapuna as the marquee Unitary Plan battleground…”

    The Herald nowadays is the Daily Mail, only imagined as a suburban give away in Kent. It isn’t even worth engaging with it anymore, it’s influence has waned to the point no one takes it seriously anymore except, perhaps, for the sports pages, where sycophantism moderated by cynicism just about gets by.

  3. Lots of great reading here, thanks. The parking interview is interesting, particularly for autonomous cars:

    “Autonomous cars will be most valuable where parking is expensive. All of parking reforms I recommend will shift the cost of parking to drivers and they will therefore accelerate the adoption of autonomous cars. So, if cities want to encourage autonomous cars, they should adopt the parking reforms that shift the cost of parking to drivers, where it rightly belongs.”

    Driverless cars have always held, for me, the possibility – eventually, when the laws allow the cars to drive without any passengers – that each current trip into or out of the cbd will be replaced by both a trip into and out of the cbd – just that in one of the directions the car will be empty. So yes, I agree with him, the parking costs need to be taken by the drivers, but I am worried about the extra driving that could also result in order to avoid the parking costs.

  4. I enjoyed the Vision Zero video. What struck me was the proportions of space given in the Netherlands to pedestrians, cyclists, trees, physical barriers.

    We have a long way to go in Auckland. We have the space, we just have to wrest it back from the cars.

    1. Yup, what a doozey. I can understand her general concern about a development next door, but if the conversation in the city was where it should be, she wouldn’t have made those comments about driving kids to school.

      I’d like the message to get out there that we’re happy to have more people living amongst us, and there won’t be any more traffic from their development if there is no road building done, But we’re not happy to have more traffic on our streets due to greenfields developments on the periphery.

  5. These roundup posts are interesting, but the content has a huge bias toward male authors or interview subjects – over the past seven weeks, 6/7 of those covered in the Sunday reading are men. Have you thought about drawing from a more diverse range of sources? (Diversity is much more than just gender, but it stuck out in particular in this case)

    1. Can you say what topics would be interesting to you, Bex? I guess this one did have an article on a boy’s toy and the parking interview was pretty dry. I found it all very interesting. However, I’d probably find other things very interesting too.

      1. The point is that different people have different perspectives and experiences in cities, and it would be great to see that represented here, instead of a very narrow subset of the population

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