Welcome back to Sunday reading. Sorry it’s been a little on and off lately. Here are the interesting things I’ve collected over the last couple of weeks. Please leave your links in the comments section.
There have been a lot of thoughtful tributes to Anthony Bourdain who sadly passed yesterday. Here’s one from an urbanist perspective. Richard Florida, “Urbanists Could Learn a Lot From Anthony Bourdain” City Lab.
Bourdain used food as his lens to explore and unveil the intersection of human creativity, authenticity, and community. In his travels around the world and in the forgotten corners of his own country, he captured the creativity of real people in real communities. His favorite setting, aside from family dining rooms, seemed to be busy outdoor markets. There he could be found sampling street foods, illuminating the essential humanity—the smells and tastes, the honks and shouts—of the marketplace and community.
It takes about ten seconds to figure out that Musk’s car tunnel idea wont work. Imagine thousands of cars queuing in city centres streets to enter the tunnel. Finally, someone has explained it. David Dayen, “Enjoy the lines at Disneyland? You’ll love Elon Musk’s idea for transit” Los Angeles Times.
Have you ever tried to drive out of Dodger Stadium and waited an hour to get to the freeway? Have you ever stood in an interminably long line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland? Congratulations: You’ve had a preview of the bottleneck joys of Loop, Elon Musk’s idea for an underground “personal rapid transit” system.
At rush hour, when large numbers of people are trying to move around simultaneously, a PRT system would lead to massive jams both at the point of entry and exit, and in the tunnels themselves. It’s a simple problem of mass. Just as a lack of volume creates traffic above ground, the same problem will happen below. The London Underground moves 5 million people per day. A Tube train can carry up to 1,200 people; Musk’s cars and pods cannot have nearly that kind of capacity. I doubt there’s enough space between the surface of any city and Earth’s core to move 5 million people and their cars daily.
Seriously, I don’t think a single North American traffic engineer should be licensed until they’ve spent a couple of months studying in Europe. Should be mandatory. This isn’t rocket science but it *is* a fundamentally different way of seeing the world. pic.twitter.com/eepskZFLnG
— Martyn Schmoll (@martynschmoll) May 24, 2018
Cycling is good for you and for society. Here’s more research on the obvious. “New Victoria University of Wellington study: Biking and walking pays – so will more New Zealand cities catch on?“.
Does walking and biking pay? Of course, it’s a lot better for our health than driving everywhere. But a new cost-benefit study published by Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities has found that a walking and cycling programme is a good return on investment. In other words: it’s also good for cities’ financial health.
The study – conducted in New Plymouth and Hastings – found the benefits of walking and cycling, especially the positive health effects and reduction in carbon emissions from having fewer cars on the road, outweighed the costs of building better facilities and educational campaigns by ten to one.
If you are from overseas, the conditions of New Zealand streets and the poor quality of our transportation system can be quite shocking. Here’s a kiwi experience of cycling in the Netherlands. Owen Williams, “Cycling changed my life, and I never want to own a car again“, Medium.
Growing up in New Zealand, you learn pretty quickly that a car is the beginning and end of living there. Until recently, you could get a license at 15, and most of us did. If you don’t have your driver’s license, you’ll find yourself left out of events, asking your parents for rides, or navigating a near non-existent public transit infrastructure
In 2017, my partner and I were in a car so few times that I can count it on two hands. Back home in New Zealand, we’d exceed that in just a matter of days — because it’s unavoidable. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you’ll simply have it much harder there, because it’s otherwise difficult to get around. I spent hundreds of dollars on gas every week.
Cars are a part of life for us in New Zealand; it’s difficult to avoid them if you don’t live downtown in a large city. If you’re popping to the store, it’s probably realistically 2–3 KM away, even if you’re in a reasonably sized city — so you drive. Popping to a friend’s house? Drive. Heading to the beach? Drive.
In the Netherlands, almost all of these end up being what you’d expect: cycling. I hadn’t really considered how car-focused New Zealand was until I went overseas; Europe’s densely packed cities are easily cycled, and choosing to use your two-wheeler will likely get you to your destination faster.
This is a beautiful, sad story about how cycling can enable mobility and social inclusion late in life, or not. Bez, “What One Old Lady Can Teach You About Cycling“, Medium.
One of Betty’s tools of independence was her venerable Raleigh Shopper. Despite having seen better days (and quite a lot of them) it needed only occasional attention from one of her neighbours: a spot of oil and an occasional puncture repair, and this humble contraption was as indefatigable as Betty herself.
The shops were a little over a mile away, and although Betty struggled to walk that sort of distance (let alone while carrying bags of shopping) she could pedal it just fine. The Shopper’s step-through frame meant she could mount it comfortably, and its wire basket carried enough shopping to keep her going for a few days, so it allowed Betty to go about her business not just with relative ease but also with some pleasure, keeping her active in her old age.
Dozens of cities are going car free. Here’s the latest from the race in Europe. Feargus O’Sullivan, “Madrid Takes Its Car Ban to the Next Level“, CityLab.
This might come as a shock to some drivers, but the wind has been blowing this way for more than a decade. Madrid set up the first of what it calls Residential Priority Zones in 2005, in the historic, densely packed Las Letras neighborhood. Since then, a modest checkerboard of three other similar zones have been installed across central Madrid. The new area will be a sort of all-encompassing zone that abolishes once and for all the role of downtown streets as through-routes across the city.
To get people used to the idea, implementation of the non-local car ban will be staggered. In November, manual controls by police around the zone’s edge will begin. Cars that are breaching the new rules will be warned of the fine they face in the future—€90 per occurrence—without actually being charged then. In January, a fully automated system with cameras will be put in place, and from February, the €90 will be actively enforced against any cars found breaking the rules.
Matthew Taylor, “London considering car-free days in bid to tackle air pollution“, The Guardian,
A source at City Hall said details were still being hammered out but they were hoping to introduce separate car-free days in each London borough this year, with the potential for city-wide car-free days next year.
“The mayor already supports a number of car-restricted days for annual events in London, and he has asked City Hall officials to consider additional opportunities for car-free activities as part of his healthy streets vision,” said a spokesman.
“Tackling toxic emissions from the most polluting vehicles is a core part of the hard-hitting measures the mayor has introduced to help clean up London’s air, from delivering the Toxicity-Charge (T-Charge) in central London, to the early introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and transforming the bus fleet.”
Lin Taylor, “Go green for healthier, happier, richer cities“, This Place.
Green infrastructure – from more cycle lanes to cleaner air – not only helps the environment but also boosts jobs, health and productivity, according to research released on Wednesday.
Spending money on improved public transport could create up to 23 million extra jobs each year, according to researchers at the University of Leeds in Britain.
The team analysed more than 700 papers on the impact of low-carbon infrastructure on cities around the world.
Featured image: Looking south along Queen Street from corner of Customs Street 10 January 1925, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W520.