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.

Better Parking 101

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.

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.

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  1. Auckland is not homogenous. You can choose where to live and work. Clearly a bicycle commute across the harbour is not easy. There are areas well served by PT and cycleway, or with some thought walking is possible.
    I can walk or cycle to the supermarket, I cycle to work, my son takes the train to school, the girls on the bus. We don’t live in an “expensive” suburb.

    1. The problem with walking to the supermarket is you have to walk home with everything you bought. The only easy solution to that is to take one of their trolleys home but then you have to find a creek to park it in.

      1. The other easy solution is to allow thousands of people to live within a couple of hundred metres of a supermarket.

        1. Maybe we could dig some canals for the thousands of people who don’t have a creek to leave their shopping trolley in.

      2. or, you could just do what my wife and I did yesterday, and go to the supermarket with a tramping pack – fill it up with food, and walk home.

        no muss, no fuss. and the 2km walk each way gives us a great chance to chat about our week.

        1. or get grocerys online & delivered. works for me in combo with backpack trips between deliveries.

        2. That shot would be funny if it wasn’t so awful. How has any planner or developer got away with this? (You’ve been saved from several swear words I’ve just deleted before posting my comment. The emotion behind them still exists, though.)

  2. The costs per car park are interesting, aren’t they? And then when we look at what society, as a whole, spends on various transport infrastructure, that’s interesting too.

    So St Cuthberts has a 1,400 sqm underground car park with net ball court over the top valued at $1.6 million, as well as at-grade carparks and a kiss and drop zone. New Windsor School has such poor cycling amenity provided nearby that it bans cycling.

    And when digging for these figures, I found that St Cuthberts told parents last year:

    “It has come to the College’s attention that a number of parents have received parking tickets on Market Road recently… it appears the Council is currently taking a very literal interpretation of the imposed time restriction.”

    Dear, dear. A literal interpretation is a bit of a shocker, isn’t it?

    1. The sentence seems to make just as much sense, but with a different meaning, if “liberal” was substituted for “literal”. If council took a liberal interpretation of the time restriction, it means some parkers are being ticketed after their time limit has expired and some unfortunate ones are being ticketed before.

    2. A lot of people genuinely don’t know building parking is expensive. And why would they — you get free parking almost everywhere (during the weekend even in the city centre if you look around a bit). I came across a comment during the north network consultation suggesting the council would make profit off a park’n’ride charging $1 per day.

      While in reality, if you commute by car, don’t be surprised if the cost of your parking spot amortizes to something like $0.50 per km, far more than the cost of your petrol.

        1. I dont know but the parknrides take up a ridiculous amount of real estate. Porirua parknride just about extends all the way to the next station (kenepuru). So much prime land ripe for development and instead we are building car dependant suburbs away from transit.

  3. New Windsor School has designated cycleways right outside on Maioro St which can be accessed by the traffic light contolled crossing at the school gate. This cycleway in turn connects to the cycleway running along SH20. So they are actually served pretty well compared with many others, so I doubt this is justification for a ban.
    When my kids were at primary school the rule was that they had to be accompanied by a parent, which I was happy to do as it was on my way to work.

  4. I finally found a time to watch the video about cycling. It’s very good, on several related topics. “One thing the Dutch do is removing a lot of the motor traffic from neighbourhoods, so that residential streets are not really busy with people trying to cut through, avoid the main road, you know, take a short cut and so on.”

    When will AT and NZTA learn this? Instead they put in extra road capacity in the form of motorways, expressways, bridges, and it induces more traffic throughout all the road network. Pt Chev is suffering from the Waterview Connection induced traffic now. There’s added traffic and congestion along the main roads and the rat runs. Now people are avoiding Meola Rd by cutting through Motions Rd, turning into Garnet Rd and having priority at the roundabout with Meola Rd, further slowing that traffic (and its buses).

    Come on, AT, do something about it! Especially since NZTA pulled the wool over your eyes with their incorrect modelling. What did you say when I asked what you were doing about safety with the increased traffic we would see? You said the Well-Connected Alliance replied that they were taking 50,000 cars off the local roads.

    Didn’t happen. It was never going to happen. And it’s only going to get worse. You need to cut the rat runs and reduce the road capacity. You can’t make a safe cycling network, if you don’t.

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