A couple of weeks ago there was an excellent ‘Auckland Conversations‘ talk by Lucy Saunders, who heads up the Healthy Streets initiative in London. Here are the videos of the event:

Healthy streets is an excellent concept, tying together many of the different strands that we have pushed for over the years into a single concept of making our streets healthier places to be. This is a summary of the approach from Transport for London:

The Healthy Streets Approach puts people, and their health, at the heart of decision making. This results in a healthier, more inclusive city where people choose to walk, cycle and use public transport.

The Healthy Streets Approach is not an idealised vision for a model street. It is a long-term plan for improving Londoners’ and visitors’ experiences of our streets, helping everyone to be more active and enjoy the health benefits of being on our streets.

80 per cent of Londoners’ travel happens on our streets. The best way to get more people out walking, cycling and using public transport is to improve the quality of the experience of being on those streets. The Healthy Streets Approach focuses on creating streets that are pleasant, safe and attractive, where noise, air pollution, accessibility and lack of seating and shelter are not barriers that prevent people – particularly our most vulnerable people – from getting out and about.

Unlike some of the more “wishy washy” design guides that end up being ignored by road engineers, Healthy Streets has a series of very specific guidelines that are used to help improve street design outcomes across ten key indicators.

There are then detailed toolkits, including a checklist for designers to test the extent to which their proposal actually helps to create a ‘healthy street’. The overarching goal of healthy streets is to encourage more people to walk and cycle more often. This is because more physical activity creates a multitude of enormous health benefits, as well as environmental gains and also reducing pressure on other parts of the transport system.

It feels to me as though this area of street design is where Auckland has struggled to make progress in recent years. The balance of transport investment has shifted hugely towards public transport, walking and cycling in recent years, but when it comes to transforming our streets progress is still glacial – even in places like the city centre where the case for making streets more walkable and healthier is overwhelming. Efforts by Auckland Transport to improve street design, through initiatives like the Roads and Streets Framework are promising, but don’t seem to be having any effect yet (in fact the first thing it seems Auckland Transport is doing is undermining this framework before it’s even in place).

Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison talks the good talk in the Auckland Conversations event about wanting to make more progress. The proof will be in seeing change on the ground.

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13 comments

  1. It will be interesting to see how the use of Franklin Road changes with the upgrade. The contrast in pedestrian and cycling amenity between the now partly completed lower eastern side and the the rest is already huge. Road vehicle speeds still need to come down though. It would be even better without a centre median to slow
    motorised traffic, but that was a step to far.

  2. The video information is good stuff.

    That is exactly what’s missing in Auckland city in area such as the Victoria quarter.

    This happens around Auckland arterial road.

    It is unpleasant and unsafe walk with polluting cars and noisy trucks. You also need to worry those vehicles can turn into the drive way and hit you on the sidewalk. Crossing is also an issue where cars turning does not give way to you while you are in the middle of crossing.

    For example you wouldn’t want to walk to Panmure and Otahuhu train station.

  3. The talk was great, and having the videos here for easy reference is superb, thanks.

    “Efforts by Auckland Transport to improve street design, through initiatives like the Roads and Streets Framework are promising, but don’t seem to be having any effect yet (in fact the first thing it seems Auckland Transport is doing is undermining this framework before it’s even in place).”

    The great thing is that this Healthy Streets work is incorporated into the Roads and Streets Framework as a “key principle underpinning [its] new approach”. As long as the teams are allowed to actually follow the written word, we should be seeing big change coming to Auckland. The wheel showing the ten indicators is right there in the RASF, for example. From the RASF: “The questions for each of the 10 Healthy Street indicators can assist practitioners by directing attention to those factors in a street which are not performing well for people who choose to walk, cycle or use public transport… The answers to the questions will help direct attention to the range of possible modal priority design features to improve use of these modes in roads or streets.”

    If the RASF gets modified so we can’t see these changes, our lives and those of our children will be less healthy in all the ways that Lucy talks about.

      1. Those suggestions are all good. I wonder if someone can clarify for me the wording in Julie Anne Genter’s briefing paper to Cabinet “allowing people using footpaths, shared paths or cycleways to have right-of-way over vehicles entering a street via a crossing side road. This would be in specified circumstances and marked with paint or other signage”.

        “entering a street via a crossing side road” isn’t clear to me – I think it means entering a main road from a side road, but it doesn’t mean traffic entering the side road? This would be a pity, as would the “in specified circumstances and marked with paint or other signage”.

        The real opportunity is to have a massive change all at once – reduced speed limits everywhere and changed road rules everywhere. This would mean the signs aren’t required all over the place, and the money can be put instead into a huge education campaign.

  4. Great stuff, Shane (at 8:56 in the 3rd video): “My commitment: I’d love to see the urban cycleway network completed, the continuation of the investment in the programme business case for walking and cycling, all the investment in public transport, all the transformational change that brings in terms of public real, and, you know, the flow on benefits that all that enables. We have… the 3rd most obese population in the OECD. We’ve got to do something about it.”

    I don’t think we’ve ever had Council, AT’s CEO and the government so aligned on transport. It’s really great to see.

    Shane, you can see the enormity of it, and you’re working towards the right goals. Yet you’ve allowed a review of the RASF instead of a review of the RLTP and ATAP – given the input of other organisations, that review is, of course, a much harder job. But it is those road capacity expansion projects that are costing the money, and causing the damage, that have to be scaled back to provide the funds for the Healthy Streets. The RASF, with its Healthy Streets focus, is not the document to be put under scrutiny, but to put at the top of the process.

  5. Witness the discrepancy between the council’s enthusiasm for shared zones such as Elliot St, O’Connell St etc. and ATs failure to put any effort into making them work so most of the time they function as free parking spaces for trucks and cars. There should be communication with delivery people and good positive oversight to help change car culture

  6. Clean air is a good topic.
    We must be the only OECD country without vehicle emmissions testing. This needs to be indroduced especially for diesel vehicles and their NOx, PM10 and PM2.5. 2 stroke vehicles (scooters) shouldn’t / wouldn’t be able to pass.
    Another thing will be to further clamp down on fireplaces, fires and people burning damp wood or rubbish. There are plenty of winter nights where I cycle home and pass through thick clouds of choking smoke, e.g. Sutherland Rd, Pt Chev.

    1. We have emissions rules; but they’re to do with visible smoke and some certification requirements upon import. If we’re going to do anything diesels, a phase-out heading towards a total ban is the way to go. Any machine is going to wear, and any filter is not going to be as effective as the last time you used it.

    2. It is part of my traditional practices and rituals to burn stuff! How dare you try and impose your opinions, beliefs and world view on my oppressed minority group and try and destroy our cultural heritage, our religious beliefs and our way of life going back thousands of years! This is so offensive and I am outraged! Don’t you dare touch my poorly performing wood burning BBQ!

      1. Betcha’d like some of the steel cone-shaped biochar makers, Ari – the flames in those are amazing. Once you’ve doused it with water so you get biochar instead of ash, you can fit a “traditional cooking” grill to it too, so it cooks food, sequesters carbon, improves your soil. One of those items that could very easily be adopted as an important cultural heritage. 🙂

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