Kia ora koutou kātoa (that’s our best Ashley Bloomfield impression), we’re settling into Level 4 life once more, and hope you’re going OK.
It’s been quite a week all around the motu, with good news and not-so-good news. It was encouraging to hear at the 1pm briefing yesterday that there is a likely link between the current community cases and a recent MIQ case.
However, there are (as of this writing) now over 100 locations of interest all over Tāmaki, including at least three schools. You can check the official list here, and the Spinoff has a handy map version.
Moving on to our weekly roundup…
Looking forward to once again confusing and upsetting the COVID testing system by living in Auckland and not having a car. ☺️
— Robbie Nicol (@RobbieNicol) August 18, 2021
How will you look back on this time?
Researcher and storytelling-guru Jess Berenston-Shaw had a powerful essay on Newsroom on Wednesday, as we went into our first nationwide day at Level 4 since April last year. Jess is really good at pointing out the problems and missing links in climate-change messaging, and how that messaging is connected to the slow pace of systematic change.
One of the things getting in the way of action at the right level and scale is the framing of who needs to do what and how to make the biggest difference to our climate and biodiversity.
We keep framing individual level change, and it’s causing people to opt out.
Ask any pollster these days about whether they think we will do anything about climate change, and most have a depressingly grim response “Oh people want change, but they are not willing to change themselves”. Ask the public if they want change and they say yes, but many don’t believe we will do what is needed. Fatalism about action is a massive barrier to actually acting.
Systematic change, she reminds us, should not rest on the shoulders of individuals.
It is way past time to stop asking people if they are willing to change. It’s time to focus instead on how those with the power to do so, and especially those responsible for our “public good” people in government, will help us get back the things that have been taken from many of us. That is how future “us” will feel proud.
Telling the wrong stories
Speaking of the power of storytelling, a piece by Hayden Donnell on Radio New Zealand’s Mediawatch programme picked up on the strange imbalance that exists in the reporting of cycling projects versus roading projects. Where are the howls of rage about all the massively overblown, low-BCR roads?
The Ōtaki to north of Levin highway had a BCR of 0.37 in 2018 when it was projected to cost $817m.
In the latest funding round that price tag has blown out to $1.5b and the BCR is now thought to be 0.2 or lower.
Unlike the bike bridge it will encourage more people to drive, leading to more carbon emissions, which the IPCC has identified as a key player in a catastrophic unfurling environmental disaster.
Despite that, outside of a few news reports on potential court challenges to the proposal, the media response has been muted.
Here come the e-police (maybe)
Police recently trialled using ebikes to get around, with positive results. Stuff reported on the trial back when it started, and Twitter user @felixmarwick has helpfully provided a link to the findings report, which can be viewed online here. From further down in this Twitter thread, findings included:
Officers could get around more easily – esp’ in cities
Community engagement was improved
They made a difference to road safety
At this stage, no recommendation has been made around future use of ebikes by the police.
Over 2020 and 2021 the police ran a trial on using e-bikes in their daily operations. The 2-phase trial was evaluated and I managed to get a copy of the report under the OIA.
— Felix Marwick (@felixmarwick) August 15, 2021
Other things e-bikes are good at
One great thing about getting an e-bike is realising how easy it is to leave your car at home: an e-bike can do most of the things that we usually use cars for. This is backed up by the research –
New research out evaluating the impacts of our public sector e-biking scheme. "at least 50% of current weekly e-bike trips were trips previously undertaken by car." Suggestions on how to widen the scheme to more low-income earnershttps://t.co/3j42FZ5Tke
— Dr Kirsty Wild (@KirstyWildNZ) August 17, 2021
And this inspirational tweet from Wellington cycling advocate Alex Dyer –
Dr Kirsty Wild is also one of the authors of a new research paper about gender and e-bikes. Based on interviews with riders, retailers, and policy-makers, it looks at how e-bikes can be an “equaliser” – especially for distance commuting and trips involving childcare – although barriers still exist, including economic constraints, and blokey bike shops.
The paper also notes the pluses and minuses of a focus on getting-everywhere-quickly (and getting-everything-done), versus the social and sensory joys of slower travel. Among the verbatim descriptions is this gem from one mum e-cyclist:
“The girls do this thing, so you know there’s two seats, you face forward and they’ve both got handles, but frequently I’ll feel some jiggling and she has done it when we’re moving, but mostly when we’re stopped at the lights or something, [my oldest daughter] will turn around so that she and [the youngest one] can have a meeting. They have a meeting on the back of the bike, which normally involves like a singing contest or something.”
Bridge to Nowhere, for Now
As with last lockdown, the pedestrian bridge in Wynyard Quarter remains in an open position, which is to say, closed to pedestrians – even though surely no boats will be going in and out.
The bridge is manually operated on site by Eke Panuku staff who must remain at home until non-essential work is permitted. Due to the resource consent conditions of the Wynyard Crossing Bridge, if it is unable to operate it must be left in the upright position.
— Eke Panuku AKL (@PanukuAKL) August 18, 2021
This leaves tens of thousands of city residents – who are looking for daily fresh air at the moment – compelled to take the long way round for the duration of lockdown. Also, to quote one of the many, many flummoxed commenters on this situation: “it’s amazing how much of the RMA — which is supposed to be about protecting the environment — is actually about giving priority to private vehicles over pedestrians.”
Our CRL essential worker
This has to be the only essential worker doing this particular job in the country: Dame Whina Cooper, the CRL tunnel boring machine. The CRL press release webpage reports that the TBM will keep moving at reduced capacity during Level 4. Says Dr Sean Sweeney, City Rail Link Ltd’s Chief Executive:
“This low-level operation will allow us to remove the risk of pressure from earth settling around a stationary TBM and ‘trapping’ the machine. If that happened here, the costs and time involved in freeing the TBM would be catastrophic and completely derail the project.” Details of the low level operation are being finalised.
Welcome to the team, Siren Kings
The scene is devoted not only to volume, but to the purity and clarity of sound, and choosing the perfect song for the medium. One champion song is Céline Dion’s The Power of Love.“That will smash anyone in a battle – that song is dangerous,” Ci’i says. “It’s an old favourite from when sirens first started.”
— Tess McClure (@tessairini) August 15, 2021
More noise on bikes
This won’t be for everyone, but we kind of want to see who in the GA readership is a drum and bass fan. If that’s you, drum and bass on a bike might just be your YouTube happy place.
Dom Whiting is a 25 year old car mechanic who moonlights (daylights?) as a cycling DJ, roaming around UK cities on his modified turntables bike like a kind cycling, thumping pied piper.
I started off with a couple cool static streams in random places but decided that I wanna take it to the next level! I was out for a drink one night with a friend and the suggestion of a biking & DJing came up.
I didn’t really take it seriously at first but by the next morning I was searching high and low for a bike suitable for what was in my head. Lo and behold I found something and the modification build was on!
Here’s Dom drawing out hundreds of local cyclists in Birmingham:
Spring has sprung…
…and promptly been squished again, at least on one small patch of Parnell. What is the opposite of “placemaking”?
A small moment of joy has been stomped on. There is a piecemeal degradation of Parnell Road going on. pic.twitter.com/b2TSStbKuo
— Ben van Bruggen (@vburbandesign) August 16, 2021
A very good question upon which to end the week
From Todd Niall: “Who will lead Auckland emissions reduction if there is no leader?”
Cutting transport emissions by 64 per cent from where they were in 2016, will require extraordinary leadership, capable of convincing a majority of Aucklanders to change their lives and travel habits.
In short, to use their cars less.
“Leadership” was not mentioned once in the 75-minute debate by the environment and climate change committee, which launched work on a Transport Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP).
Niall points out that the Mayor (whoever it is) must lead the vision, but Councillors “will also need to work on their own courage levels, faced with endorsing perhaps the most radical change to Aucklanders’ lifestyles, while seeking backing from voters.”
Perhaps they can all take courage from the adaptability of Aucklanders at large who, tasked with a well-communicated but sudden move to Level 4 for all the right reasons, have snapped into action and are playing their parts?
Header image this week: sun rising over the city on day 2 of Level 4.