Kua tae mai a Mahuru – September has arrived, Auckland is still in Lockdown, and we’re happy to see some sunny weather arrive in time for our weekend lockdown walks, scoots and bike rides. Meanwhile, here’s our roundup of transport news and good reads this week.

A Bit of Breathing Room on Tāmaki Drive

There’s been a notable silence – at city and central government levels – about reallocating road space or reducing speeds to provide for safely distanced walking and cycling this time round.

This is a concerning omission given the higher likelihood of transmitting Delta in public spaces, combined with the way people instinctively borrow the road space for healthy and safe clearance when out and about.

We’ve seen just a glimmer of public health leadership on this, in a Facebook post from the Ōrakei Local Board:

It is great to see so many people using Tamaki Drive for exercise during lockdown, however there are some safety concerns so we are proposing a temporary cycleway to help meet safe distancing requirements and reduce the chance of collisions at busy times. This would require cordoning off parking spaces on the seaward side of Tamaki Drive from Ngapipi Road to Kohi for the duration of Level 4 and Level 3 creating a dedicated cycle lane, leaving the footpath for pedestrian and wheelchair etc use only.
Would you support this?
Comments posted on the Orakei Local Board Facebook page before Monday 6 September will be considered before the board progresses the idea further.

Note: even if you’re not on Facebook, you can always contact the Local Board by email to support this proposal.

Even in ordinary times, Tāmaki Drive is the city’s (and maybe the country’s) busiest bike route, as well as a priceless waterfront promenade. So it’s perhaps no surprise that feedback is near unanimously enthusiastic so far.

Next question: how many other Local Boards will now be inspired to find ways to support their residents to enjoy safe fresh air this spring??

The image accompanying the OLB’s call for feedback (presumably pre-Covid). It’s a good reminder of how limited the current divided path is, given how heavily used it is in both directions by walkers and wheelers of all kinds.

Meanwhile in level 3…

A pop-up-car-lane popped up to do crowd control on day one of Level 3 (remember, ‘just like Level 4 but with takeaways’) in Wellington.

Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive submissions close next week

Section 4 of the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive shared path is at detailed design phase at the moment, and consultation is on the 6th of September – next week! We posted about the design when it came out a few weeks ago.

Bike Auckland have a summary of the design and a quick-feedback form you can use.

Also over at Bike Auckland:

Our future gets decided in places like Mt Roskill

Bike Auckland have been through the issues with the latest designs for two seriously unsafe intersections in Mt Roskill – designs which include almost no safety improvements for cyclists.

AT is currently seeking submissions on these proposals. Head over to Bike Auckland’s website to read their critique and suggestions. Submissions close on September 19th.

And in case you want grunt for your submission, remember: intersections are teeming with danger.

The floods just keep coming

In what is becoming a regular roundup segment, which part of the world is facing biblical floods this week?

While West Auckland saw a sustained dump of rain earlier this week that has left roads blocked by slips and some homes still without power, the tail of Hurricane Ida has caused widespread flooding over the eastern side of the USA, including in New York City. There were dramatic scenes of waterfalls in subway stations, and water pouring into apartments, and the now normalised streets of floating cars.

Active hope and collective action

It’s almost a cliche to compare the Covid-19 crisis and the climate crisis. We liked the way this article on Stuff talks about practicing ‘active hope’ in the face of despair and uncertainty when faced with both crises.

Active hope involves acknowledging disturbing realities and finding our part in a constructive response. The term was coined in response to the climate crisis, but can also be applied to the pandemic, explains Dr Chris Johnstone the co-author of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy.

The author talks about the possibility and potential of collective action, and that we are seeing that in response to Covid-19:

The power of collective hope, in action, is evident by the record numbers of people getting the jab.

“You individually following the rules and getting vaccinated is not going to change the entire situation globally,” says Dr Nicholas Van Dam, the inaugural Director for the Contemplative Studies Centre at the University of Melbourne.

“But if you take those actions as a community you know that you’re contributing to restrictions loosening eventually, potentially getting things under control and ultimately contributing towards a greater positive good.”

E-bikes are great on the wallet

The upfront cost of an e-bike can seem prohibitive, but it works out to be a very cost-efficient option over time:


Fixing transport emissions

The always-excellent NZ Geographic has a piece in this issue about the state of transport emissions in NZ, and what we can do about them. It’s always good to see these problems picked up by media that has broader focus than us. It leads with a whole lot of juicy but concerning data:

Consider too, that lax vehicle emission standards have left Aotearoa—one of only three developed countries without regulations—a dumping ground for old, wheezing diesel utes and SUVs, and they’re among the most fuel-inefficient in any OECD country. The average New Zealand light vehicle is 14.5 years old—much older than those in the United States (12.1 years), Australia (10.6) or Canada (9.6). Thanks to a national obsession with size, we still import nearly as many 10-15 year old diesel utes and SUVs as we do plug-in hybrids.

That means vehicles entering our fleet are generally dirtier than elsewhere, with an average emissions output of 171 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled. In Europe, that figure is just 107.8 grams.

The rest of the piece does a dive into the carrot-and-stick measures European countries have used to get people out of their ICE vehicles, and then goes on to look at problems and opportunities for freight. Cycling and public transport improvements do get a mention, and this interesting fact jumped out:

But if they’re going to give up their cars, New Zealanders need access to affordable, convenient public transport instead, and we haven’t exactly been diligent about that, either. In 2020, rail carried 28 million passengers—exactly the same number as it carried in 1920.

Sydney built a new rail line, and you’ll never guess what happened next…

This is a great thread on twitter with before-and after aerial images of the urban areas around stops on Sydney’s airport line. It’s well worth clicking through and admiring the transformations from parking-chocked big box to fine-grained residential density.

A steep hill to climb for cycling in North Sydney

Speaking of Sydney, while they have a cycle lane over the bridge (and we are jealous) it requires a hike up a serious hill and a staircase with 55 steps before becoming a usable ramp. The hill happens to be in deep NIMBY territory, prompting a sadly familiar cars-vs-bikes culture war that looks like it is being stoked by the Mayor of North Sydney herself:

At a June council meeting, [Jilly] Gibson can be heard saying: “Transport for NSW are trying to ram through cycleways – we’re having a mini war with them.” She also spoke of the “need to recognise how cranky our residents are about this”, adding: “I’d rather do nothing than anything proposed here.”

Bike to the future

The owner of the epic Dr Seuss bike we featured in last week’s round up got back to us. Dan from Bicycle Junction in Wellington has shared the story of the Dr. Seussesque –  ‘We can fit the whole family and the dog on it,’ Dan shared in his email. ‘My young 7yo daughter can even pedal it with all of us on there (with a bit of motor assistance).’ They’ve written about the process of building the bike on their blog.

This project was a collaboration between us and our good friend Anthony from Fabricon. Ants is a skilled engineer with a workshop in Gracefield who specialises in commercial and domestic bespoke metalwork to a very high standard. He welcomed our crew into his workshop and totally nailed it using some old discarded stainless steel handrails to create the iconic Dr Seussesque (can that be a word please) shape. In just two nights we had the basic structure tacked together, Ants and one of our dear customers, Bo Pierce, spent another two days completing the welds and refining the structure.

This sounds like a great way to travel:

One or two passengers can lie back and enjoy the couch. The bike has a small bar with liquid refreshments built into the curve of the couch.

The Dr. Seussesque during constrution. Image – Bicycle Junction

Forty years of high speed rail in France

And, September marks the fortieth anniversary of the opening of the high speed link between Paris and Lyon in 1981. The 274 km line runs from Saint-Florentin (about 170 km south of Paris) to the northern outskirts of Lyon. With the deliberate inclusion of only two intermediary stations, the opening of the line shifted the 427 km trip between Paris and Lyon from a four hour journey to one taking just over two hours. You can read more here.

The way we walk now

The Spinoff published this essay by Alice Miller on the experience of memory and walking. Have a read:

The way we walk now

E-scooter #goals

A (lovely) view of spring from lockdown

Minimum Parking Requirements

Yesterday, council’s advice on removing minimum parking requirements was discussed at the Planning Committee. The original advice was acknowledged as contradicting the government’s direction, and as providing an (unintentional)

back door way to requiring carparking provision

With important changes, the advice was passed 16 votes to 5. On balance, the outcome was a good one. We are inching closer to a better Unitary Plan. This will allow more development in well-connected areas, which will increase housing supply, lower the cost of housing (though there are many other elements at play there), and give more transport and housing choice to more people.

Unsurprisingly, the problem advice was revealed as having come from Auckland Transport. For example:

most households will be expected to own a vehicle

New Zealand’s internationally embarrassing and unsustainable car ownership statistics are neither normal nor fit for a low carbon future; they are the result of planning and investment decisions based on this self-fulfilling mindset.

Concerningly, some senior council officers seem to be indefinitely consigning areas of Auckland to poor transport options:

In areas that are poorly served by public transport at the moment, and unlikely to get a radical increase in public transport over the next 10, 20, 30 years or beyond…

Auckland has committed to being a liveable, equitable, low-carbon city. These areas need meaningful investment in transport alternatives as well as denser development to support the services. Diverting investment away from sprawl infrastructure to enable equitable, low-carbon transport options is a win-win paradigm shift these senior council planners should be leading.

Amusingly, Council officers got councillors worked up about accessibility by implying that removing minimum parking requirements would result in poor quality pedestrian outcomes. This was the illustration:

A real challenge to accessibility and pedestrian safety is that council are currently approving developments with (often too many) entrances designed entirely around vehicles. The issue is important, but unrelated to parking requirements.

Encouragingly, council’s new Lead Transport Advisor made some pragmatic and progressive comments:

most developers will choose to provide parking because most households want the parking… we want to investigate how we ensure that the new developments provide for electric vehicles so it is not an expensive undertaking to add charging later on, without us forcing any developer to provide parking… there [are] a lot of fast chargers currently being installed and planned, and a lot of destination and workplace chargers so there will be EV owners who are able to charge their vehicles quite conveniently and safely, even when they don’t have an off street carpark…

Have a lovely weekend, see you next week.

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  1. The council has been replacing the footpath and the driveways over the berms on busy Whitford Rd going to Howick. The driveways are being made much wider.
    Previously houses with a single garage mostly have a 3m wide strip over the berm and splayed out onto the road. Houses with a double garage 10 meters from the road have a double width strip, 8m, and splayed out to the road (as where I live).
    Houses with a double garage just 2 or 3 meters inside their boundary have a double width strip, 6-8m, and splayed out to the road.
    But now about ten of the driveways in a 100m stretch of road over the berms are much wider. Neighbouring single driveways have been joined and double garage crossings have been widened. They range in width from 3m, 5m, 10m, 12m, 13m and 15m. Homeowners can overtake in their driveway and make wide turns onto the road. The council has no concerns about using high emissions concrete and removing the grass.

    1. They did that on our road quite a few years ago, replaced a lot of older driveways with wider ones. I think they must have changed their standard so newer driveways are wider than they used to be.

      Our road is a relatively quiet residential one.

    2. Thanks, Jim. That’s worrying. I’m doing some work on vehicle crossings at the moment and it’s a very disappointing business. Council planners seem to have no understanding of the consequences on pedestrian and cyclist safety of what they’re allowing.

      I’m assuming you’re meaning the bit of Whitford Rd that’s urban, west of the intersection with Somerville? (Rural crossings can be wider than urban … though I can’t see how they shrink the crossing widths when a rural section of road becomes urban.) The only reason I can see for them to widen the crossings would be that the legacy Council’s standard might have been for narrower crossings than the Supercity one. Which is “standardisation at all costs, safety be damned”.

      But there are maximums. The Unitary Plan’s “Table E27. Vehicle crossing and vehicle access widths” gives the maximum, at the property boundary on urban streets, of
      3m for one dwelling,
      3.5m for 2 to 5 dwellings or up to 9 spaces,
      6m for a drive serving 10 or more spaces but only if it’s two way.

      These are then allowed to splay out towards the road by an extra 1.4 m plus some triangular bits that slope both directions, about 0.9m wide each side. As per: https://at.govt.nz/media/1974750/residential-vehicle-crossing-standards-gd017a.pdf

      For rural roads, the maximums is 6m unless large trucks are expected.

      If you happen to be passing and get a good photo, I’d love to see it.

      1. It’s up by Nicholas Rd, Culver Tce, Heidi
        Normally I would expect that a berm would be 80:20 grass:concrete but now it’s a up to about 60:40 or feels like it.
        I don’t know why they bothered with the new path as they are rarely used.
        The concrete berms really stand out in the bright sun

      2. Vehicle crossings are a problem. The Standard crossing allows for vehicles to stay in ;lane when turning in and out. Essential for arterial and collector roads, not so much for low speed local roads. So site-specific designs can reduce the berm space taken up. This is now done quite often on large precinct developments. These could well be made standard where certain conditions are met, but don’t mix well with kerbside parking on-street with narrow roads.
        Houses that don’t have a vehicle crossing at the front result in much better streets. The horrid photos of sausage-flat houses with ginnel access down the side fence need good Unitary Plan and Building Code protection to be introduced. A 3 m wide concrete driveway is not much better than the narrow footpath, so sausage development is more of a problem than just on-site parking.

        1. Speak for yourself. I think the walkway down the side of the terraced homes looks fine. It’s no different to a terrace fronting a pedestrian only street. If you don’t like it, don’t live there. I hate driveways that wrap around to the back of a house. I’m not selfish enough to suggest that no one else should be allowed one.

        2. Sailor Boy, I don’t think Inside looking out was trying to criticise the walkway, but to suggest that for streets smaller than arterials, an option that works well is to have no vehicle crossings at all.

          I agree about the problems of sausage development, and often wonder about regenerating those areas by shrinking the driveways into pathways through nice gardens, and removing the vehicle crossings.

    1. I built a long three seat bike, and found balance/movement at the back to have a huge effect on steering and stability, and it took quite some concentration. Looking around was not a good idea. I’d imagine this bike is similar.

  2. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the emissions piece. I’m not aware of two other developed countries that don’t have emissions testing, pretty sure we’re the only one. Even the likes of China and some other less “developed” countries have emissions testing. It also focuses on CO2 but arguably the likes of SOx, NOx, particulates and unburnt hydrocarbons are worse. Really have to ask the question: why isn’t emissions testing part of a WOF in NZ, and what is the government doing about it?

    1. “No. Thanks but this survey is for people who travel from Auckland to the Waikato at least once every 12 months.”

      Given Covid, this is a weird exclusion question.

  3. “unlikely to get a radical increase in public transport over the next 10, 20, 30 years or beyond…”

    There’s just no intention, huh? Jeeze that shows the rot in Council’s fluffy equity and livable city stuff.

    1. It’s just so disingenuous as well. If we enable a doubling of housing density, then we can afford a doubling of PT intensity too….

      1. We will soon see if it works like that.

        Northcote is getting built up big time. Will AT upgrade 942 (Birkenhead–Northcote–Takapuna cross-town) to a frequent service or not?

    1. Yeah. Because wanting adequate safety and space for active modes means you can’t also be a driver and love your car.

      Get out more.

      1. Thom needs to stay in more and do some reading, or even look at the pictures. He may discover that climate change is happening right now and is a huge problem. The recent cost to the US from Ida and similar events is not sustainable year after year. Emissions have to be cut dramatically.
        Simple logic says that simply changing every ICE car to an EV won’t be enough. That doesn’t eliminate the emission of carbon at every stage of the production of vehicles. To achieve the reduction of carbon emissions that scientists say is required will require fundamental change in our economy and less cars is most likely to be a part of that. It’s not a hatred of cars, but an acknowledgement that things have to change.

        1. Sorry, did the goal become the eradication of transport emissions, or transport of cars altogether? Yes, there is an emissions cost in making vehicles, but there’s an emission cost in manufacturing literally anything.

          I get there is a degree of urgency, but just making sweeping statements like our economy will ‘have to change’ can end up sounding a lot like “the people who have been forced to live in outer suburbs will have a drastic drop in their quality of life while those in inner city suburbs who have opposed development face much less disruption from a shit to walking and cycling”. Let me know when we can start factoring in the carbon and social costs of those decisions into things before we get to ‘manufacturing cars = emissions therefore bad’.

          It’s really disconcerting there’s no price put on a loss of mobility and the costs of entrenching further social inequities. I’d suggest that if you want to cut manufacturing-based emissions, there’s plenty of other crap we produce you could start with before you start intentionally winding back the liberty that private motor vehicle ownership gives us, and absolutely not before the State drastically ups its game in terms of building infrastructure and population planning.

        2. Buttwizard, what price have you put on the loss of mobility that the car dependent system has created for people? Or do you only call for that price when it’s about drivers’ loss of mobility?

          The people in the most transport poverty are still those who don’t drive.

          We need to work on all fronts simultaneously to solve transport poverty and all its manifestations, including the critical problems faced by the people who have been forced to live in outer suburbs.

          But also, this includes working on reducing car ownership and car manufacturing and the road space allocated to driving. Just because you like cars doesn’t mean this truth doesn’t exist. We need to develop our system so that cars become a luxury, not a necessity.

          Because the goals are many, and Taka-ite is correct to look at the manufacturing costs of cars. It is unsustainable and illogical for our transport system to involve people taking two tonnes of metal with them to achieve mobility. This energy inefficiency is fundamental. And it is a fundamental cause of the entire swath of system problems we have.

        3. Heidi,

          This has nothing to do with me ‘liking cars’ and that kind of ‘us vs. them’ language/mindset is why it’s so hard to people who aren’t urban-inclined to get on board with a lot of changes the city needs. You know my thoughts on the need for rapid transit in the North West and other parts of the city taking on rapid intensification, and they are entirely compatible with my like and enjoyment of cars on an aesthetic and engineering level.

          Way to prove my point with your reflex response though. I know it must be painful for some here to accept, but there are significant upsides to vehicle ownership as well, such as employment opportunities and the ability to access places or services if you aren’t in an area which is well-served by public transport, given our crippling inability to even do something basic like close Queen Street to vehicle traffic. How many years has that taken us?

          If the desired response here is just ‘less cars’ because ‘cars = bad’ without any thought given to the real effects of that on people who would be significantly compromised, then frankly I’m not sure you can even advocate for a proper transit network if any possible mention of the benefits of private motor vehicle ownership are instantly rebuffed by played out talking points, however right they may ultimately be – because a) that’s what you’re competing with and b) for a transport network to be usable, you have to understand the journeys that people actually want to make, not just ignore the fact that they have to do so because you can name dozens of reasons why cars are evil and must be smote of the earth.

          Perhaps I would be more charitable if I didn’t have to deal with what I deal with in terms of traffic in the absence of rapid transit that was promised four years ago, or if the government’s attitude towards documents like ATAP was something that it could just conveniently ignore and let slip at a whim. Who knows.

          Also, relevant: BERLIN, Sept 2 (Reuters) – BMW (BMWG.DE) plans to reduce carbon emissions across the life cycle of its vehicles – including the production process – at least 40% from 2019 levels by 2030, the carmaker said on Thursday, up from a previous target of a third.

          I’d note this is before we’ll be getting rapid transit where I currently live which is…. who knows when. So it really does make you wonder how ‘urgent’ this actually is vs. how urgent the machinations of government would suggest it is, which is…. not at all. I can imagine a future where there is less need for a car quite easily, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the one we live in.

        4. Thank you BW, I agree with everything you said. I just normally can’t be bothered getting into arguments on the internet, so I just lurk here…

  4. “If the desired response here is just ‘less cars’ because ‘cars = bad’ without any thought given to the real effects of that on people who would be significantly compromised”

    Some people unfortunately may be compromised and they may see it as “significantly compromised,” because it changes their life in some way; but how else will emission reduction happen unless we reduce the way we emit carbon and this invariably has some human consequence?

    A dilemma is confronting NZ with a seeming necessity to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and an apparent intransigence on the part of farmers to change at all. Where then do the savings come from?

    Yes some change will come from less emissions in the production of new cars, but the number of new BMWs bought in NZ will change little; and some will come from our poor clean car standards; and some will come from the few EVs purchased, but it won’t be enough. We know it won’t be enough because of the MoT projections that we are likely to overshoot.

    Many are led to the same conclusion that Heidi has reached, there will need to be a lot less vkm travelled and car ownership is likely to reduce.

    I note many unfortunately have gambled on where they have chosen to live and lost. It has been inevitable since the 90s that we have had to reduce fossil fuel use and yet for many the prospect of an apartment, or old house in the city has paled in comparison to a new house on the outskirts. The rest of society has paid to allow them that choice.

    I can imagine a future where life is very different because to continue the way we are is untenable. I read today that 30% of the world’s trees and freshwater fish are at risk of extinction. Facts like say we have to change! I am sure it’s not just that I have a better imagination than you.

    1. Well that gambling is only a tiny part of the story.

      There are only so many houses in places where you’re not stupidly car dependent. That amount is quite low. It doesn’t matter what people do, what they like, how much they care about climate or how much they like or dislike car. This is simple bean counting. Pigeon hole principle. The majority of people, who don’t fit in those houses in those places is going to end up “further out”.

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