Kia ora – hope everyone’s safe and well this week!

Header image courtesy of twitter user @bobbythekiwi.

The week in Greater Auckland

  • Monday’s post looked at the proposed Carrington development on the old Unitec land, asking if the plans are fit for purpose, especially when it comes to transport emissions
  • On Tuesday, Heidi looked at recent coverage of Waka Kotahi’s cycling plans and investment, and asked whether Aotearoa could do with an Active Travel Commission like the UK has recently set up.
  • Wednesday’s post dug into the Auckland Transport board meeting papers
  • And yesterday, Matt  assessed whether Waka Kotahi’s bike-ferry brainwave holds water (spoiler: nope!)

Remember to submit on Grey Lynn and Westmere cycling improvements!

Feedback closes on Sunday on the planned improvements through Grey Lynn and Westmere, which are set to start construction in the middle of this year. Our friends at Bike Auckland have a great overview post, with suggestions for design tweaks. Do take a moment to speak up in support. The overall design is really good, and as well as protected bike lanes, it includes lots of greenery and safe raised crossings. The whole of Auckland should be so lucky!

By rights, this project should have already been up and running for years, and setting the pace for neighbourhoods all over. You’ll recall it was ready to go waaaay back in the heady pre-pandemic days of 2016, then ground to a halt in the face of obstructive opposition, before getting a redesign and a second round of consultation in 2018.

Thankfully, the small but noisy criticism seems to have melted away (maybe something to do with these record climate-crisis summer temperatures?). Six long years have passed – but let’s hope the current generation of local schoolkids will get to enjoy a fun and safe low-carbon school run before too much longer.

A sample of the design for making the main streets of Grey Lynn and Westmere a lot safer and nicer for everyone using them. Who could possibly object? (Image: Auckland Transport)

CRL Mt Eden Station before and afters

Check out the transformation of CRL in three years – here are a few photos Matt took in March 2020, March 2021, and this week.

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And follow this link to watch a driver’s-seat view of the Mt Eden station area on the CRL facebook page.

Getting a covid test without a car

Several of us at Greater Auckland spotted this article on The Spinoff about the challenges of getting a covid test across the motu if you don’t have a car. Those of us in central Auckland are among the lucky few who can walk or bike to a testing centre. For most of the rest of the city, and the country, access to a car is pretty much a requirement to accessing a test.

It seems the Covid response follows familiar patterns of perpetuating the need for a car in New Zealand. Because so many of us have cars, infrastructure is built to accommodate them – making it more essential to have a car. But this can’t work forever – there are only so many extra lanes you can clip on the Harbour Bridge.

Even when it is possible to walk to a testing centre, the long waits can mean pedestrians are stuck outside in the elements for hours on end.

Last week, carless Aucklander Alice Lee walked 40 minutes to her closest testing centre on Balmoral Road. She had to “zig-zag” through chaotically queued cars and found it difficult to decipher where the walk-in entrance was. People were yelling from cars to security guards positioned around the gates, who also appeared confused. When Lee was finally directed across the carpark to a hot tent, she was advised there was a four-hour wait, and that people had been there since 6am.

Friends of mine in Germany have described how small pop-up testing sites, where they can do supervised RAT tests, have appeared in their hundreds around cities there. Empty shop fronts, roadside kiosks and clothing stores are all the kinds of places that can host a testing booth.

Good news is, it sounds like RAT tests are going to become more accessible pretty soon.

These tests, which are self-administered and give results in 15 minutes, should be available for free from doctors, pharmacies, community testing centres or workplaces for those who need them. They are also expected to be available for a price in retail settings from March.

The cars are the problem at the Wellington protest

Stuff reporter Henry Cooke has picked up on what we pointed out in last week’s roundup. It’s the presence of the hundreds of illegally parked cars that’s caused so much of the disruption at the protest in Wellington the last couple of weeks.

If the protesters had all arrived in Wellington on a train and then walked to Parliament they would either be gone by now or be a tiny presence camped out on the lawn, without all the infrastructure and space that a bank of vehicles can provide. The streets would be clear and their attempts to police a boundary would likely come to naught. It is cars and trucks that have allowed them to establish huge communal kitchens, rows of toilets, and a giant device charging station, so that the dozens of protesters who desperately want to become media personalities can continue in their quest.

Cooke might be ready to join the World Bollard Association – he suggests installing retractable bollards on surrounding streets in case a another vehicle-based protest threatens the area. He’s absolutely right: a simple and unobtrusive intervention like that would make all the difference to a bunch of cars being able to take over public space or not.

You have a right to march on Parliament, no matter your cause. But you do not have a right to free parking.

Simplicity Kiwisaver to build 10,000 long-term rentals

Simplicity Kiwisaver Fund has bought the business and IP of development company NZ Living, Stuff reports. The owners of NZ Living decided to make the deal with the not-for-profit kiwisaver fund because they want to see more affordable, quality housing being built. Their business has developed innovative ways of building housing at density fast.

The project will provide long-term, affordable rentals, similar to models seen in Europe.

Stubbs said Simplicity Living homes would provide long-term, affordable rentals to families, and individuals.

“We want people to enjoy living in them. We don’t want them turning over every one or two years. That’s crazy. You just get a healthy relationship of trust over time. That’s what happens in the UK, Spain, Germany and France,” Stubbs said.

“The model doesn’t exist in New Zealand, but it does overseas. There’s not a single new idea here,” he said.

An NZ Living apartment building in Onehunga

Get excited for cross-Manukau bike rides

The New Mangere Bridge is well above its piles now. It looks like it’s going to be a lovely piece of public space and walking and cycling infrastructure. The bridge will be completed this year.

Image of the new Mangere bridge, via twitter user @bobbythekiwi

The New Yorker melts the cars away

Well, predictably, we’re a fan of Janette Sadik-Khan, the former New York City transport commissioner who led iconic projects like the pedestrianisation of Times Square. And we loved this week’s New Yorker cover. We couldn’t not share the tweet!

Cycling makes teens happier and healthier

It’s always worth linking to the excellent Melissa and Chris Bruntlett, who are tireless campaigners for people on bikes. In this episode of the Places for Good podcast, they tell the story of the Netherlands’ transformation into a country that gets around by bike. And they talk about some of the consequences of that for young people:

Dutch teens cycle an astonishing 2,000km per year. They also rank among the healthiest and happiest—with the lowest rates of obesity and antidepressant usage—on Earth. This isn’t coincidence, but an outcome of a system that prioritizes humans over cars.

Study on children’s physical activity and active travel

Greater Auckland readers interested in the effect of urban design and infrastructure on young people might enjoy diving into this study, published in full online. Children in Auckland took part in the study, using paticipatory mapping techniques to describe their level of physical activity and access to active modes around the city.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that:

Density of cycling routes was consistently associated with higher levels of physical activity captured via moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), prevalence of active travel, and total activity space exposure.

The metro that only runs 7 days per year

File this under: completely fascinating. I really recommend watching all 5 minutes of this video about the metro that’s sole purpose is to transport the thousands of pilgrims who make the annual Hajj to Mecca, just once a year.

Train ASMR

This video perfectly captures that poetic moment you experience looking out from a moving train, as another train rolls past. A small window into strangers’ lives.

Nice intersection, Ōtautahi

A Christchurch appreciation corner could end up being a regular roundup feature. They’re just getting it done down there: check out the video of this four-way, bike-friendly intersection!

Telling the story of transport transformation in Te Whanganui-a-Tara

This Wellington City Council Transport Projects website looks like a fantastic tool. It has heaps of information about progress on the city’s proposed cycling network. The site is organised in a digestible and accessible way.

I really like the way projects are broken down by area, so people can go and have a good look at how the parts of the city they spend time in are going to change. Projects of all scales are included, from major bike lanes right down to small but important things like kerb buildouts and pedestrian crossings.

Before and after image of a proposed cycleway in Newtown. This nifty before/after slider  should be in every Council’s toolbox! Image via WCC Twitter.

On the tiles

The texture of cities never ceases to amaze. In London, archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology are currently dusting off a near-perfect Roman tile floor uncovered during a development dig in Southwark. Reckon any of our dining-room floors will still be amazing people two millennia hence?

Image: Museum of London Archaeology.

Meanwhile back home, there’s a whole new reason to venture north to Whāngarei, with the official opening of the Hundertwasser Art Centre. As well as embodying and celebrating the famously textured work of Friedrich Hundertwasser himself, the building is also home to the the first dedicated public Māori art gallery in Aotearoa New Zealand, with exhibitions to be curated by Nigel Borrell (who did the amazing Toi Tū Toi Ora exhibit at the Auckland Art Gallery last year).

Hundertwasser Art Centre (Image from the centre’s own website)

Check out this great Twitter thread of photos by a visitor at the opening weekend, including these rad public transport posters shown below. Dare we hope the gift shop will sell prints of these beauties?

Posters by artist Friedrich Hundertwasser celebrating public transport. (Photo: Fred Smithers via Twitter)

Out and about in Tāmaki this weekend

After you’ve submitted on the Grey Lynn and Westmere cycling improvements, here are a few ideas for getting out in the summer sunshine this weekend, a couple of low-transmission ways to enjoy the city. Please pipe up with more suggestions in the comments!

Spotted at Silo Park

There are already some great playgrounds in Silo Park. On a bike ride down there last week I noticed some fun new spaces. The latest addition to the public space, behind the gantry, features cool yellow pipe-like play structures, some of which become playable water features when you turn the right handle. Just behind that, a big area of the tank farm has been asphalted and opened to the public. There are baskteball hoops, football nets, and a big area for zooming about on bikes, scooters, rollerskates and skateboards.

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Or how about a stroll in the gardens?

I had no idea that just 40 years ago, the Botanic Gardens were paddocks and farmland. Maybe this is the weekend for wandering around and enjoying the plants?

And if you’re a fan of swimming, we have lovely afternoon high tides this weekend: 16:04 on Saturday, and 17:11 on Sunday.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend!

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  1. I was turned away from two testing stations in Auckland, one in Henderson (reached by train) and the other one in New Lynn (by bike) because they decided not to do walk-ins due to too many cars to process. I was told that they didn’t know where I could go if I didn’t have a car. So, I’d say it’s still pretty car-centric if you want to get a test. Ultimately, I didn’t get it. It was so disappointing.
    That’s just another perfect example of how our infrastructure makes things easy when you have a car and punishes those who make the right thing.

    1. Yes. We also have needed a closer density based on walking distances instead of driving/cycling distances. When you need a test but don’t feel up to cycling, and aren’t allowed to use public transport, there have been no options. This has affected my family a few times, and made even being able to visit the doctor (on the back of a negative Covid test) much more difficult.

      I haven’t owned a car for 15 years but this car dependent decision-making around Covid testing has been the first time it has negatively affected me.

    2. Ahh, those are my two only accessible testing stations. Was going to bike down to New Lynn, don’t think I’ll bother now. Thanks for the heads up.

      Take care.

    3. I walked to my local testing station in Manukau, waited and was tested. No one seemed to upset, I lined up just like the cars.

      It was late November, so things may have changed.

      1. RE: New Lynn – different today we are told by a helpful nurse. Long snaking car queue in the car park to collect RAT tests, but shorter “on foot” queue downstairs at the clinic 🙂

      2. Yes. They said there are too many cars in the queue, so they had decided to move all the staff to process the cars.

  2. The Dutch have a slightly lower life expectancy than us, so maybe being fit is not as important as we are led to believe.
    Ireland have a slightly higher life expectancy than us (18th in the world), so I don’t believe alcohol is as bad as they say it is.
    The US are embarrassingly at 46th in the table and live 3 years less than us, so stay away from crap food.

    1. Vox have just done an excellent video showing the disparity in death rates from Covid between the blue states where vaccination rates are high and the red states where many republican voters are antivaxers. Their conclusion is it is not caused by right wing media like Fox but existed prior, with right wing media pandering to pre-existing anti-science views. This pandemic will reduce life expectancy in those backward states.

  3. Just imagine how much public money could be saved by removing the cycle lanes from the Mangere bridge and replacing them with a cycle ferry.

    1. We moved to CHC nearly two years ago after most of our lives in Auckland and offer the following observations about Christchurch and cycling.
      1. These people love burning things for home heating and for transport. Garden tools are moving electric but they love anything running on liquid energy; motorbikes, cars, jet boats and dirt bikes and there are plenty of recreational space for all four. Car based recreation mainly uses the public roads. Boy racers abound day and night. Car clubs still exist and do day trips in convoy to Akaroa and other places. I thought that activity ended 50yrs ago. Car Trialling which died in the North Island in the ’90s still has a following and North Island Rally Drivers often come south for their jollies.
      2. ‘On road’ car density is much lower than Auckland. Sorry no numbers, just perception. Most Auckland commuters would die for a commute along the roads Cantabrians bitterly complain about being congested.
      3. Bad driving behaviour at both ends of the spectrum is more wide spread as it’s easier to get away with as fewer other road users.
      4. Cycle ways are much more wide spread and pretty well used. They range from beautifully smooth grade separated paths to basic signage & green paint at intersections. And as the article says above CHC are getting on with it and adding more. Well done.
      5. There is a wide spread and strong cycle fitness ethos as well as a general get out and do it ethos that is lacking in Auckland. The Port Hills help with plenty of walking tracks and good cycleways. There’s a 70km circuit that goes over Dyers Pass, into Lyttelton, over the hill again to Sumner then back to the start. The roads are narrow and weekend mornings in particular full of cyclists from kitted our Euros on the latest steed down to the cheapest hard tail.
      6. E-bikes are gaining in numbers. A couple of times as I’ve plodded down Dyers Pass into Governors Bay on my early hours run a middle aged woman has been happily pedalling her e-bike up the hill. A hill that only those with the lowest gearing or strongest legs normally attempt.

      So Christchurch has some days of reckoning coming due to their love of the oily elixir however they are well placed to get on their bikes.

      1. What’s your assessment on the need for mass transit – e.g commuter rail to Rangiora & Rolleston, or the various proposals for light rail/busways?

        1. Yes, definitely required, especially to those two centers. However the flatness of the place hardly requires it but it would be cheap, plenty of existing ROWs and NON tunnelling required. Mrs Plod & I rode from central CHC to Rangiora one afternoon via Kiaipoi (on treddlies – no e-power) and were surprised how easy it was with a cycle way of most of the way and hardly any hint of cardio effort. We had no intention of going that far but it was just so easy. Mind you with a stiff nor’westerly blowing it would be hell in one direction.
          Which is the funny thing versus riding in ALK which has a mainly gully spur topography so you’ve forever got little hills that climb onto the arterials that then tend to run along the spurs and ridges; Remuera Rd, East Coast Bays Rd, Don Buck Rd. To me that’s what makes a cycle commute hard in AKL. The hills aren’t big, but they are everywhere. Two things would help; e-bikes and protected cycleways on the uphill side of every road where the speed differential to cars is sooo much greater.

      1. I have done that in the past but is that seriously the easiest way in to AT?
        (I have a friend at AT who tells me he has no idea who to ask for things either.)

        1. I have noticed over the last 10 years, councils and government agencies have become far, far more reluctant to publish anything. Several councils have stopped even publishing plans of projects that are already under construction.

      2. No need to OIA, that’s a legalistic hassle that wastes a lot of resources. Just ask for it, the social media people are pretty good at connecting you to the right staff.

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