Kia ora. Well, this week definitely felt like it had too much news in it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found transport and urbanism angles on pretty much all of it.
The week in Greater Auckland
- Monday’s post, by Matt, explored the pros and cons of past CRL proposals, going all the way back to 1920.
- In Tuesday’s post, Matt reported on progress with the Connected Communities New North Road project – the good and the bad.
- On Wednesday, we published a guest post by Tim Adriaansen looking at how Waka Kotahi has responded to the Minister for Transport’s request to investigate a walking and cycling trial on the harbour bridge.
- In yesterday’s post, Matt dove into the latest, and largest, round of speed limit changes proposed by AT.
NZ Geographic explores our car-dominated streets
Putting this week’s long-read suggestion right up the top because it’s so good. The always-excellent New Zealand Geographic paired with writer Hayden Donnell on a deep dive into Auckland’s transport history, how it became so utterly dominated by private cars, and the effect that has on all of us.
At first, the downsides of car dependence were rarely articulated, except under subheadings in council transport reports devoted to “externalities”. Over the decades, the toll of those externalities has become more clear. Car use has dislocated us from each other and our built environment. Many people, but especially children, have been slowly shunted out of public spaces by the ever-present danger posed by vehicles. In the 1970s, 20 per cent of Auckland’s intermediate-school children cycled to school. That figure is now 3.9 per cent.
Time for climate action now
The release of the sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report almost got lost in amongst the headlines this week. But this document must be read, understood and acted on. The report describes a rapidly closing window in which we have a chance to slow global warming and prevent widespread environmental collapse. RNZ has a summary here.
Commenting on the summary, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described it as an “atlas of human suffering”. He has no doubt as to where the blame lies. “The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.”
Lawyers take the Climate Change Commission to court
Meanwhile, here in Aotearoa, Lawyers for Climate Action are arguing in the high court that the Climate Change Commission’s advice to government is insufficient to meet our emmissions reduction targets.
The Lawyers for Climate Action NZ argue the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC – declared in 2018 it was absolutely critical to start slashing emissions before 2030.
But the lawyers contend the CCC’s plan actually lets emissions increase over that time – before dropping away and reaching net zero slightly ahead of the 2050 goal.
The week in flooding
Queensland has been battered with deadly and destructive widespread flooding this week. People in Queensland have noticed that huge rain bombs are coming around more frequently, having experienced a similar event just over a decade ago.
“You know, the 2011 [floods], they called it once in a hundred year flood, well it’s only been 11 years and here we are again.”
These dramatic pictures show just how high the water got.
❤❤❤ to every Lismore resident this evening.
I took the photo on the left in the Lismore CBD while reporting there in January this year. The photo on the right shows the impact of the floodwaters.
— Sarah Navin (@SarahNavin) March 1, 2022
Closer to home, Auckland-based Australian and urbanist Cam Perkins ponders the effects of increasingly frequent flood events on tunneled light rail.
Be a climate advocate: be a YIMBY
The single most effective kind of climate advocacy that most people can engage in is climate YIMBYism — pressuring your local government to zone for more housing, approve housing faster, reduce "impact fees", cut parking, fund transit and design streets for people.
— Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen) January 31, 2022
Be a climate advocate: save our trains
Head over to All Railways (NZ) to sign a petition to keep NZ’s intercity passenger rail working.
Trains connect communities and are an important part of climate change action.
Trains have connected friends and families for graduations, weddings, holidays, and business for generations. They have connected towns with the cities, and bought our country together.
Thinking of Ukraine this week
Our thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. It’s a beautiful place full of brave people and we’re hoping for a swift end to the destruction so life can return.
One aspect of the invasion of Ukrain by Putin that has really stood out to us is the role fossil fuels, and investment in them, has played in the response of the rest of the world. Russia supplies huge amounts of fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, to mainland Europe. In the matter of a week, many of those pipelines have literally been closed. Even here in NZ we’re seeing things such as Kiwisaver funds divesting their Russian investments, most of which are oil and gas.
Meanwhile, as reported in The Guardian, Big Oil is (predictably) looking for ways to exploit this war for their own gain. But we shouldn’t forget the role these large companies played in developing Russia’s fossil fuel economy.
Russia never could have become such an oil and gas superpower without the help of western oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, which owns a 20% share of Rosneft, Russia’s state owned oil company.
As big oil tries to defend their investments in Russia, they’re simultaneously making the case that greater production at home will help combat Putin’s influence on the global stage.
In a week when the IPCC has told us that:
Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all
… we just can’t let ourselves be taken in by that.
Appreciating Ukrainian urbanism
Kyiv looks like a lovely city.
In case you’ve never been, Kyiv is a cosmopolitan, historic city full of coffee bars, restaurants and beautiful architecture. The next generation may never get to appreciate it pic.twitter.com/cmeuEjluNl
— Paul Templeman (@PaulTempleman6) March 1, 2022
And it’s home to this whimsical, pastel-coloured take on low-cost residential housing.
“The only instrument we had to work with was color,” [designer Dmitro Vasyliev] said as he stood inside the entrance to the gated community, marked by a faux windmill that hides an electrical power station. “We used the simplest materials, the simplest techniques. We really just had the color and the lines of the skyline.”
The future of transport is here: it’s got two wheels and a battery.
An American writer from a group called Strong Towns picks up on something we’ve all noticed here: the ebike explosion has arrived, and it’s definitely not just a fad. The article is a solid long read that explores the advantages and possibilities of ebikes from all sorts of different angles.
What would it mean to hop onto an e-bike to pick your kids up from school five miles away or grab medications at the pharmacy, instead of climbing into a car? Think about the amount of money your family would save if you were able to replace one of your cars with an e-bike.
And this piece of UK research is packed full of numbers, demonstrating the role bikes will – and in fact are already – play in decarbonising transport.
Electric bicycles can potentially play a big role in cleaning up our transport by removing dirty vehicles from our roads and getting people onto two wheels. People who may have previously been unable to travel by bicycle could have an entire new, cleaner way of getting around.
The future of high streets
How should high streets and neighbourhood centres adapt to a changing, post-Covid world? An ‘Urban Age Debate’ organised by the London School of Economics asks exactly that, and finds that traditional retail streets need to move beyond a focus on shopping to become places for people and community. Ewe Westermark, a director of Gehl Studio, noted that –
“During COVID we could see a shift…the retail streets that were more mono-functional, were hurting badly…but the places that had a robust mix of uses, that had invested in adding everyday functions to their centres, such as bringing in schools, adding playgrounds and recreation, were more robust because they had wider reasons for people to come.”
Retrofitting homes into urban spaces
Stuff features an idea we might see a bit more of in the coming years: converting un-used office space into homes. It isn’t always straightforward, but when the bones of buildings allow it a conversion, the concept ticks a lot of boxes. Re-using office space provides density where infrastructure already exists, it populates central urban areas, re-uses existing building fabric, and fills space left vacant as more businesses embrace working from home.
A solution for Union/Victoria?
I used to navigate this tricky bit of road by bike most days. It looks like a raised platform is going in. But why can’t this rat-run just be bollarded?
I have no faith that this ‘fix’ for Union/Victoria St will work pic.twitter.com/mVQJ7n5WJq
— Su Yin Khoo (@ksuyin) March 1, 2022
Hamilton’s dutch roundabout gets re-thunk
File this under… depressing. A dutch-style roundabout designed for a street in Hamilton – that will soon become full of pedestrians and cyclists when ACC moves its local office there – has been shelved, because of fears it would increase congestion.
An initial plan to create a Dutch-inspired singe lane roundabout, that would have given priority to pedestrians and cyclists, was ditched after a review of the design found it would have created major traffic congestion.
Instead, council staff now propose to retain the existing roundabout and provide additional off-road shared paths at a cost of $3.15 million.
It’s like a ‘why we can’t have safe streets’ bingo.
We need to make driving more difficult, more annoying, and less convenient, because we just need to drive less. Come on Hamilton, we were so excited when this design was first released!
Get your cowboy costumes here
This is worth a read for the headline and subhead alone:
You Don’t Need A Full-Size Pickup Truck, You Need a Cowboy Costume
The most popular vehicles in America may be the greatest examples of overcompensation ever invented.
The article is an exploration of American’s addiction to ever-embiggening pickup trucks. It asks why people keep buying them, who’s buying them, and what the owners of pickup trucks actually use them for.
According to Edwards’ data, 75 percent of truck owners use their truck for towing one time a year or less (meaning, never). Nearly 70 percent of truck owners go off-road one time a year or less. And a full 35 percent of truck owners use their truck for hauling—putting something in the bed, its ostensible raison d’être—once a year or less.
Bollards are the answer for Parliament grounds
It was hard to peel our eyes away from the shocking escalation of the Parliament Grounds occupation this week. In previous weeks we’ve pondered if a few brave bollards could have prevented much of the disruption, and we also linked to journalist Henry Cooke’s piece about the problem of the protestors’ cars. Watching cars become actual weapons in the last week has been horrifying. It’s clear that it was too easy for a small group of people to claim public space for themselves.
But, the open and welcoming sense of Parliament Grounds is an historic and important tradition. We don’t want to see a fence.
Bollards to the rescue?
Greenlane west pedestrian safety improvements
Head over to AT’s website to provide feedback on the proposal to put a signalised pedestrian crossing outside 191 Greenlane West. The location of the proposed crossing is just east of Maungakiekie/Cornwall Park, by Maungakiekie Ave.
More fun by bike
Please watch this video: it will, as my mum would say, warm the cockles of your heart. It might also make you want to strap rollerblades to your kids’ feet and tow them around the city on your bike this weekend.
Whew, it’s been quite the week. Hope you get some quality, news-free time this weekend. High tide’s at 10:21 (Saturday) and 11:05 (Sunday) in the morning this weekend, and it’s definitely still warm enough for a swim.