Kia ora! Hope everyone survived the deluge that we started the week with. That, and lots more to think about in our roundup this week.


The week in Greater Auckland


Safety watch: 20

It’s been 20 days since Levi James was killed in Royal Oak, and Auckland Transport are yet to remove any carparks.

Submit on the Climate Action Targeted Rate by Monday!

You have until this Monday the 28th of March to submit on the CATR, as part of the Council’s consultation on the whole budget. Head over to Auckland Council’s have your say website to submit. The first question is the one relating to the CATR; you don’t have to answer any of the others.

Here’s the post we wrote about the CATR and Phil Goff’s climate package when it was first announced. Here’s a handy submission guide put together by 350.org and Generation Zero, and another by the NZ Climate and Health Council, Ora Taiao, which is worth reading because they’ve laid out the health benefits of the package, complete with useful references.


Chlöe Swarbrick on public transport and equity

Head over to the New Zealand Herald to read Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s column on our inequitable transport system and how we got here. Its good – so good, it was hard to choose which bit to quote. Chlöe understands the history, the political decisions that led to our car dependence, and the fact that real freedom doesn’t need to involve a car.

Freedom to get around easily would’ve been a right to all with a transit card – not requiring a 16th birthday, multiple tests, a licence, ongoing fees and purchase of or access to an 1800kg hunk of metal.

She points out that here in Aotearoa, we have older cars, and more cars, than just about anywhere else in the world:

UK Car Insurance service Confused.com recently crunched figures and found that of all countries across the world, Aotearoa New Zealand has the highest proportion of cars per capita: 0.7 cars for each person in the country. Our cars are also the fourth oldest (and therefore least efficient), just behind the Czech Republic, Romania and Argentina.


Freedom to get around with a disability

Building on the theme of access, we’ve just come across this excellent series on Stuff in which journalist Josephine Franks talks to disabled Aucklanders about their experiences on the public transport network.

Abigail Knight, who has Down Syndrome and vision problems, loves the freedom public transport gives her – despite its challenges.

On occasion, Abigail Knight would discover halfway through her journey that a bus stop had moved. She’s not confident using the Auckland Transport app, so she would have to rely on asking people for directions. “That was quite challenging,” her mother says.

Meanwhile, two brothers with Down Syndrome in Christchurch find freedom in their bicycles.

The brothers were keen bike riders, and with “maps inside their brains”.

“They can work out how to get anywhere.

“Joel will bike all the way to New Brighton for an icecream. It’s quite amazing, how far he will go.” He hoped to soon bike the Otago Rail Trail.


Auckland’s week in flooding

You were there, you saw it, heard it, and possibly even waded through it. Auckland had its second wettest hour on record on Monday, and there were dramatic scenes all over the city of floodwater streaming through streets, parks and homes.

https://twitter.com/nzherald/status/1505652072145985536?s=21

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When it’s supposed to flood

As a palate cleanser from the dramatic flood footage, we really enjoyed this piece by Julie Fairey, Chair of the Puketāpapa Local Board (as well as being wife of the Minister for Transport, and noted public transport enthusiast), on the Spinoff, about stormwater infrastructure doing its job at Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek.

I call it “secret” stormwater infrastructure because it doesn’t come with a sign on the side saying “Hey I’m stormwater infrastructure, I do my stuff when it rains!” Most of the time it just looks like something else – a park, a sports field, a garden, a culvert, a kerb and channel on the side of a road.

If you’re interested in water-sensitive urban design, check out this twitter thread by Ed Clayton on integrating ‘blue space’ into our cities.

This reminded us of the ‘climate resilient neighbourhood’ of Osterbro in Copenhagen, Denmark. The low-lying area of Copenhagen suffered catastrophic flooding in 2011 from a similar cloudburst to the one that hit Auckland. After the event, the streets in the centre of the area were re-designed with green infrastructure to manage flooding in a more sustainable way.

And in case you missed it – it was 40 degrees warmer than normal in Antarctica last week. Wild floods like the one we saw this week will only become more common.


What do people really do when petrol prices go up?

Here’s a really interesting and informative interview by Jack Tame on Q+A, with economist Rosie Collins, about the way the price of petrol affects choices made by drivers. Collins points out that cutting fuel taxes isn’t a very targeted solution to the cost of living, and different groups respond in different ways:

Low income groups tend to treat transport like a luxury good, and will cut down on travel when costs go up. But wealthier groups don’t tend to respond to the price. They just wear the cost, so their behaviour is harder to change with a price lever. For low income groups, when prices go high, you need to look at equity so they can still get around when prices are increasing.

She also notes that to reduce our transport emissions, we need a number of different incentives and disincentives – as well as increasing public transport, cycling and walking networks, driving needs to be made more difficult through things like parking pricing and management.


Ebikes go mainstream

It wasn’t that long ago that ebikes seemed like a weird gimmick, or something for retirees to trundle around on while ‘real’ cyclists burned their thighs off powering up Tāmaki’s killer slopes. Who’d say that now? E-bikes have well and truly gone mainstream.

Over at The Spinoff, Felix Walton talks to ebike owners about what to look for, and why now’s a good time to consider getting one.

The most convincing motivator for trying an e-bike is cost. By saving on petrol, parking, and servicing, riding an e-bike can do wonders for your bank statement.

“I tracked my car expenses prior to buying my e-bike, yes I’m one of those people,” says Kyle MacDonald, a psychotherapist who switched from driving two years ago. “Within a year my bike had paid for itself.”

While NZ Herald’s fashion and lifestyle supplement, Viva magazine, put an ebike on its cover page – and in its main fashion shoot – this week.


An innovating streets cycleway could go permanent in Palmerstson North

There are quietly successful innovating streets projects turning into permanent street improvements all over the motu. One example is the planter-box-protected cycleway on on Pioneer Highway/Main St West in Palmerston North.

The trial, between Pitt St and Botanical Rd, has drawn both “love it” and “hate it” responses since installation in March 2021.

A year on, city council staff are saying the trial has been a success, and are recommending design work should go ahead for a more durable separation system than planter boxes.

The protected cycle lane in its trial form in Palmerston North. Image from Stuff.

The story is an argument for all the reasons why these tactical projects are a good way to test potentially challenging changes to the street network.

The route had earlier been identified for a separated cycleway, but despite attempts at workshops and through public engagement, council officers said the development did not “become real” until installation began.

“While the cycleway was initially highly contentious with motorists, negative feedback received reduced with time.”

The portability of the planter boxes meant the layout was easily adjusted in response to concerns, especially around the Pioneer shops at West St.


Earn by dobbing in idling trucks in New York City

Idling vehicles, and the emissions they create, is a bit of an under-appreciated topic here (perhaps we have bigger and more fundamental fish to fry before we can address the issue of idling vehicles). But in NYC, people can earn hundreds, or even thousands of dollars a day by reporting on trucks idling illegally in streets.

The program and the increased interest in filing complaints have brought a new game of cat and mouse to the city’s streets, as citizen reporters prowl in search of idling trucks and drivers, perhaps stung by past fines, are increasingly wary of people with cameras.

The city has effectively outsourced its management of law-breaking idling to its citizens, by offering them a bounty of a quarter of the fine retrieved.


SUVs linked to rising pedestrian fatalities

In yet more predictable news about SUVs, Stuff reports on research from the USA that found that ever-enlarging SUVs are more dangerous to pedestrians than smaller vehicles are. The increasing size of SUVs and pickup trucks may be linked to a rising rate of pedestrian deaths in the States.

Drivers of bigger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs are more likely to hit pedestrians while making turns than drivers of cars, according to a new study out of the USA.

“The link between these vehicle types and certain common pedestrian crashes points to another way that the increase in SUVs on the roads might be changing the crash picture,” said Jessica Cicchino, a study author and vice president of research for the institute.


Birmingham’s transformative transport plan

This week, in his ‘design for living’ column, Simon Wilson travelled (virtually, of course), to Birmingham, which has more similarities to Auckland than you would think, and which is implementing a new transport plan designed to acheive carbon neutrality by 2031.

They knew if they built more roads it would make all those problems worse. So they looked around and thought, “Aha, Ghent.” The Belgian city is much smaller, but in 2017 it had invented a new transport system. And it was working. The Birmingham City Council decided to copy it.
In October last year they agreed to divide the city centre into seven zones: when it’s set up, you’ll be able to drive in and out of any one of them, but not go across town. If you’re driving, you’ll have to go around.

To support the traffic circulation plan, Birmhingham’s transport plan includes public transport improvements, road space reallocated to buses and bikes, parking management, and a re-think of traffic around schools. As Wilson points out, Birmingham’s plan sounds a lot like Auckland’s Access for Everyone plan. So why’s Birmingham getting it done?

[deputy mayor Filip] Watteeuw’s advice? “Don’t stagger the changes.” It delays the benefits, confuses everyone and encourages complaints. In Ghent, they put it all in place one Sunday night. “It was technically and politically the easiest way.”

Before the changes, Watteeuw received death threats. A year later, he was re-elected with an increased majority.


#ungapthemap

UnGapTheMap is a campaign by Bike Hub in Vancouver, Canada. The organisation has identified 400 priority gaps that need safe cycling infrastructure to connect what already exists. Vancouver residents who want to cycle can ‘adopt a gap’ and become the campaign champion to link their gap into the cycling network. Where would you UnGap our map?


Drum n bass on a bike rolls past the living room

I know he’s controversial with some Greater Auckland readers, but we remain fans of cycling DJ Dom Whiting, AKA Drum n Bass on a bike. So’s this guy, who caught one of Dom’s daylight bike raves heading past his window.


Comment of the week

Whether or not this will become a regular feature, we’re not yet sure – but we loved this comment from reader Rigg on Monday’s post. They really get to the heart of the imbalance in our car-focused transport system.


Stay dry this weekend! Ka kite, and see you next week.

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40 comments

  1. One thing about cars parked on a narrow street is that it does slow traffic down as it negotiates past them. We have a couple of Tribesmen on our street with very noisy exhaust on their harleys even they tend to slow down a bit and at least you know when there coming. Not that some of the cars are much better with there huge exhaust. Back in the days of proper traffic cops and Govt run testing stations noisy vehicles were less of a thing.

    1. Those cars parked on little residential streets mean for safety I need to cycle near the middle of the street. But the aggression from the drivers has been extreme since (after Levi James died) I’ve been very conscious about not cycling in the door zone.

      I’ve been yelled at and tooted at, and close passed. I’ve had drivers stop to gesticulate. And drivers have overcompensated by driving away at top speed.

      Whether I cycle in the door zone or not in the door zone, I’m at risk. As are my children.

      The whole system is poked.

      1. The cars parked on the road is progressively lot worse now. There is a street not far from my place and has maybe 1 or 2 cars parked on the road. The house got demolished and replaced with 15-20 townhouse (the section is huge) and now we have lot of cars parked on the road.
        I agree with increasing density of the housing but I do not like lot of cars parked on the road.

        1. Yes and it also means that children who wish to cross the road to visit friends, the park, get to school etc have to emerge from narrow gaps between huge SUVs. I am not really seeing the vehicles slowing down much even with the narrowed streets- if you drive a tank you dont fear anything. More cars is never a safety factor.

        2. Realistically, they need to start charging for on street parking. With intensification and Ecars this going to get silly.

        3. Ian, those houses in sprawl would leave their occupants more car dependent than the ones near you. That means they’d create more parking demand throughout the city. Don’t be fooled.

          The solution to too many cars making the streets less safe for walking and cycling is to remove the parking and reallocate the space properly. And enforcement.

        4. Yes. Price off-street parking. The longer they wait, the more disruptive it will be. Many of those people that park their car on the street will not be able to reach their current job without that car, so you’re talking about either just park it wherever it fits, or move to a different place.

          And remember there is also a housing crisis, so for many people a home where you can actually live without a car will be above the pay grade.

          You can argue that you should try cycling, but that is very niche, you’re talking about the 0.5 to 1% of strong and fearless here.

          Or take the bus, but for that to happen we need to grow the PT network faster (we will need a couple more of those ‘climate package’ extensions).

        5. @Heidi Yes the townhouse near us did allot carpark for each townhouse but the problem is that more than one car per townhouse. So generally 2 or 3 cars per townhouse hence spill out onto the street.

        6. Ian, they might have been better to have had just one park per 3 townhouses, or so. 🙂 Those townhouses are likely, citywide, to be responsible for less parking demand than the older houses on the street which have more offstreet parking.

          Basically, providing “sufficient offstreet parking” doesn’t reduce parking demand; all that does is encourage high car ownership rates. The best option is to provide cycleways and bus services, along with minimal priced parking for mobility users, visitors and shared cars – preferably onstreet so that there are no vehicle crossings, or in a consolidated offstreet carpark for the block so there’s only one vehicle crossing. Here’s a link to a recent piece of research on the topic: https://twitter.com/shanedphillips/status/1504556609908850697?s=21

        7. The cars parked on the street are not caused by density, they are caused by poor parking design and management. If there is not enough room for cars to be parked on the street then AT needs to get on top of that from day one before areas intensify. If you send a signal that it’s OK to park on the street why would people not take up that cue

        8. It is interesting research but it raises a few questions. Aren’t developers just more likely to build less parking near transit lines or in areas where you have more mobility without cars?

          Also it makes sense that if you don’t get a parking spot in your house, you are less likely to get a car because you now also have to add the cost of parking it. However that doesn’t mean this doesn’t have a negative impact on your life. The time it takes to get anywhere without a car is so punitive that you end up doing essential trips only. In effect it works the same as a level 3 lockdown, but forever.

      2. There is a 3 metre berm on my side of the street and a one metre berm on the other so a cycleway could be built. Strangely nobody parks on the berm don’t know why they do on other nearby streets. Another weird thing there used to be a Papatoetoe Borough council notice saying do not ride horses on the berm. Those were the days. Anyway I wish they would build a cycleway on the berm then I wouldn’t have to mow it.

        1. What about finely crushed gravels for cycleways. Any competent soil engineer could work out a mixture which gives a suitable level of permeability while still being suitable for cycling or walking. Many cycleways in Hawkes Bay and Timaru have being built that way. Environmentally better than concrete or asphalt. Probably need an annual spray though. However the Council man has being around spraying the edges between the concrete footpath and the berm recently so not much difference there. I wonder how perm able my thick matted Kikuyu grass berm is anyway. I know it is very destructive to lawn mowers. And how much of this weeks cloud burst actually soaked into any surface the street was a river.
          Rip of the top soil get down past the clay pan which probably stops drainage anyway and replace it with layers of appropriate gravel mixtures. It could be a linear soak pit like railway ballast .

        2. “What about finely crushed gravels for cycleways. Any competent soil engineer could work out a mixture which gives a suitable level of permeability while still being suitable for cycling or walking.”

          Either you have rutting, or you have so much compaction that you don’t get any infiltration. Those are the only options with gravel. Neither are suitable for urban cycleways replacing berms. This is just physics.

        3. I was contemplating just how much asphalt our streets have as I drove to Albany today. Most streets I drove around between Wairau Park and Albany Pool were about 20m wide and about 14m of that was asphalt. That’s ridiculous. You only need 6m for a two way traffic with a bit more where there are side streets to provide a turning pocket. You could reduce the amount of asphalt by half and still have a functional roads for motor vehicles. Why the hell are we paying more than double want we need to to maintain all this asphalt? We’re chewing through our transport budget on something we don’t even need. It’s like rewiring, redecorating and repainting a leaky house every year rather than fixing the leaky-ness. Why are ratepayers not up in arms about this?

        4. Roading gets a free pass Donkey Kong.

          Some of the new highways that are going to be going ahead are 0.3 – 0.2 BCR’s, and thats with low carbon prices, lots of externalities not counted and the rapidly changing development patterns not being accounted for.

          Everything else has to justify its spend under a microscope, except roading which is dominating budgets and represents orders of magnitude more waste than the crap the TPU tries to gotcha the govt with. eg:
          https://twitter.com/TaxpayersUnion/status/1507127436433309696?s=20&t=UWxNCAeWeFG4euAovbT5Sg

    2. Royce,here’s an idea,swap those traffic calming parked cars,for a dedicated separate cycleway, you would achieve the slower traffic speeds you desire,and added bonus of reduced motorized traffic ,as active mode uptake is increased.

  2. Imagine if AT came up with an app where you could self-report bad parking and get 10% of the fine. Massively increased enforcement for little extra cost and end up with a nicer city, all in one little package. If only…

  3. I totally agree with your final comment from reader Rigg, about the parking of cars on the road being unfair – but on the other side of that coin, now that mandatory off-street parking has been abolished, for people living in those new Medium Density homes with no car parks, the road is looking very inviting as a place to park. There is a huge clash coming, to which the one;y possible answers are: walk, cycle, scoot, e-bike, and massive investment in public transport, because the age of private cars for everyone surely must be coming to an end.

    1. Shifting to a post minimum world will mean that the subsidy of free on street parking cant survive. It was a subsidy being protected with heavy intervention, and now that there is none of that, then it will be used and abused.

      Needs to be charged at market rates.

    2. Yep cars need far too much space when every section has 5 or 10 times the number of dwellings. We need alternatives. The longer the “extra” road space=free uncontrolled car parking, the more difficult it will be to change. AT have already hamstrung themselves by trying to avoid conflict around parking.

      In classic AT fashion, the one place they even have slight concern/are doing something about street parking is the inner nimby suburbs. But that’s about protecting the nimbys on street parking from being used by outsiders.

    1. Unfortunately she’d sit on her hands when it came to crime. She’s good at advocating for some issues — which is precisely what she is doing in Parliament right now — but she’s not the right person to be in a general-executive position like mayor.

      1. She’s been doing more than most other politicians on the crime front, especially those that allowed the police to move out of the downtown in the first place. Terrible mistake.

        https://twitter.com/_chloeswarbrick/status/1505039660292390913?s=20&t=zRq7QR0jd2qTGi2MZIR6Ow

        She’s been tyring to get the police to move back in downtown and have a much more permanent presence, constant beats etc. They have started with a “mobile police hub” bus thing set up on friday nights on fort street. I don’t know what any of the other elected officials have been up to.

        She doesn’t however, give good soundbites. Theres no “tough on crime” rhetoric which is what voters seem to be more receptive to than actual solutions. The strongman persona etc.

      2. I’m not sure I agree with either of your assertions. I think Chloe (+JAG?) would be an excellent addition to Auckland as mayor.
        I don’t think general-exec is the right analogy for the mayor, given that there is already an exec team. https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/about-auckland-council/how-auckland-council-works/executive-team/Pages/executive-team-members.aspx
        What I would see Chloe bringing to the role would be a focus on climate initiatives with bags of energy and great comms. Something Phil is missing.
        She’s doing great as an MP but she could actually be far more effective as mayor imo.

  4. “Also maybe tracking any changes by AT would be better”

    What do you mean by this?

    The road in question is planned to have the highest designation of bike lane. It’s 5 lanes plus wide in car space. Car parks are the obvious thing to remove, to make space for that critically important planned bike infrastructure. Parked cars= a hazard for bike users. AT could fix this in weekend, if they wanted to.

  5. As a long-time exile of the Great State of Palmy, I stay plugged in via some social media groups. And boy, have those cycle lanes generated some online hate.

    You know, “council wastage”.

    1. I think it helps in Palmy that at least one pretty senior person in their road planning team bikes to work on the regular as far as I’m aware 🙂

  6. A. “In the absence of cycle lanes – the other side of the coin should be people need to pay to occupy that space.” +1

    Absolutely – all parking should be priced and ideally dynamically.
    In cases where parking demand is high, but walk / cycle / micromobilty facilities are needed the revenue can be used to provide off-street parking.

    B. “Freedom to get around easily would’ve been a right to all with a transit card – not requiring a 16th birthday, multiple tests, a licence, ongoing fees and purchase of or access to an 1800kg hunk of metal.” +1

    Furthermore, we have on-demand options now so an efficient full coverage network at acceptable frequencies can also be provided.

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