Weekly roundup’s coming to you a day early this week, so we can all have Easter Friday off to focus our energy entirely on chocolate and hot cross buns.
The week in Greater Auckland
Monday’s post, suggesting that ebikes get added to the clean car rebate scheme, got a few of you hopeful due to a slightly deceptive title (sorry!)
On Tuesday, Jolisa posed a few ‘wtf??’s about climate storytelling in the media and a truly disturbing car ad.
Yesterday, Matt echoed the collective eye roll of many in attempting to point out to Chris Luxon that yes, public transport is actually a public good.
Trains offline in Tāmaki this weekend
PSA for those hanging about in Auckland this weekend: Kiwirail has put out a notice warning that trains will not be running on any line for the whole weekend. Buses will replace trains for the weekend, and services will resume on Tuesday.
Getting our heads around the IPCC report
Simon Wilson dove into the latest installment of the sixth IPCC report, just released last week, and pulled out 7 main takewaways. It’s a great, broad-but-pointed summary of the key messages and how they relate to us here in Aotearoa.
Wilson starts with the urgency that can be seen throughout the report, and that takes him straight to the big, hairy transport questions in Auckland:
When the Government’s scheme for tunnelled light rail from the city centre to Māngere (CC2M) was announced, I wrote that it wasn’t the best choice but it was good and now the decision was made, let’s get on with it. That idea is dead now.
And as the briefing paper to Cabinet reveals, the tunnels will increase carbon emissions by 466,400 tonnes between now and 2030, because of all the concrete that must be poured. The net emissions benefit of taking cars off the road won’t even kick in until after 2050. It’s a mass transit programme that will not be finished this decade and will suck up almost all the money that could be spent on other, faster projects.
Bluntly: It’s too late to dig those tunnels. We’ve procrastinated for decades and now we need more urgent solutions.
It’s the same with all long-term trajectories for change. Building construction, for example, is moving to more eco-friendly materials and methods, but far too slowly.
Auckland Transport’s plan to create priority bus and cycle lanes by removing some car parks from the main roads is exactly what we need, but it’s a 10-year plan. It should be done inside two years.
He finishes on transport too – specifically, the very this-minute issue of parking – and one of my favourite change analogies:
The starting point is not whether to save car parks, it’s the need to cut emissions. How are we going to do it?Perhaps by applying the Plastic Bags Rule for Change. We knew they were bad, but we didn’t stop using them and retailers didn’t stop handing them out. So the Government banned them. And suddenly things were just fine.
Let’s get a 1pm emissions update
Speaking of urgency, we’re in support of the proposal to make our emissions progress a regular 1pm update, as suggested by octogenarian climate activist Bernard Schofield on The Spinoff.
When activist Bernard Schofield answers the phone, he says he is doing only “as good as one can be” given the latest findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In a report issued last week, the IPCC found that emissions need to peak by 2025, ie within the next three years, to give us a 50:50 chance of keeping heating to 1.5℃ and therefore reducing the damage caused by catastrophic floods, droughts, heatwaves and mass extinctions.
Auckland cyclists take direct action
And in an equally urgent story, after a horrific month for people on bikes in Aotearoa, a group of Aucklanders staged a ‘die-in’ at Auckland Transport over the weekend to protest the unsafe and inhospitable conditions for bikes on our roads.
In 2020, 57 per cent of those killed on Auckland roads were not in a car. Cyclists are 14 times more likely to die than motorists.
[protest organiser Philip] Governale said we need to start valuing life over convenience, and does not believe organisations such as Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport have been doing so.
Kaitaia community takes charge of dangerous speeds
Kaitaia’s got its own group of guerilla safety activists – mostly local business owners whose premises are on a stretch of road that’s notorious for high speeds. The town has spread along State Highway 1, with more businesses operating in places where their driveways meet 70km/h or even 100km/h speed limit areas.
Kaitaia Tractors owner Ralph Garvin said customers leaving his business were forced to pull out into 100km/h traffic.A few months ago, a ute turning into his yard was hit from behind by a vehicle travelling south at high speed.”This is now a built-up area but it’s still being treated like an open highway. Speed limits are being changed everywhere else but this dangerous piece of road is being ignored.”
Fed up with the dangerous speeds, the locals had signs for slower speeds professionally made and installed them over the existing signs. The unofficial signs were soon removed, but Waka Kotahi has agreed to meet with the group to discuss lowering the speed limit.
While in Nelson, it took 6 years to make one street safe
One determined woman in Nelson spent years painstakingly recording evidence of dangerous driving in her street and campaigning for speed-reduction measures. Finally, after a particularly dramatic crash, speed bumps were installed – and the dangerous driving disappeared.
Over six years, she reported every bad driver, took hundreds of photos, documented crashes and recorded speeding drivers with a radar gun. With her daughter’s help, she spent three mornings monitoring road traffic, presenting her findings to the council with a group of children.
Andrea Warn is an inspirational campaigner for safe streets – having slowed her own neighbourhood hotspot, she’s now turning her attention to the places that hinder kids’ safe school journeys.
But Warn isn’t done. She’s on a mission to improve conditions for all the children who have to “navigate 1950s infrastructure” on their walk or cycle to school.
A Vision Zero crisis in the USA
Here’s your long read for the weekend, on Bloomberg: an article which asks why road fatalities are going up in the US, despite Vision Zero having been adopted in many cities during the 2010s.
Vision Zero’s track record in the U.S. contrasts sharply with Europe, where road deaths have been drifting downward for years. In 2019, Helsinki had exactly three traffic fatalities — and none was a pedestrian or cyclist. For comparison, the capital of Finland has roughly as many residents as Las Vegas, a Vision Zero city where 304 people died on the road that same year.
While the United States has traditionally emphasized an individual’s responsibility to travel safely (for example, federally funded road education campaigns like Click It or Ticket), Vision Zero places responsibility for crash reduction squarely on society writ large.
There’s an excellent explanation of what Vision Zero actually means, its history, how it spread around the world, and how it’s led to dramatic reductions in road fatalities in some – but not all – of the places where it has been implemented. So why isn’t Vision Zero working in the USA? It sounds like the obstacles to change are barriers we’d recognise, including opposition from communities, reluctance of middle-management level technocrats, and change-shy leaders.
Many of the core tactics of Vision Zero — installing traffic cameras, creating separated bike lanes, or imposing road diets, for instance — either force drivers to slow down or create safe space for vulnerable road users who have historically been overlooked. But such infrastructural shifts almost always face fierce opposition.
“You need to make radical choices in terms of reallocation of space,” said Vancluysen. “Otherwise the decline in deaths simply is not going to happen.”
We end with a small dose of hope, and a policy we’d love to see in action:
Cambridge [Massachusetts] adopted a City Safety Ordinance stipulating that any road being repaved that is part of the city’s master bike plan must be rebuilt with a protected lane. The rule effectively preempts a debate over whether a protected bike lane will be built; the only questions up for discussion relate to its design.
Does light rail need to cost so much?
BusinessDesk tackled the cost of light rail this week, asking why the projections for Auckland’s planned project are so high when in other countries the same sum would by up to 8 times as much track. The article quotes from research done recently by The Infrastructure Comission into the high prices of NZ infrastructure projects.
Fly through the Mt Eden CRL construction site
It’s easy to get across in Vancouver
Adding cycle lanes had 0 impact on traffic.
Adding cycle lanes had 0 impact on traffic.
Adding cycle lanes had 0 impact on traffic.
Burrard bridge, Vancouver.
Adding cycle lanes had 0 impact on traffic. In 2017, 8 years after opening the lanes, 9 million trips had been taken, justifying further reallocation of road space.
— callum (@caldvs) April 10, 2022
Transforming streets into people spaces
In Sydney –
Streets are coming alive in Sydney it seems – they keep popping up in our news feeds! Castlereagh St in downtown Sydney is about to see a significant reallocation of space from cars to provide a bike lane and extended footpath.
“Improving this historic street will benefit workers, residents, visitors and businesses looking to bounce back from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lord mayor said.
In NYC –
New York’s City Council has put together a massively ambitious, $3.1billion plan for streetspace reallocation. The plan would build 500 miles of protected bike lanes, at 100 miles of bus lanes a year for 5 years, and fill the city with new parks and plazas to equal the size of Central Park.
That kind of budget is enough to make a London- or Paris-level dent in congestion, and is exactly what those taking our current climate emergency seriously have already called for.
It’s not certain that the City Council will get all the money they’ve asked for, but putting this bold vision forward is changing the conversation:
What this plan does, however, is provide a vision for how the city might work if better streets were a fiscal priority. Not only is increased transportation access the best way to boost economic opportunity, it will also allow the city to reorganize and streamline routes to benefit the neighborhoods that have historically received the least investment,
And an astonishing before-after in London
Which street in your area would you want to see transformed into a beautiful linear park?
Amazing transformation. Until recently Alfred Place, just off Tottenham Court Road, was a two-way street and parking lot and now it’s a park @LDADesign @CamdenCouncil #westendproject @DSDHA pic.twitter.com/UtN80nVd5T
— Peter Murray OBE (@PGSMurray) April 8, 2022
Want to win your local body election? Support cycling projects.
Despite Christopher Luxon’s comments this week, there are actually good reasons for people on the right of politics to support cycling infrastructure, and this blog breaks those down. Some of the reasons might seem a bit cynical (e.g. ‘5. Cycling makes for great news stories and tweets‘), but you can’t deny the realism.
Analysis after the May 2021 elections concludes that candidates in London wards that supported cycling infrastructure saw an increase in support – whereas candidates that opposed the right for resident’s to cycle safely tended to fare more badly.
We must not fall into the trap of listening to the loudest voices in our party – or myths perpetuated by angry groups on Twitter – as reasons for scrapping or never implementing schemes that are popular with the majority of voters.
Long weekend project inspiration
Bridge over the rainbow (gully)
That headline wrote itself – or perhaps it over-wrote itself. Gareth Morgan (yes, him) found himself with an old steel bridge structure on his hands, had it painted rainbow, and installed it on a ridge overlooking Transmission Gully.
“I put it up on the hill, where you wouldn’t expect a bridge at all. I thought, put a bridge there – that will make them look.”
One railway that might be moving this weekend
Well, it won’t get you to Britomart, but if you’re in Dunedin and come across Jarrod Hodson you might be able to ride a train this weekend. Hodson built the narrow-gauge railway, complete with station, in his backyard.
And the kid who built his own Tesla
What’s Cruz Graham going to be building when he’s Jarrod Hodson’s (or Gareth Morgan’s) age? Cruz fashioned a wooden frame to an electric mobility scooter and christened it a ‘Tesla’ – which got him a response from Tesla NZ.
Good to see the youth of today following in the footsteps of far-sighted Kiwi inventors of yesteryear, like the chap from Timaru who built this unusual proto-electric car in the 1970s.
Enjoy the weekend, hope you get to ride the hobby train of your dreams, and hei te rātū – see you on Tuesday.