Mōrena and welcome back to another Friday. We hope it’s going slightly better for you than for a certain billionaire whose rocket just experienced a “rapid unscheduled disassembly”. Related: where will we find the top urbanist news tidbits and inspiring images to bring you every week, if the same thing happens to a certain social media app?

Today’s header image is borrowed from a tweet by Councillor Richard Hills, who has the gift of always managing to see the sunny side of this city and its future.

The week in Greater Auckland

Aiming to lift the mood this week, we featured:

It’s not the cycleways that are gold-plated

A good look from Radio NZ’s The Detail on how cycleways often get unfairly attacked for being “gold-plated”, when in fact the bulk of the expense is on necessary fixes to all the unseen things, and then wrapping the whole project in features that give everyone what they want:

“Why wouldn’t you make one of the most famous streets in Auckland actually look better and attract more people?

“A lot of the money in these schemes goes towards the underground works the minute that we put a spade in the ground. Right beneath your feet we’ve got electricity cables, we’ve got fibre optic cables, we’ve got all the communications, we’ve got the drainage, which might, in this case, date back to the 1920s.

“A lot of things go on under the ground that you never see at the end of it. The only manifestation of that you see is we upgraded the street lighting to get it up to modern standards.”

The costs of road-widening

A recent update on the Eastern Busway contains a heart-warming story that inadvertently highlights the cost (and waste) of widening roads, especially when reallocating space is always the more affordable option.

When houses are removed to make way for major infrastructure projects, their parts are usually sent to landfill. Carpet, floorboards, corrugated iron, and plants all go to the same place.

With big sustainability goals, the Eastern Busway project team has been working hard to find new homes and purposes for these materials and provide local community members with requested items where possible.

Fai and Ta’i (pictured below) were delighted to take home cuttings from a hibiscus tree with unusually dark flowers. Both from Samoa, they particularly appreciate the hibiscus flower and were very excited to propagate the plant and give it a second life.

Micromobility comes in many shapes and sizes

One of the great things about cycleways is they have significant health benefits due to people being more active. But bikes aren’t the only thing that can help, as this article from Christchurch City Council highlights.

18 months ago, Karen Brill bought a walking bike that has let her get her life back.

Ms Brill was struggling with her weight, had damaged lungs, difficulty breathing and severe arthritis.

“In 2020, I went to Church and couldn’t even walk five metres without needing to take a rest. I disliked not being able to walk and live a normal life, and finally decided that I’d had enough,” says Ms Brill.

She settled on a large walking frame, hoping it would extend her mobility. Despite taking this step, Ms Brill came to another hurdle. “The walker was so wide I couldn’t even get through doorframes with it! I put up with it for a few months, but in early 2021 I thought it was ridiculous. So, I went online and stumbled across the Alinker walking bike.”

The Alinker is a walking bike without pedals, designed to let people live how they want regardless of mobility challenges. Dutch Canadian inventor Barbara Alink wanted to give people living with disabilities a new mobility device.

Ms Brill says that before the Alinker, any sort of exercise was hard. “I was 150kg and I couldn’t even get to the letterbox. My neighbour brought in my mail and took out my bins for me, and friends picked me up to take me to Church.” The new mobility invention allowed Ms Brill out of her home, and she was able to once again complete daily errands by herself.

The walking bike helped Ms Brill lose enough weight to receive gastric bypass surgery and improve her quality of life, and be under the 100kg threshold to see a surgeon regarding knee surgery.

However, the benefits don’t stop at an increased health aspect. “It came down to the social aspect of it as well. People were talking to me in the street and my confidence was improving. I’d even leave myself extra time when I went out, so that I could stop and chat to anyone who had questions.

“Now, I’m walking about 6km a day. While I still cannot bend my knee, my lungs are healthy, my muscles are growing and I’m able to do things I haven’t done in years,” says Ms Brill.

Get paid to ride your bike to work

With this one neat trick: move to Belgium. Belgians will now get paid to cycle to work, at .27 Euros per km, maxing out at 2343 Euros per year. As the article notes, currently 11% of Belgians bike to work, while over half of those who live within 5km of their workplace still use a car. So a financial sweetener might help a few more switch from four wheels to two.

Belgium is small, and that maximum figure works out at just over $4,000 per year. So it won’t be easy to earn the whole whack, as that would require averaging about 17km per commute (35km per day) five days a week. Still, at even half that, you could shout yourself or a family member a new high-quality e-bike every few years.

Hope you’re reading this, Minister Wood!

Related, this observation from a central city dweller about the ease of getting around by bike:

Big Bike Tunnel

Continuing the bike theme today, Bergen in Norway has just opened what they say is the world’s longest pedestrian and bike tunnel:

A three-kilometer-long (1.8-mile) cycling and pedestrian tunnel has been blasted through the base of Løvstakken mountain and its makers say it’s the longest purpose-built tunnel of its kind.


If you’re wondering how cyclists and pedestrians can use the same space, there are two lanes in the tunnel: a 3.5-meter wide bike lane and a 2.5-meter-wide lane for walkers and runners. “We have laid down a blue rubber flooring throughout the tunnel, similar to an athletic track, explains Einarsen Heggernes. “This makes it more pleasant to use than if one would just walk on asphalt.”

The new tunnel came about as a byproduct of Bergen’s second Bybanen tram line, which opened in November 2022. The tram line through the mountain required a parallel evacuation tunnel, so the developers decided to make the new tunnel multipurpose.

It doesn’t need to set any records but we’d still love to see the Albert Park tunnels reopened as a pedestrian and bike tunnel to improve connections between the city and Parnell.

Measuring the benefits of rail projects in Europe…

A really cool look at how various rail projects in Europe stack up over a range of metrics:

… while railing about opportunities going to waste in Aotearoa

By way of contrast to the above, this is an excellent and trenchant look at the ongoing costs to Aotearoa of short-sighted planning around intercity rail, with a particular focus on the lower North Island.

Even when public transport solutions are available with high benefits, we tend to double down on big roads which make existing issues worse. This makes it nearly impossible for Aotearoa to achieve a zero-carbon future with genuine, inclusive transport choice.

The first part of the tragedy is growth without transport choice. The second part is that even when good transport choices with high benefits are on the table, the choice is to double-down on roading investment and spend the bare minimum on public transport.

[For example] the once daily Capital Connection commuter train from Palmerston North to Wellington is on life support and being patched up with refurbished rolling stock from the 1970s to keep it limping along for a few more years. The Wairarapa Line trains are out of capacity and also in urgent need of an upgrade.

The contrast could not be starker along State Highway 1. The gold-plated expressway, 100% funded by central government, at times parallels a single-track rail corridor with a solitary weekday peak-direction commuter train and the three times a week tourist-oriented Northern Explorer service.

Good reading and listening

We like the look of this book on (re)wilding the city. Check out a review here.

Need some city-focused podcasts to listen to? Here are 10 suggestions from Bloomberg Cities:

  • CitiesSpeak with Clarence Anthony
  • City Climate Corner
  • Data Points
  • How to Really Run a City
  • Innovation Matters
  • Nudges for Social Good
  • Our Mayors Breaking it Down
  • Reimagining Government
  • The Urbanist
  • The Data-Smart City Pod

Small towns, big impacts

A Streets for People project in Richmond is looking at safe connections threading together parks, schools, and shops in Māpua village.

Moving down the island: South Canterbury’s only static speed camera just outside of Temuka is working hard, bringing in a million bucks a year from capturing speed violations. Bravo, little soldier!

Dunedin’s main street project has come together nicely, well done to those who carried the vision to fruition.

And in the far south, Invercargill is also looking good after a bit of a downtown makeover:

Tweets and threads of the week

We love a good before/ after, and the beauty of this one is that it’s a same/ same, real-time A/B testing of the kind of spaces people prefer.

Gorgeous, gorgeous social housing.

Proximity trumps mobility: this excellent article by Doug Gordon of The War on Cars podcast looks at how car culture is making us time-poor, and what the answer is. Huddle up! No really, that’s kind of the answer.

A long but great thread about how many European cities have become so people-friendly: by playing with ideas and seeing what works, basically:

Wellington bike counts are really looking up. Two questions: when will Auckland start sharing this kind of easily-digested data? And when will Auckland continue building the promised network to deliver these results?


The kids are all right, Wellington edition:

“Build it and they will come” in action. You did good, Big Apple.

That’s it for this week; have a great weekend. And as always, feel free to share your fave links and stories from the week in the comments. Ka kite.

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  1. Wow Gary langsford can’t actually be serious? The most entitled, boomer thing I have ever read – we are seriously buggered with views like that (which i am sure are widespread)

    1. Wow, this is really stupid. But how many people actually realise that they are not just stuck in traffic, they are traffic?

  2. “I’d even leave myself extra time when I went out, so that I could stop and chat to anyone who had questions.” (Karen Brill)

    This bought me so much joy. Imagine if this was a key measure and performance indicator / principle for AT projects…

    1. Great item, just shows that real empowerment doesn’t always come from a car.

      This is going to be ever more important, especially if the population trend continues towards greater average age.

      Start building now for your golden years…

  3. I wonder if one of the other advantages that European cities have in regard to breaking free of car dependency is that a lot more of them have streets that were laid out hundreds of years before cars were invented.

    1. Not really, when you see the pictures of Amsterdam in the 1970’s, choked with cars. It’s simply political will and that’s it.

      On a side not, every time I’ve been on K Road recently its felt great, the GNR end has come to life a lot more and it feels like it’s thriving every time I’m there. I moved here in 2010 and was told it was the place to be, but the reality was that it was just a bit run down and lame..it’s definitely a much cooler place to visit now, if I was a tourist I’d find it pretty interesting. They just need to activate all the little side streets now and make it an area rather than a road.

    2. I suspect it is because they are relatively high density. It is easier to reallocate space when lots of people can see alternative uses for it and are used to managing without a car.

    3. Do you think an easy test for your hypothesis could be rolling out the simple improvements (parking removal, road reallocation, bike lanes, pedestrianisation etc) everywhere in Auckland where the streets were also laid out before the car was invented? AT could learn a lot from doing so.

      However, there’s a better path which includes the whole city. We don’t need to treat this as if Auckland is a new experiment. It’s all been done before. AT’s experts will already know many European cities wrecked a fair bit of their pre-car environment to accommodate the car, just like Auckland did, before they started to take stock of the stupidity of the action. Auckland’s point of difference is simply that we kept on /are still continuing with the stupidity.

    4. I think the main thing is the street grids that are actually suitable for walking and for mixed use.

      Even our tramway era suburbs are unsuitable for high density, due to the extreme size of the city blocks. Ponsonby has some blocks of more than 500m long. This greatly limits how much of the surrounding street grid you can reach on foot within a few minutes.

  4. Queen street is so quiet now! Yesterday I walked from Grafton then down Queen street for the first time in a while. It was amazing how quiet the street is now! People everywhere, a couple of buses and parked service vehicles. Despite the background construction noise, Queen street is now a nice place to just chill out.

  5. Thanks for the weekly update. Perhaps readers would be interested in participating in a Ridesharing Institute Conversation, on 5 May, about the state of car and van pooling in Germany and Norway. This is part of a series to gather the state of pooling around the world. We had speakers from UK and France last session (recording in the link). https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ridesharing-institute-conversation-may-23-germany-norway-pooling-update-tickets-588528944917.

  6. And another item that is happening at the end of the line at Pukekohe is the dismantling and removal of the Old Station Building . I filmed this on Wednesday when they started to prep the the building for removal ;-

  7. “while railing about opportunities going to waste in Aotearoa”, that is exactly spot on! For example the North Shore rail line pillaring with the Northern Busway, would be ideologically make no sense to do and wasted opportunity to think about it! A rail line running through the North Shore needs to be thought through carefully and explore other options on how the routing should look like, Well thankfully, here we are! About to tell you what the North Shore needs as of right now!

    North Shore should have two seperate routes, one for bus and rail but running far as each other! Bay Area of the North Shore is soo under represented by Auckland Transport currently, that it neglects residents living there! It use to have direct running bus and even express bus running direct to the CBD, now we don’t. The main reason why a lot of residents living in the Bay Area of the North Shore is choosing car over bus, cause lack of direct public transport option which gets residents to places quicker!

    It is very much needed instead of ‘second feeder mode’ of transport running along side the current busway which would create a bottleneck more plaguing issues in future, its needs thought through right, having a A rail line running through Bay Area of the North Shore would be more beneficial economically and community stand-point. Commuting with Public Transport is no fun, Auckland Transport do nothing to ease the pain! From pricing, commute times and cancellations, a rail line would solve these issues. Pricing is probably the biggest contributing factor to why commuters choose to stick with cars over public transport, due to the high cost of paying public transport fares vs fuelling at the pump with private vehicle. On top of it, if you were to transfer for example a resident from Long Bay was heading to the CBD by bus, they’d need to transfer at either Albany or Constellation, which adds extra cost cause you tag on and tag off. The fares don’t come cheap!

    he bay areas of the North Shore had direct public transport to the city such as 839, 858, 875 and 879 every day of the week, during peak day and hours you had the ‘express buses’ running through the suburbs and running on the Northern Busway, without the need of transferring, now you have indirect buses during peak hours take you longer to get into the city or into Takapuna. Waiting at stations increases your travel time whereas direct route would bring relief to those stuck in the bay areas who want direct way of getting into the city by Public Transport! There are a lot of benefits in bringing in a rail line into the Bay Area of the North Shore. It would indefinitely solve the Everyone on the North Shore’s Bay Area always having to end up taking a second bus to the city while people who live closer to the Northern Busway or places like Takapuna, Birkenhead, Beach Haven, Hillcrest and Glenfield have a ‘direct’ bus route to the city while us people along the bays don’t and find it unappealing to take the bus due to the long duration journey, which affects ability to have balanced life. Also sometimes not able to board for 30 mins at the stations like Constellation or Albany Station which can disrupt your work and outside of work life.

    If you had rail running though the existing busway like shown on options, would require more frequent buses which is not possible due to the size of stations. Station like Constellation wouldn’t be able to cater more buses due to the land mass, having to do extensive excavation. That is why, a line going the Bay’s of the North Shore should be constructed instead of a line pillared with each other. Not only that, it would also solve the ferry development issues, likes of Browns Bay, with rail, wouldn’t need a ferry, be no longer needed in North Shore plans, in-which ferry has been long outstanding issue for long time now and doesn’t seem like the development of ferry terminals along the bays is going to happen, ever! A rail line running through the townships would be solutions to the ferry problem, you wouldn’t need to build ferry terminal no longer!

    The listed reason above this writing shows why need desperately need immediate changes sooner rather than later! That is why we need to have a line running through the Bay Area of the North Shore and call it the ‘Bay line’ and Minister of Transport should pick Option 3 ,along with it, have stage one run towards Milford. The line would be set in stages, stage one, stage two, stage three and finally stage four.

    What the North Shore rail line should look like:


      1. A rail line would good idea along the Bays of the North Shore instead of the Northern Busway There’s a pretty good proposition for investing a line down that part of the North Shore if you forgotten to check already. The line I’ve suggested, would be over land, not under elevation or on 0 ft.

        1. I think Jezza means that successful stations have a good walk-up catchment of users in all directions surrounding it. Your stations have practically no users to the east.

          You could move the stations further west to fix this, though then it starts to get within a stones-throw of the Busway and bus priority and transfers is cheaper for a similar outcome (time to CBD)

    1. I think you’re overstating how important transport to the city is, even among commuters, commuters to the city don’t seem to be a majority, with many people going to Takapuna and Albany.

      And from what I remember, while these buses did run straight to the city, they did not run with enough frequency to be useful. When I took the bus from Milford to the city, I would walk to Smales Farm instead of waiting for one of those buses.


      1. “I think you’re overstating how important transport to the city is, even among commuters, commuters to the city don’t seem to be a majority, with many people going to Takapuna and Albany.”

        You got the 83 bus which runs every 15 min from Takapuna to Albany

        “And from what I remember, while these buses did run straight to the city, they did not run with enough frequency to be useful. When I took the bus from Milford to the city, I would walk to Smales Farm instead of waiting for one of those buses.”

        That’s the past, looks towards currently now! You have the 856 which goes along the bay areas but runs every 30 mins, still will be needed, if a rail line along the Bays of the North Shore was to go-ahead for people needing service to Hospital and Smales Farm.

        To your mischievous claims, nice try!

        1. All you need is a place to get a snack , drink and have toilet after the airline food all the rest seem to be a waste of time unless the train is delayed ffor a lengthy period .

  8. Need a stress-relieving game that allows you to unleash your frustrations in a fun way? Look no further than Kick the Buddy, the perfect game to vent your anger and keep you entertained for hours on end.

  9. “The new tunnel came about as a byproduct of Bergen’s second Bybanen tram line, which opened in November 2022. The tram line through the mountain required a parallel evacuation tunnel, so the developers decided to make the new tunnel multipurpose.”

    Perhaps this could be considered for the Lyttleton Road Tunnel in Christchurch. I presume there is a maintenance tunnel which could be widened for cyclists, runners and walkers.

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