Another Friday, another Rāmere Roundup! Here are a few things that caught our eye this week.

This Week in Greater Auckland

A question for our readers: what’s your most memorable GA post?

At a recent IRL catch-up of the core Greater Auckland crew, we got talking about the size of the GA archive and some of our favourite posts over the years. It was intriguing to hear which stories had made the most powerful impressions.

Our personal faves ranged from classic satire, to super-interesting stats, to songs about street trees, to deep history with cool maps, to posts that quietly pointed out some mundane urban detail in a way that means you can never not notice it now, everywhere you go.

We’re curious: which posts have stuck in your mind, or even changed your mind? What were you inspired to send to friends, family, elected representatives? Any great lines you still quote, years later? Share in the comments, we’re all ears!

Get your steps in

From the Japan Times, of all places, a great read about (the demise of) walking in American cities. Applicable here, too.

The explanation for the decline in walking since the 1960s and Americans’ below-average international showing seems clear: It’s cars. During the second half of the 20th century, almost all new development in the U.S. was oriented around automobiles — and the U.S. became one of the most car-dependent countries on the planet. If you live or work or both in a place built for cars, walking more than short distances tends to be something you have to set out to do intentionally.

A pothole-preventing robot?!

Via reader Stephen, one of those stories that feels like an April Fool, but isn’t.

Free the streets!

A timely article from the NY Times (by Dodai Stewart, with cute Illustrations by Leon Edler) about how congestion-charging helps free up city streets for everyone.

Lively, energetic streets make city living attractive — people to watch, windows to browse, benches to sit on, trees for shade.

But lately, New York City streets are teetering between lively and unlivable. Residents clash over traffic, noise, parking, 5G towers and heaps of trash. Most years, far fewer pedestrians get killed by motorists than in generations past, but last year was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1999.

Still, people who have thought deeply about the state of the city’s streets believe dramatic improvement may be on the way — if New York is willing to seize the moment.

Graphic by Leon Edler showing a busy NYC street
Section of a scrollable graphic by Leon Edler showing a busy NYC street, accompanying NYT article linked above.

What’s your “third place”?

Writing for Vox, Allie Volpe looks at the importance of those “third places” that aren’t work or home – parks, cafes, pubs, libraries, playgrounds, sports grounds and other social watering-holes. They’re vital for everyone’s wellbeing, so how do we ensure they survive and thrive in our current context?

At their very best, third places allow people of differing backgrounds to cross paths — to develop what are known as bridging ties. As opposed to our closest connections, bridging social networks encompass people who have varying identities, social and economic resources, and knowledge.


By nature, third places should be diverse, [sociology professor Katherine] Giuffre says. Everyone has a responsibility to act inclusively so the space is safe and welcome to all. “That can be a lot easier said than done,” she says. “Because the teenagers are loud and the old people don’t want to hear them. But we have to open ourselves up to embracing difference.”

Jarrett Walker on planning PT for “the middle 90%”

This great Streetsblog interview with a leading transit planner discusses the traditional (and mistaken, says Walker) dividing of public transport users into “choice riders” – people who have a car, but choose to take the bus or train – and “captive riders”, who are assumed to have no choice but to use public transport.

The point is that almost everyone is in the middle. Sort of choice and sort of captive. And the people we are most likely to attract onto transit are very definitely in the middle.

In many cases, the focus on the choice rider has led us […] into an obsession with what kind of transit service relatively elite people will respond to. […]

What we really need to do is focus on what I like to call the “middle 90 percent” … who do want something that’s decent, who want something that’s a good use of their time, who will use the service if it’s useful to them.

A zoom with a view

The venerable city of Florence is incentivising its people to cycle to work, with a scheme set to run for a year:

The incentive programme is called Pedala, Firenze ti premia (Pedal, Florence rewards you) and it offers participants the chance to earn up to 30 euros [NZ$53] a month. They will receive 20 cents per kilometre, plus five cents for each kilometre on “generic” cycles as long as they remain within the municipality of Florence.

Jane Jacobs on wheels

A gorgeous read about the wheeled adventures of ur-uber-urbanist Jane Jacobs, who famously saved a whole chunk of walkable lower Manhattan from highway-builder Robert Moses and his Roads of Negative Social value. And of course she was at home on a bicycle!

In “Pedaling Together,” an essay from 1985, when Jane was nearly 70, she spoke of the need for reducing car dependency and for better cycling infrastructure, and moreover used the bicycle as a metaphor and model for community activism. […]

Jacobs concluded by saying that “a city good for cycling is also a city good for walking, strolling, running, playing, window-shopping, and listening for bullfrogs if listening for bullfrogs is your thing.”

Jane Jacobs on a bicycle in the West Village, photo by Bob Gomel.
Jane Jacobs on a bicycle in the West Village, 1963. Photo by Bob Gomel (via Common Edge)

A vision for safety

The BBC talks to Claes Tingvall, the architect of Sweden’s famous (and famously successful) Vision Zero approach to road safety. A timely refresher for our transport agencies.

As Tingvall puts it: “It should be up to the professional community to make sure that that normal people, doing normal mistakes, don’t lead to them killing themselves or someone else.”

Even intentional law-breaking was to be considered when designing the system. The reality is that drivers do speed, and they get distracted by their phones or other passengers in the car. “Don’t pretend that there are laws that you know everyone will follow,” Tingvall says. “That’s very unprofessional. You would never do that in aviation or in other areas where you really care for safety.”

A famous image by Karl Jilg – one of several commissioned by Claes Tingvall for the Swedish Road Administration (STA) to tangibly illustrate the real risks on the roads and encourage discussion of Vision Zero solutions.

As speeds rise on motorways, so do risks on nearby streets

Another one for our transport minister and agencies to consider, as they look at raising speeds and reducing safety mitigations: a new study links higher highway speeds to more crashes in adjacent neighbourhoods:

When states raise speed limits on highways, speed-related crash hot spots spike on nearby neighborhood roads, a new study finds — but local communities aren’t preparing for those “spillover” effects, never mind getting a say in how fast motorists should go on the interstates that rip through their communities.

[Co-author Dr. C.Y. David] Yang hypothesizes that, similarly to the “distraction hangover” that drivers experience even after they stop using a cell phone behind the wheel, motorists don’t immediately register just how quickly they need to slow down after they exit the interstate — especially when local roads themselves are designed like highways where it’s perfectly fine to go fast.

“It takes a moment for them to realize, ‘Oh, I need to decelerate because I’m on a local street that doesn’t that’s not designed to accommodate 65 miles per hour [104kmh], now,'” he adds. “‘I’m in a community where there’s children playing.’”

You can find a link to the original study and a summary of its findings here.

Rezoning the garage

Those lucky enough to have a garage know it can be so much more than just a bedroom for a car. Indeed, given the cost of housing, it’s not unusual to see it used as a bedroom for people, whether unofficially or via a consented conversion.

A piece in the Spinoff looks at some other creative ways New Zealanders use their garages. Workshop! Brewery! Party room! Band practice! Art studio!

Interestingly, the related AA survey doesn’t say how many garages are used to store a car – but does note that 53% of people use their garage for parking their bikes and e-bikes.

Urban gardening on the go

Japanese kei-trucks are famous for what they can efficiently fit in their cargo beds. How about a garden bed? Spoon & Tamago reports on an annual kei-truck gardening contest. (Click through to see the prizewinners here; third place features an impressive bridge!)

Aerial image of several small white kei-trucks, each with a Japanese style garden constructed in their cargo-beds. Via Spoon and Tamago blog.
Entrants in the 2024 Toyama kei-truck garden contest, and their admirers. Image: Spoon and Tamago

Relatable content

Doing the rounds on social media, this great cartoon by Tom Gauld for New Scientist captures a familiar feeling…

Cartoon by Tom Gauld for New Scientist, 2024.

Local urbanist long reads

There’s a proliferation of voices in the local urbanist realm. Here are a few to bookmark – let us know of others!

Mahi toi to enjoy

Lastly, here’s a great list from The Urban List (sponsored by AT) of places to see Māori art bringing life to infrastructure around the central city. The article includes a link to other public art around the region.

Pockets of mahi toi (Māori art) are woven through the centre city. What starts as a functional project—say revamping infrastructure—becomes a powerful art project, where local Māori artists hailing from our 19 iwi add their touch to these spaces.

A pou on Tāmaki Drive, one of six by artist Graham Tipene, with a viewing portal to see Rangitoto. Image via Auckland Transport.
A pou on Tāmaki Drive (one of six by artist Graham Tipene) with a viewing portal through which you can see Rangitoto. Image by Auckland Transport via The Urban List.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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  1. This, from Patrick, on consultation:

    “Seriously; we don’t consult on whether to separate sewerage from drinking water, because obviously lives must be protected, so why on earth do we consult on whether or not to kill people with traffic?”

  2. “In many cases, the focus on the choice rider has led us”


    The focus is very much on captive riders in the Anglosphere. Choice riders are supposed to take the car and hence public transit will always be set up to be worse than with a car, even if there are traffic jams everywhere.

  3. The post which talked about cut and covering spaghetti junction. So out of left field and so ambitious, yet also practically feasible in terms of cost. I hope to see it happen one day

  4. Mahi Toi: Maurice “Bah Humbug” Williamson doesn’t get that public art encourages more use of public space. More than litter bins do. If you bought it with you (inside your bag or your dog), you can take it home with you. So long as litter bins are provided where collection can be economical rather than everywhere, don’t spend ratepayers money collecting what we don’t need to. Council may not have made the right choice everywhere removing bins, but why is Maurice advocating for free litter collection? Maybe coin-operated litter bins….

    Public art is a true public good, that did wonders for Christchurch immediately after the earthquake – true landmark, place-making, way-finding statements bringing some joy to life.

    1. Bins and public art both have value. There is joy from public art…and joy from clean streets. It shoudn’t be either/or.

      Some Singapore-style anti-littering enforcement wouldn’t go amiss though…

    2. If rusty plasma cut metal on a piece of power pole passes for art these days perhaps the council could commission someone in China to create a series of plasma cut trash bins with locally supplied motifs to be installed instead.

      The result could be more visually pleasing, functional and cheaper.

    1. Same.

      If anyone has feedback about my Light Metro ideas I’d be happy to answer here or on social media. I think my inner city route for the Western link is a bit different from previous ideas.

      A mix of both Light Rail and Light Metro will play to the strengths rather than trying to just one of them everywhere.

      1. I love it. Especially Albany-Airport line that seems like a no brainer really. Sadly I don’t see how it could happen. Government and City Council would rather die than make any meaningful improvements to the network. And with such a big and costly project you can be sure that even if they would both agree on that then any change of council or government would immediately scrap it just because it was approved by their opponents. NZ politicking would destroy any meaningful plans anyway.

  5. The articles which setout the full history of a topic or development in one place are brilliant. The complete history of light rail and second harbour crossing etc. GA is way better than wikipedia in describing how we got to where we are now.

  6. If you want more ‘third spaces’ join (or start) a club, visit a local pub or dine at a restaurant. They’re all already there. Their numbers will increase if the demand is there. If you want this to happen then get cracking and stop spending your time moaning online.

    Don’t wait for somebody to do it for you.

  7. Thank you for the weekly roundup. It is always really informative and interesting.

    I’d like to also acknowledge that it is Road Safety Week.
    We have a road safety crisis in the NZ. The 4th worst DSI per population in the world. Half of DSI are people outside of vehicles. Two thirds of DSI are preventable if only the motivation existed to properly implement Vision Zero.

    There can’t be anyone in NZ who isn’t impacted in some way by road trauma or road violence. And yet a heartless death cult seems to have gripped the country demanding the roll back of things we know work reduce DSI- safer speeds, raised pedestrian crossings, and separated cycling infrastructure.

    The GA posts I have appreciated most of over years have clearly outlined the evidence for Vision Zero and a safe systems approach by our transport agencies and decision makers.

    1. New Zealand has the 7th worst traffic related death rate per billion vehicle-kilometers according to Wikipedia.

      New Zealand is 5th out of the countries participating in the International Road Traffic and Accident Database. In terms of per capita population in the IRTAS, New Zealand is 7th worst.

      Out of just OECD countries, in 2022 New Zealand had the 2nd worst traffic death rate behind Chile, and have been consistently in the top 10 of that list since 2014.

      Note that DSI also stands for deaths and (non-fatal) *serious injuries*. By OECD data New Zealand was 16th in terms of net number of road injuries in 2022, and calculating death rate per capita New Zealand was 14th worst out of the OECD in 2022 – above the median.

      Contesting Pippa’s claims about New Zealand’s ranking is one thing, but doing so in bad faith to defend car dependency is another.

      1. Who cares? We know it’s just bad for a developed country, your being very pedantic.
        You seem very close to breaking one of the user guidelines in this blog
        “Grounds for moderation or suspension may include:
        Excessive arguing in a thread or threads, or repeated provocative contrariness or pedantry (i.e. trolling).”

      2. also “We encourage people to use their real names, especially those wishing to contribute frequently. We currently allow anonymity, but reserve the right to withdraw this feature.”

    2. A bit more context. I noted down ” 4th worst DSI per population” from a presentation at the Yellow Ribbon Road Safety Alliance Hui last week. To clarify it is the 4th highest road deaths per 100,000 population in high- income countries according to the International Transport Forum road safety annual report 2023.

      I don’t think that changes the point that there is a road safety crisis.

  8. Listening to the AT advertisement on bfm, it seems patronisingly stupid.

    Roads or cycleways? Jet packs or electric ferries?

    We need Public Transport and Walkable Pathways, bikeable, skateable…but less driveable!!!

  9. I am disappointed. Friday roundup used to deal with Auckland transport issues.

    Not halleluja green ideas from world media. Swedens vision zero isnt what I come here to read about, it is nice and all (despite most deaths not occurring due to a heavy investments into motorways) I come here to read something about Auckland, policitics, zebras or ideas for how to make our transport better.

    If someone look for a green party articles from world media this is fantastic, but I will never vote green, nor is this what this site was about originally. This site was about better transport solutions for Auckland, sadly that focus seems to be completely lost these days.

    1. Would you like to write an article? There’s always space for new contributions to Greater Auckland.

      Be the change you want to see.

    2. I always find the international articles quite interesting, as they usually reflect upon things relevant to Auckland.

      It is not GA’s fault that the crossover of greenies and urbanists is large.

  10. Are you not going to talk about the RER E west extension in Paris? This is the closest thing to the City Rail link (outside of the other RER lines and the Liz line in London).

    Anyway, stunning stations, great integration with the rest of the network, but still plenty of work to do on the CBTC and on getting more trains delivered to have a proper service in the downtown section of the line. So there might be some lessons for Auckland here and to make sure they are prepared.

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