Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Staying Alive

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  • Chris Waugh,

    Seems at least partly relevant to the discussion. But my first reaction was:

    So bloody invest a lot more in cycling and public transport!

    Then I thought, well, a few cities around the world have experimented with congestion charges, so why not Auckland? And I do believe similar ideas have been suggested for Auckland, but of course Len Brown seems to be having some trouble persuading central government to listen.

    Traffic restrictions too, although I don't think that would be popular. Here in Beijing all private cars are banned from the roads one day a week based on the last digit of their licence plate. Weekends and public holidays are open slather. I'm a 7, so I'm currently banned on Thursdays. In early April that will rotate to Fridays, then three months after that I'll be back to being banned on Mondays. Also, most heavy trucks are banned from within the 5th Ring Road from 5am to midnight. Trust me, I regularly have to mix it with China's trucking industry, and that makes driving a hell of a lot easier and pleasanter. I wonder how much Auckland's traffic would improve if long distance trucks were only allowed into the city at hours when they weren't competing with commuters for road space? Maybe set up big truck stops at say, Papakura and, I dunno, Orewa? Warkworth? and keep the trucks their during the day to free up road space for Aucklanders to go about their daily business?

    I wonder how popular restrictions on car purchases would be. Probably not much. In Beijing we have a periodic (every three months, I believe, but we got our car just before that policy was announced) lottery for the right to buy a car, with one third of those entering the lottery winning. I believe Singapore has even tougher restrictions.

    Beijing also staggers start/stop work times at work units controlled by the city government to spread the rush hour loads out. I wonder if Auckland could do that with it's central and local government departments - have half work 8 to 4, half work 9 to 5, swap over every few months, encourage private enterprise to take similarly flexible approaches to work hours.

    And sorry Auckland, but you're just going to have to adapt to a lot more high density housing. Gazillions of people round the world cope perfectly well with raising families in apartment blocks, no reason why Kiwis can't, too. (full hypocrsiy disclosure: Part of the appeal of moving back to NZ is the comparative ease of getting a proper house with a yard.)

    I dunno, just some ideas....

    And it occurs to me I may be overreacting, but I didn't see any acknowledgement in that article of the need to change (although I may have overlooked it in my haste). After all, oil prices are only going up in the medium to long term. The government and other conservative types need to drop the obssession with already failed models like car-based sprawl.

    Perhaps while we're sending Steven Joyce up here to Beijing, we could send the actual transport minister around the proper big cities of Europe and Asia with decent cycling and public transport?

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2065 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • stever@cs.waikato.ac.nz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ditto.

    Well, usually.

    But more sensitive detectors would be good!

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2006 • 55 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    the metal sensors are. If you align your tyres along one of those lines

    Unless you have a carbon fibre and plastic bike

    But also lean over and push the pedestrian crossing button that way you stop the cars going across in front of you.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3343 posts Report Reply

  • Fooman,

    Lower Hutt • Since Dec 2009 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Seems at least partly relevant to the discussion

    That's the Herald's version of the Transport Blog article I linked earlier. If we spend most govt funding on building more highways, there isn't enough money left for building more and better public transport. This is not accidental.

    Auckland was expected to account for 60 per cent of the country's population growth to 2030, and freight growth would be concentrated in Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.

    So let's prioritise a highway to Northland..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16614 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    And sorry Auckland, but you're just going to have to adapt to a lot more high density housing.

    Land use planning is tightly tied to transport, hence several govt departments advising during the Supercity transition against splitting transport into a separate organisation - which this govt is making even less well integrated and more answerable to central priorities.

    Sadly those are the glorious 1950s with endless quarter acre sections sprawling over productive land and serviced by gleaming ribbons of asphalt/oil with happy streamlined automobiles.
    Yesterday's men, unopposed.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16614 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    The Standard notes another graph about peak oil implications from the Ministerial briefing document.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16614 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But also lean over and push the pedestrian crossing button that way you stop the cars going across in front of you.

    As someone who doesn't cycle much but walks a lot, I was also about to ask about that before I noticed this. Would there be a strategically practical way of positioning more manual-triggering buttons so they were easier for cyclists to use? I guess it only really has a chance of working near the edge of the road, though.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 385 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    And sorry Auckland, but you’re just going to have to adapt to a lot more high density housing. Gazillions of people round the world cope perfectly well with raising families in apartment blocks, no reason why Kiwis can’t, too. (full hypocrsiy disclosure: Part of the appeal of moving back to NZ is the comparative ease of getting a proper house with a yard.)

    Indeed. Again I think there's a failure to conceptualise. Apartments are seen as rundown 70s rowhouses with steel framed balconies, and 20 story shoeboxes, housing the destitute, the immigrant, and the immoral. Illustrating the alternatives in all their splendour, as this post from Transportblog does so well, is worth doing.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2132 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But also lean over and push the pedestrian crossing button that way you stop the cars going across in front of you.

    Now that is a great way to induce road rage in the average Auckland driver. I don't even like it when pedestrians use them, they are usually well gone and far down the road on their spindly little legs while I am stuck at a traffic light for no reason whatsoever and don't get me started about traffic lights I mean what's wrong with roundabouts apart from the fact that they seem to scare the living shits out of most of those pathetic drivers that shouldn't be on the road anyway because they don't appear to have been taught how to control anything bigger than a toaster and little old ladies that can't see over the steering wheel............
    mumble mumble mumble

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4802 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    what’s wrong with roundabouts

    I seem to remember watching a video on well-designed roundabouts in, I believe, the Netherlands. No barriers, no controls, just roundabouts set up so that it's clear to all road users that it's a shared space, and everybody driving with respect for that fact, and it works. Of course, there does seem to be an element of attitude in that, but the design encouraged road users to share the space effectively.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2065 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    a video on well-designed roundabouts in, I believe, the Netherlands. No barriers, no controls, just roundabouts set up so that it’s clear to all road users that it’s a shared space,

    here’s one:

    See how the cyclists whizz on through and the motorists politely give way!

    Compare and contrast with this NY solution! Or lack of solution.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3442 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Lilith __,

    See how the cyclists whizz on through and the motorists politely give way!

    [sigh] No. Youtube is blocked. I just tried some fancy Firefox add on that was supposed to help me sneak around the Great Firewall, and it didn't work. But it certainly sounds like the kind of video I was referring to.

    But on thing I can see is this. Sometimes outside views can be very useful.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2065 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Lilith __,

    a video on well-designed roundabouts in, I believe, the Netherlands. No barriers, no controls, just roundabouts set up so that it’s clear to all road users that it’s a shared space,

    here’s one:

    How lovely. I just sort of zoned out watching the flow for a while there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18837 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Attachment

    Youtube is blocked.

    Oh! Well here is a screen capture to give you the idea. The cyclists don't stop or pause, or even signal, they just go. The motorists give way.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3442 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    The motorists give way.

    That'll work in New Zealand.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3343 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Lilith __,

    Ah, yes, very reminiscent of what I remember seeing some time ago. It's amazing what good design can do to encourage good behaviour.

    Thanks for that.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2065 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    That'll work in New Zealand.

    Cycling in the Netherlands wasn't always this way. After WW2 the roads were increasingly dominated by cars and many, many cyclists were killed. They've built the infrastructure and the behaviour from scratch. So, surely, could we.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3442 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    it's clear to all road users that it's a shared space,

    And that, kinda, is the way it works. The big problem in NZ is the perception that you have "Right of way" and others are "In your way" and should just get the hell out of it.
    My first experience of driving in NZ was when I tried to pull out into slow moving sometimes stationary traffic only to have a driver deliberately pull in front of me, stop and start abusing me for having the audacity to think that I could possibly expect to be allowed on her road.

    In that Dutch video at about 6.50 there is a woman that dismounts to cross the road as others ride on by, I bet she was a Kiwi. ;-)

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4802 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    The big problem in NZ

    Yeah, I agree that a big change in attitude needs to happen along with massive investment in better designed infrastructure. We've got a similar problem here in Beijing where piss poor training, inexperience, and some pretty bad attitudes combine to render what is often actually quite good infrastructure useless. NZ's driver training system is much better than China's, but the attitudes leave just as much to be desired.

    Now, hopefully this media coverage of the issues drives some positive changes...

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2065 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Of course, electric scooters help a lot with the summer heat - I wonder if they're making an appearance in at least some of NZ's flatter cities?

    Heh, don't get me started. Too late!

    I have owned 3 electric bikes, one was more of a bike, the other more of a scooter. One was entirely a scooter. All were sourced from outside of Auckland - one I collected from flat Tauranga, the other was in Palmerston North. The scooter was sent from Christchurch. The bulk of the bikes of this type for sale were in Christchurch when I was looking. I soon learned why.

    Basically, I'd say that actual ranges were short of touted ranges by a factor of 3-4, in Auckland. Since those ranges were not great in the first place, this made them vehicles of very limited use. A big part of the appeal of that kind of vehicle is that it can reduce the pedaling exertion on hills, which dominate Auckland. But if you don't assist them substantially on hills they die really, really fast. So a big part of the point of them was lost - I ended up reaching my destination as hot and tired as if I'd just ridden a pushbike, but at least a pushbike doesn't get heavier and heavier the more depleted it gets. Nor does it have so many points of failure.

    The scooter-only was an outright bust - when an electric battery dies on you, you can't just roll it to a station to fill up. You have to push the bastard all the way home, or drive back to collect it. It was also such an odd device that mechanical trouble could not be repaired. I ended up putting it out in an inorganic collection, it was that useless. It was very low-end, so I'd expect that if you paid a lot more for a decent one, with a lot of batteries, you'd get a different experience. It could be more powerful, with a higher top speed, and/or a greater range.

    The scooter with pedals was somewhat better. It was touted as a Chinese delivery bike, had headlights, indicator, brake light, horn, basket, rear carrier frames, and a back seat. It even had a key, and an alarm, with a remote. Supposedly it had a 50km range on full speed mode, and the economy mode claimed 90km. In practice, I got 15km out of it in Auckland, with a bit of pedaling on hills. Not really much use except for local trips. It had a brushless motor so it was really, really quiet.

    The best one was basically a motorized mountain bike - as a bike it was actually nicely designed for pedaling. It had a heavy frame, presumably that kept the cost right down, but since it carried it's own weight and mine it didn't feel heavy, until depleted (at which point it was less of a dead weight than either of the scooters, on account of proper pedals and gearing, but still a damned heavy bike). I used that bike a lot. But in the end, my own fitness and willingness to ride rapidly overtook the capacity of the bike, and I have found that a simple bike without a motor to be a much more useful option around Auckland.

    I'd believe that they would have been all much more useful in a flat city. But the same also goes for a common-or-garden pushbike - even old grannies can ride for 30 km along the flat, coasting along at, say 12km/h. But hills make a massive difference.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8488 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'll also note I purchased cheap electric bikes - the most expensive one was $300. There are far, far more expensive ones that might be a heck of a lot better - with modern battery types, brushless motors that have regenerative braking, and built with very light materials. But I have to honestly say that the idea of buying a weak electric bike that would cost me more than a late model high powered motorbike doesn't appeal. To me, the only point of the electric bike is to "go Chinese" and take advantage of the fact that cheap components can generate a low effort riding solution with high reliability and tiny ongoing costs. Forking out $5000 for a bike doesn't make sense when that's 2500 liters of petrol at up to 50km/liter on a cheap scooter. This probably explains why shops that sell both kinds of bikes seem to successfully convert just about everyone to a petrol solution after they've actually done the numbers. In Auckland. Flat cities may have different experiences.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8488 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to BenWilson,

    Flat cities may have different experiences.

    Yeah, from what I've seen they're for flat cities. I've ridden my brother in law's electric scooter with my wife on the back up to my father in law's orchard a couple of times, that's up a very slight rise to the base of the mountains, a gain of maybe 20 or 30 metres in altitude. It starts to struggle towards the top. It seems to be fine for zipping around the village and perhaps further distances along the basin floor, though.

    Their big advantages on the flat are that you get higher speeds for no effort and they're not pumping out petrol exhaust and noise in the central city (although electricity has to be generated...). I suspect, though, that the battery technology will improve and expand their range and usefulness.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2065 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to BenWilson,

    A big part of the appeal of that kind of vehicle is that it can reduce the pedaling exertion on hills, which dominate Auckland.

    Having lived in Auckland and Wellington, this made me LOL :-D

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2078 posts Report Reply

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