Another great video from Streetfilms:
Tom Radulovich, the executive director of the local non-profit Livable City, describes the recent livable streets achievements in San Francisco as “tactical urbanism” — using low-cost materials like paint and bollards to reclaim street space.
That willingness to experiment was a big reason that the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) gave its 2012 Sustainable Transport Award to San Francisco (an honor shared with Medellín, Colombia). In this Streetfilm we profile the innovations that earned SF recognition from ITDP.
Perhaps the city’s most exciting new development has been the parklet program, which converts parking spaces into public space complete with tables, chairs, art, and greenery. These mini-parks are adopted and paid for by local businesses, but they remain public space. The concept has its roots in the PARK(ing) Day phenomenon started by the SF-based Rebar Group in 2005.
San Francisco has also seen an impressive 71 percent increase in bicycling in the past five years, despite being under a court injunction that prohibited bicycle improvements for most of that time. The city aims to have 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020. Sunday Streets, San Francisco’s version of Ciclovia, has also drawn huge numbers of participants and continues to expand.
The city has also taken the lead on innovative parking management with the SFPark program, which uses new technology to help manage public parking in several pilot neighborhoods. It aims to make it easier to find a parking spot by adjusting prices according to demand, helping to reduce pollution, traffic, and frustrations for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
So many lessons for Auckland there.
This is an excellent, if rather lengthy, video by Streetfilms about the impact of automobiles on our cities:
For more than 100 years New York City government policy has prioritized the needs of the automobile over the needs of any other mode of transport. Working under the faulty assumption that more car traffic would improve business, planners and engineers have systematically made our streets more dangerous and less livable. As a result, even the idea that a street could truly be a “place” – a shared space for human interaction and play – has been almost completely destroyed.
During his decade long effort to understand and improve the streets of New York City, entrepreneur and livable streets advocate Mark Gorton has gathered together a compelling set of examples of how transportation policy impacts the quality of our daily lives. Mark is regularly invited to speak in public about these issues.
In his current presentation “Rethinking the Automobile” Mark explores the history of autocentric planning and considers how New York and other cities can change. Filled with ample video footage of dozens of Streetfilms, we’ve worked with Mark to create a version of the presentation here.
As the founder of Streetfilms, Streetsblog, OpenPlans, and the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Gorton has been on the front lines of the battle to transform New York’s streets. But Mark is not done fighting. He contends that the recent improvements that have been implemented in New York should only be considered as the “tip of the iceberg” and that a truly comprehensive set of changes are still necessary.
Compulsory viewing for traffic engineers methinks.
I have discussed previously the importance of not only making cycling actually safer through the provision of cycle lanes, but also making it feel safer by ensuring those lanes are constructed to a high standard and provide some real shielding from vehicles. I can’t see too many people feeling that some green paint and a white line makes a huge difference to the likelihood of them being run over by a truck while cycling.
A recent Streetfilms video highlights the approach Chicago is taking, through what they call “protected bike lanes”. This is exactly the kind of thing that I think we need to focus much more on providing here in Auckland:
At a guess, I doubt this would be particularly expensive to do, especially along streets that do seem unnecessarily wide (Richmond Road and Surrey Crescent come to mind as candidates on this count).
If you’re looking for a great example of how a vastly improved public transport system has transformed a city – Bogota, the capital of Colombia in South America – is a great example. And here’s a neat video from Streetfilms on the Transmilenio BRT system that Bogota has constructed over the past decade:
While I get annoyed at people who think that Bogota is proof that BRT is always better than rail (Bogota is a pretty different place to Auckland) there are some aspects of Bogota’s system that clearly have filtered through to projects like the Northern Busway, and could be further implemented in future bus priority projects. It’s interesting to see where things are going for TransMilenio too.
Here’s a really interesting video on the history of transport issues in New York City. What’s quite fascinating about New York is the fact that, despite an extremely extensive public transport network and the kind of densities that work so well with that transport system, the city has spent much of the last 50 years trying to destroy itself to make life easier for cars to get around. Fortunately that’s now changing.
Description from Streetfilms:
Produced in 2006 as part of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Contested Streets explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to present. This examination allows for an understanding of how the city — though the most well served by mass transit in the United States — has slowly relinquished what was a rich, multi-dimensional conception of the street as a public space to a mindset that prioritizes the rapid movement of cars and trucks over all other functions.
Central to the story is a comparison of New York to what is experienced in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Interviews and footage shot in these cities showcase how limiting automobile use is in recent years has improved air quality, minimized noise pollution and enriched commercial, recreational and community interaction. London’s congestion pricing scheme, Paris’ BRT and Copenhagen’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are all examined in depth. New York City, though to many the most vibrant and dynamic city on Earth, still has lessons to learn from Old Europe.
Some interesting parallels to Auckland’s 20th century transport history.
This is a fantastic video from Streetfilms on New York City and their approach to remaking streets as “complete streets” over the past few years. The key with complete streets is providing mobility and accessibility for all types of transport: pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and cars – instead of cars and pretty much nothing else.
Over the last four years, New York City has seen a transportation renaissance on its streets, striking a better balance by providing more space for walking, biking, and transit.
As with any departure from the status quo, it can take a while for everyone to grow accustomed to the changes. So Streetfilms decided to look at three of NYC’s most recent re-designs — Columbus Avenue, First and Second Avenues, and Prospect Park West — and show how pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers benefit from safer, calmer streets. We talked to transportation engineers with decades of experience, elected leaders, community board members, people on the street, and business owners to get their take on the new configurations.
The truth is, no matter how hard some media outlets try to spin it otherwise, these new street safety projects have broad community support. And while the story of these changes often gets simplified in the press, the fact is that the benefits of the redesigns go far beyond cycling. A street with a protected bike lane also has less speeding, shorter pedestrian crossings, less lane-shifting and more predictable movements for drivers, and the opportunity to add more trees and plantings. Injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and car passengers drop wherever the new designs go in. And on the East Side, these improvements have been paired with dedicated bus-only lanes with camera enforcement, making service more convenient and attractive for thousands of bus riders.
I wish Auckland would take this approach to its street upgrades more often.
I’m a huge fan of the video series being put together on Streetfilms at the moment – about “moving beyond automobiles”. One recent video looks at traffic calming techniques – innovative ways of slowing down vehicles to make the road safer for pedestrians:
I really like narrow streets, as I have outlined in previous posts. Street width has an enormous impact on urban amenity, determining the extent to which cars dominate the environment and how attractive the street is to pedestrians and cyclists. I particularly like ideas of narrowing down the street at intersection points, rather than having the traditional wide radius turns – which let cars zip around corners at dangerously hight speeds.
Some of the more recent developments in Auckland have narrow streets, but much of the city is still built around 1960s engineering standards that placed cars ahead of people. Over time I hope that changes.
Here’s another great video from Streetfilms, this time focusing on parking – the issue that I like to call the “elephant in the room” when it comes to land-use and transport planning. It has a huge impact, but for some reason it gets ignored 99% of the time. Now of course nobody likes to have to pay for parking, and over many years I think we’ve been somehow trained into subconsciously thinking that parking should always be free. But of course nothing as space hogging as parking can ever be properly free – and it seems that only now are we starting to understand the full costs of ‘free’ parking.
I like the idea of varying parking levies to maintain a particular level of free spaces on a street-block. It has a logic to it that makes more sense than the common perception of paying for parking – and that is simply a money-making operation for council.
Last month I wrote a rather controversial post about the importance of making cycling not only actually safer, but also making it perceived as being safer. In that post I argued that our current tendency to focus on providing cycle lanes in a bare minimum manner – generally by just slapping on a bit of green paint and putting up a few road signs – may be nice for the stereotypical ‘lycra-clad road warriors’, but it’s unlikely to really help expand the proportion of the population that chooses to cycle. In effect, while this minimal upgrade approach might actually help make a particular road safer, it is less likely to make the road feel safer – because you’re still in the same environment as big scary cars and buses. Who’s seriously going to let their 12 year old kid cycle to school along Mt Albert Road, even if it does have a bit of green paint at intersections and a few “cycle lane” signs?
A problem with taking my approach – the “if you’re going to do a cycle lane, get it off the road” approach – is that typically it’s likely to be pretty expensive on a per metre basis and involve a fair amount of disruption. Finding a cheap, easy and quick way to install proper separated cycle lanes seems like quite a challenge – which is why I find the following video pretty damn exciting:
It is entirely feasible to see this type of cycle lane being introduced along a number of arterial roads in Auckland I think. While there are likely to be some safety concerns regarding visibility of cyclists to cars turning in and out of driveways, I think that getting the cyclists out of the road environment and ‘protecting them’ through having a buffer of parked cars has some pretty significant safety benefits – particularly when it comes to improving the perceived safety of cycling. One can imagine a Ponsonby Road dieted to one lane in each direction, with the space saved dedicated to a top class cycle lane. It would be pretty awesome.
Here’s a great video from Streetfilms called “Road Dieting” – the process of making roads work better by removing lanes from them.
What is particularly interesting are the observations that not only does road dieting make the street work better for pedestrians, cyclists, shop-keepers and residents, but that it can also help improve the traffic situation – presumably through fewer lane-changes and fewer situations where people get stuck behind someone trying to make a turn.
Although it doesn’t necessarily involve the removal of lanes, I guess the Hobson/Nelson two-waying idea is in many respects a form of road dieting. What other roads around Auckland do people think could benefit from a diet?