Cycling in Tokyo

A great new video from Streetfilms on cycling in Tokyo which achieves an impressive 14% modeshare despite almost no bike infrastructure.

Gabe Klein: Talks Start-Up City

A good interview from Streetfilms with Gabe Klein who is a former transport commissioner from Washington DC and Chicago about his new book “Start Up City”. The content will be familiar to those that heard Gabe talk at an Auckland Conversations event earlier this year alongside Jeff Tumlin.

Streets can be tough to change. Between institutional inertia, tight budgets, bureaucratic red tape, and the political risks of upsetting the status quo, even relatively simple improvements for walking, biking, or transit can take years to pull off — if they ever get implemented at all.

But a new generation of transportation officials have shown that it doesn’t have to be that way. Cities can actually “get shit done,” as former DC and Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein puts it in his new book from Island Press,Start-Up City.

Streetfilms and our producer, Mark Gorton, recently got to sit down (and walk around) with Gabe to talk about the ideas in the book, which ties together his career as a transportation commissioner and his experience in start-ups like Zipcar. Start-Up City is filled with advice about how to get projects done quickly while choosing the best option for the public (and, of course, having fun). You can get a flavor for the book in this extensive interview with Gabe.

One of the things that strikes me from the video and that we’ve been hearing from numerous speakers over numerous years is the need for transport agencies to try things and not be afraid to fail. This includes things such as trialling new street designs using temporary materials and trying out technology to see what works best. It is something that we are yet to see AT do much of and I wonder what it will take to get them thinking this way.

Making Buenos Aires more people friendly

Another fantastic video from Streetfilms about how Buenos Aires about how they are making the city more friendly for people, something happening in more and more cities around the world

Buenos Aires is fast becoming one of the most admired cities in the world when it comes to reinventing streets and transportation.

Just over a year ago, the city launched MetroBus BRT (constructed in less than seven months) on 9 de Julio Avenue, which may be the world’s widest street. The transformation of four general traffic lanes to exclusive bus lanes has yielded huge dividends for the city and is a bold statement from Mayor Mauricio Macri about how Buenos Aires thinks about its streets. More than 650,000 people now ride MetroBus every day, and it has cut commutes in the city center from 50-55 minutes to an incredible 18 minutes.

That’s not the only benefit of this ambitious project. The creation of MetroBus freed up miles of narrow streets that used to be crammed with buses. Previously, Buenos Aires had some pedestrian streets, but moving the buses to the BRT corridor allowed the administration to create a large network of shared streets in downtown where pedestrians rule. On the shared streets, drivers aren’t permitted to park and the speed limit is an astonishingly low 10 km/h. Yes, that is not a misprint — you’re not allowed to drive faster than 6 mph!

Bicycling has also increased rapidly in the past four years — up from 0.5 percent mode share to 3 percent mode share and climbing. Ecobici is the city’s bike-share system which is expanding to 200 stations in early 2015. Oh, and add this amazing fact: Ecobici is free for all users for the first hour.

The time saving from the introduction of BRT is staggering and with that many people using it the benefit cost ratio from doing it must be off the charts.

Copenhagen Cycle Improvements

It’s great that the Grafton Gully and Beach Rd cycleways are now complete and officially opening on Saturday. While Beach Rd may not be perfect, it represents a huge step forward for Auckland and one I think many people will want to see replicated in a lot of places elsewhere, and fast. Despite not even being officially open or having the Grafton Gully connection open yet it does seem like it’s already getting some good use.

Grafton Gully Cycleway sneak peak

A sneak peak at the Grafton Gully cycleway from Auckland Transports Twitter feed.

However we still have a lot of work to do if we want to even come close to the level of cycling infrastructure the cities we look to as examples have, cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam. What’s more they aren’t standing still either and are continuing to not only further develop their networks to make cycling even easier. This video from Streetfilms highlights some of the improvements that have happened in Copenhagen in the last few years.

In particularly like the greenwave lights and they are something that could be quite useful on Beach Rd (and at many other intersections).

Fixing Parking

A useful, if somewhat earnest, little video from Streetfilms about how we can manage parking in better ways to contribute to nicer cities.

The Unitary Plan and Auckland Transport’s parking strategy make important steps towards managing parking a lot smarter in the future in Auckland.

The Auckland version of a Sneckdown?

We’ve talked before about the sneckdown. Of course in Auckland it doesn’t snow so we aren’t able to get them as described by Streetfilms . However as Pippa Coom suggests, perhaps we can use the results of last night’s storm to work out where we can reclaim road space.

That looks just like a cycle lane sized space on Franklin Rd

If you haven’t seen a sneckdown before watch this video

The Metamorphosis of New York Streets

A great video from Streetfilms showing how the streets of New York have changed over the last few years with primarily quick and cheap transformations that have re-prioritised space around pedestrians and cyclists.

There’s nothing more dramatic then looking back five or ten years at Streetfilms footage (some of it a bit low-res) to see how much the livable streets landscape of New York City’s streets have changed. In this wonderful montage that even makes us cry check out the transformation of Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn Waterfront and many other places that out-going NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her staff have intrepidly installed.

We have similarly high hopes for Mayor de Blaiso as he takes office today and look forward to what he and his new NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. As much as has been done, the large majority of our streets still need reforms, we need drastic policy change, slower speed limits and traffic calming for our most vulnerable citizens. Hopefully, this short gets them excited to top the transportation record of the Bloomberg administration.

Please note: this is but a short sample. Seriously, we could have put together a one hour version!

We really need some of these types of changes to happen in Auckland so come-on Auckland Transport, get your act together and stop being so worried about the flow of vehicles.

How to REALLY do cycling infrastructure

A great video from Streetfilms shows how the Netherlands has transformed itself to cater for and encourage cycling over the past few decades. What’s really interesting is how things haven’t always been this way – rather through investment in really good quality cycling infrastructure (not just green paint on roads):

Also very very little lycra and almost no helmets.

H/T Atlantic Cities.

Is it time for us to try Sunday Streets?

My focus this morning has been on San Francisco and watching Team New Zealand win the first two races in the America’s Cup (bloody hell that first race was exciting). It has also got me thinking of an initiative that happens in San Francisco that I would love to see implemented here in Auckland – Sunday Streets. San Francisco didn’t invent the idea but they definitely appear to have embraced the idea. Here is how it is described:

Sunday Streets are events that encourage recreation, community activities and fun in San Francisco. Sunday Streets closes stretches of city streets to automobile traffic, and opens them to people for several hours on a various Sundays throughout the year, so participants can enjoy a large, temporary, public space where they can bike, walk, run, dance, do yoga, or do any other physical activity. Non-profit and health organizations offer free activities and share information about their services during the event.

The great thing about the idea is that it doesn’t have to cost huge amounts of money on permanent infrastructure. Some temporary road closures and staff to manage it but it is really just about making use of streets that already exist. Here’s a photo’s from San Francisco but there are heaps more here.

And here is a video from a few years ago of the event in San Fran.

In New York the idea is known as Summer Streets

While in the city that first came up with the idea 30 years ago – Bogatá, Columbia – it is known as Ciclovia. What is neat about the Bogatá ones is that they appear to be a network of routes and the focus is more of a case of just turning over the street to pedestrians and cyclists rather than the more festival style implementation in San Francisco.

About the closest thing we have had was an event in February 2012 called “Playing in the Streets” where a section of Queen St was closed down. But that was a one off and hasn’t been repeated. How neat would it be if we could do this on every Sunday during the summer months, perhaps each week could take place in a different local board area to ensure it is spread around the city rather than just be CBD focused.

So where would you like to see get the Sunday Street treatment?

Lessons from Salt Lake City

A little video from the US showing that even in what is considered the most conservative state in the US, when you present a real vision for Public Transport that people will vote for it and even agree to higher taxes to enable it to happen sooner (not that we are suggesting that with the Congestion Free Network).

Here is a bit more background to what is happening in Salt Lake City.

It’s number one in the nation in per-capita transit spending. The only city in the country building light rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars and commuter rail at the same time. And that city — Salt Lake City — is a town of just over 180,000 in a remote setting in a red state.

It’s a remarkable story that began in the 1990s, when an organization called Envision Utah facilitated a regional visioning process and created a plan that has been recognized as one of the most promising smart growth models in the nation.

There’s a lesson here for other cities. In 1997, leaders in a 10-county region centered on Salt Lake County set out to see what people valued about where they lived. They designed a plan around those values, with a communications campaign to support it. At that time, the state was expected to grow by a million people by 2020. Rather than cede that growth to meandering sprawl, the region chose something more orderly and compact.

“At that point, to many Utahns, ‘smart growth’ was not a popular word,” said Robert Grow, Envision Utah’s president and CEO. “We made people some promises. We’d save a lot of time, money, lower emissions, improve air quality, develop more housing choices, and build a transportation system with greater efficiency.”

I really like this line

“How is it that the most conservative state… how is it they’re one of the most progressive in the country on transit?” said Allsop. “It’s because the case was made in a way that fit with people’s values.”

There are perhaps some lessons both Auckland Transport and Auckland council could learn from the experience in Salt Lake City.