[carfree cities] not an ideal city ... yet
- News from car-plagued Auckland, New Zealand.
Auckland, located on a narrow isthmus with two big harbours, is sprawly and quite difficult to get around. I*m car-free, choosing to use a bicycle rather than add to the mess, but most Aucklanders are hopelessly dependent on cars, or at least, they believe they are. A USA friend told me that he thinks New Zealanders are even more addicted to their cars than Americans.
We just had our local body elections, and the right wingers who got the majority, including the new mayor, all got in on a pro-roads ticket. The road lobby (made up primarily of business people who will profit directly from road building) have been saying that our motorway network is not complete and that is their top priority. Ture, it*s incomplete: but they don*t care that it*ll be jammed up with induced traffic a few years after completion. They*ve been winning the public over with simplistic and even misleading adverts in the newspaper, and websites with names like *cityofsnails*. Many of them think that improving our shambolic, unreliable and neglected public transport system is a waste of time.
Part of our problem is the city of about 1.1 million souls (actually four cities with 4 mayors * Manukau, Waitakere, North Shore and Auckland City) is so decentralized - less than 13% of commuters go to the CBD. Our previous city council was attempting to take an integrated approach, looking at establishing or improving alternatives that have suffered over 50 yrs of neglect: rail corridors, busways, and cycleways. The last 7 or so years, it*s been great to that our voices were beginning to be heard*
We had a very low voter turnout this time round, about 46%. People were distracted by such things as the Sept 11th events in the run-up to voting.
One important issue is that we have a Harbour bridge, built in the 1960s I believe, connecting a large sprawly *North Shore* to the CBD and wider *Auckland City* areas. This bridge is part of the motorway system, and as such, pedestrians and cyclists are prohibited from using it. There are ferries, but they don*t necessarily go where and when you want them. Consequently, it is very difficult for me to visit people on the North Shore, and although I*m currently searching for a new abode, that whole region is really not worth considering, because I choose not to own or use a car.
So much for the *Clean Green New Zealand* myth sold to thousands of tourists, eh?
Despite a dis-heartening turn of events in local elections, we have been achieving come changes. Wish us luck here in Auckland! We have to somehow keep working at the pro-raod lobby to make sure alternatives don*t continue to suffer institutionalized neglect.
Well, now I*ve had my rant, comments welcome. Finally, I just want to say keep an eye on our cycling advocacy website, www.can.org.nz . One of our members will soon be posting the info for a public talk he*s doing about he role of cycling as a transport mode in the 21st century. Keep an eye out.
And may we keep on envisioning and dreaming and lobbying for sustainable transport!