In March I attended the 2019 Transportation Group New Zealand Conference “the changing face of transport”. I left conference feeling that the transport industry understands the need to enable sustainable transport and is taking action to deliver it. I also spoke on mode bias, meaning the inherent bias towards the needs of motor vehicle users. Here are some excerpts from my conference presentation with notes on complementary points picked up at conference!
What is car dependency?
• Conscious car dependency is when people with modal choice consciously choose to drive. Structural car dependency is due to lack of choice. Mode shift barriers can be caused by hard factors such as time and cost or soft factors such as status around the mode and the quality of the travel experience.
• Mode biases exist in policy, laws, taxes, budget allocation, language, culture and design and investment assessment tools. These all need to be addressed.
Why we should reduce car dependency?
• Increase equity in transport choice, increase efficiency in land use, reduce pollution, reduce infrastructure construction and maintenance and improve community connectivity.
• Addressing the health impacts of transport is not only about reducing deaths and serious injuries (safety) on our roads but it is also about enabling physical activity, reducing air, noise and carbon pollution and reducing community severance/improving mental health.
• The most physically active countries are not those that are super competitive in sports but those where walking, and cycling are incidentally part of everyday moving around.
• A transport system that encourages people to choose non-automobile options is a transport system that works well for people who have no choice but the car. For example the fact that Dutch people have transport choice and that the majority choose to travel sustainably may just be linked with Holland being reported to have the world’s happiest car drivers.
• If we value proximity and access over speeds to the centre we might not even need everyday vehicle transport (eat, learn, work and play in the same area).
What are some of the ways to enable sustainable transport?
• Reduce the need and distance to travel – create compact urban areas – reduce vehicle speeds and volume, if not – separate modes.
• Law changes from overseas that may assist walking and cycling – no helmet requirement, assumed liability of larger vehicle in a crash, work and government incentives for company and individual bike purchase, changes to traffic signals and right of way for pedestrians and cyclists travelling straight across a side street.
• Language changes: cyclist –> person on a bike, road improvement (when the project may cause severance) – > road widening project.
• Replace minimum car parking with maximum car parking and introduce minimum footpath and cycle path. Note that Cambridge Massachusetts just past a “Cycling Safety Ordinance” that requires all city streets being upgraded to include the safest bike paths whenever a roadway is reconstructed.
• If you want transformation change you need infrastructure, and make it quality infrastructure – soft tools like advertising will only go so far.
• Carrot versus stick/ negative biases – making driving more inconvenient may be more effective than cheaper bus fees.
• Communicate the outcomes not the project, unlocking Avondale, not the Avondale cycleway project, and always keep people/the community up to date with progress.
• Build transit before development not the other way round. Bad habits (e.g. driving) die hard. Transit oriented development (building development adjacent to a large transit stop) over park and ride has benefits.
• Create a conversation for the reason for a road tax. Does the public think the alcohol tax covers the negative health impacts of drinking? Does the public think road taxes cover the negative health impacts/ all negative externalities of driving?
• Ensure the limitations of the traffic model are truly understood by decision makers. Model a car traffic problem…. Get a car traffic solution.
• Density done well, mixed-use development over single-use.
• Reallocate transport budgets and redesign investment tools.
Interesting facts on building a cycle culture from Claire Pascoe’s presentation at conference:
• The bike culture in the Netherlands was not formed due to the love of the bike it related to city heritage protection, local commercial vitality, kids being killed by traffic. Furthermore, physical separation of modes was initially not for the sake of the bike but for an automobile-centric response to growing conflict on the road. Still today cycling infrastructure can come from motorway budgets seeking travel time savings for motorists.
Leaving you with a joke from conference:
“A driver, a cyclist and a pedestrian enter a bar [speaking about road allocation]. There are 12 beers. The driver takes 10 beers and whispers to the pedestrian “get your beer or the cyclist will take yours”- Claire Pascoe