I got back from the 2nd Australian Congress for New Urbanism last night. It was held in Sydney: www.acnu.org
Some quick notes and observations:
A number of speakers talked about how critical planning for cars is to New Urbanist developments - (a view i dont necessarily subscribe to - the logic behind this is cause for another thread - PM me if you are interested ) - but they also made reference to the book The Long Emergency
and how they were concerned about the future of motoring, availability of fuel etc. It was a bit troubling because there were some fabulous presentations on how to make vital places that intergrate transit, education, mixed density residential, retail, commercial etc, but just kind of trailled it off with this idea "oh yeah, and petrol is going to get really expensive... so uh, over to you".
[ on a side note: as long as a litre of petrol - a highly refined product - is cheaper by the litre than coke - water and sugar - than petrol is way too cheap. we pay about $1.10 / litre here. a can of coke is $1.80 so by my reckoning, petrol needs to be at least $5/litre before people are really going to consider the consequences]
Other transport planners talked about the problems of heavy rail as the primary commuter mover and had devised cunning schemes to make up the short cross trips with buses, light rail etc.
None of the speakers (with the exception of Bill Burrell who wrote the Liveable Neighbourhoods document for the Western Australian Government ), in three long days, were able to talk about bikes and the positive contribution they might make to the short trips, and the long trips (which is the case for many of us). One of the new recruits at Landcom (www.landcom.com.au
) is from Seattle and specialises in transport integration and made the point that leaders in New Urbanism were overlooking the huge potential for bikes to fill a gap between bike and heavy rail for commuter trips - the panel wsn't really able to satisfactorily respond to this.
Anyways, a number of us were talking about lack of discussion about cycling and one of the young guys at the Queensland Department of Transport told us that he could not understand why motorists are so aggressive to cyclists, given that when a motorist rides their bike instead they ease traffic congestion for others by that much.
There is an image going around, and i will see if i can get a copy tomorrow, which shows how much space in the traffic is taken up by 40 people when they bus, bike or drive. You can imagine it: 40 people fit on a bus so they fit in a space about 13m by 2m; 40 bikes take up SFA space in the traffic and 40 cars in one lane stretch about 5m * 40m with stopping space between each car - a whole heap of congestion.
So there it is. We know it is pointless and potentially life-threatening to engage with aggressive motorists one-by-one about our rights. And no-one wants to hears about our rights anyway. Any letter to the editor that begins by restating our rights is countered by one which suggests that all motorists should let metal find meat and let the laws of physics sort the rest out. Very polarising stuff. Nothing you dont already know but as many of us reject "amenities" such as bike lanes, we need to concentrate on integration and the positive contribution that bikes can make to making places better, to improve health and safety etc.
With respect to New Urbanism, well I am as critical as the next. Much of what is marketed as new urbanist is really just sub-urbanist. We were told that in the US, of all new development, less that 2% is considered as new urbanist by the Congress for New Urbanism. Real NU is about stopping sprawl limiting car trips amongst other things. As advocates we need to be aware of this and be prepared to directly challenge any claim of NU. Later in the week I will compile a list of developments which were presented as successful NU. I would be very interested to know if any of you have ridden in these places and what the experience was like.