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May 28, 2018 | by  | in Environment |
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Environment: Remix to ignition; carless cities

Remix to ignition; carless cities.
The following is written from a completely hypocritical position. I’m going to talk about how cars have massacred cities and we should get rid of them. At the same time, I drove to the library in my smoking heap of a Honda Civic. We’re used to cars the way fish are used to water. We consider our entitlement to a parking space akin to a human right.

Transport is our most familiar contributor to climate change. To keep moving, cars guzzle petrol and diesel, spitting out CO2 — 20% of New Zealand’s total emissions. Walking down a busy street, we smell the CO2. We can spot it being farted obstinately from a 4×4. Yet we can’t seem to help putting foot to the pedal. New Zealand has the highest car ownership rates out of any OECD country, owning more vehicles per capita than the likes of Germany and the US. But consider the crappiness of cars in cities.

Roads are divisive strips of tar. Like asphalt rivers, roads split every street into two halves, pushing people to the small banks on either side. Rather than congregating, we tend to march along in lines keeping pace with the traffic. Sprawling infrastructure encourages more cars, and more cars encourages sprawl. A gargantuan city isolates groups on the fringes, particularly the old and poor. Commuters in Auckland spend four weeks each year in traffic, moving nowhere in the oxymoronically dubbed “rush hour” — burning gas, burning happiness. Cars fortify our notoriously low levels of physical activity and the consequential health problems. And we have stifled a large amount of valuable real estate in the form of parking lots, whose elevators stink unwaveringly of urine.

The challenge is to reduce cars while maintaining mobility and connecting communities. The starting point is free public transport for everyone, or at least laughably cheap fares that draw from the four billion dollars invested in land transport per annum. We should redesign the way our buses move; there should be big buses that do large, long distance loops round the city and outer suburbs. Within the central city, we need clean light rail that zips nimbly back and forth between short distance destinations and out to peripheral pick up points. Inner city pedalled rickshaws to help people with mobility problems move around the inner city. And of course, keep encouraging cycling.
What we shouldn’t do is implement rush hour charges and congestion fees. These impose a disproportionate burden on the less well-off, who can’t absorb the costs as easily as the rich. The brilliance of privately owned electric cars may not be as bright as professed. They’re great for the environment, but fail to overcome the problem of congestion. We’re still using a very large hunk of metal to move a very small person around. So get rid of the roads, clean out the cars. Then we can think critically about urban infrastructure and design. A city is collision of culture, ideas, innovation, and fun. It is a great melting pot of humanity. Urban design should foster this, rather than allowing cars to drive the development of our cities. Where once there were roads, we could build undercover walkways, green spaces, communal rest areas, playgrounds, public art, outdoor dining, public gardens — spaces that encourage socialising, sharing, and vibrancy. For a start, let’s make Lambton Quay car free. Then we can start to take back the streets.

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