In the recent squabble over electric scooters, a major point seems to be being overlooked. For sixty or seventy years, our roads and suburbs have been designed with only one type of road user in mind. Car drivers. Everybody else has been shoved off onto thin ribbons on the side of the road. While pedestrians, parents with push chairs, scooters, mobility scooters, kids on bikes are expected to co-exist with the parked cars and rubbish bins on a narrow strip of tarmac.
Meanwhile, great swathes of roadway are given to the car. More space is available for people to leave their cars while they are not using them - and apparently cease to exist as far as planners are concerned. Shopping centres seem to think cars must be funnelled past the front doors before parking - forgetting that the drivers must get out of the car and cross the main flow of traffic to get to the shop.
And woe betide anyone who dares to suggest these public spaces should be available to any other users. The howls of outrage that greet any suggestion a single car park should be removed are cacophonous. The provision of free services to shop owners is, it seems, the acceptable face of welfare. The sudden concern for less mobile citizens is laudable, but curiously absent when it comes to the provision of dedicated infrastructure, or when what little space is available is given to expensive toys.
This is not a new phenomena. The very people who, in the 1950's, planned the motorway network we are still constructing also planned public transport infrastructure that we have barely started to build. So we have an ever changing bus system that mixes with the increasing car traffic. Other forms of transport become increasingly dangerous and unpleasant, promoting more car use. Any provisions for other users, such as cycle ways, are vilified. Because the car already dominates the direct routes, other routes are tiki tours, further reducing their appeal. New shopping centres are built with no regard to existing transport routes, and public transport routes become ever more circuitous while trying to service them.
Nor is it being addressed. Since the earthquakes, new suburbs have gone in 'only 20 minutes from central Christchurch' that are inevitably followed by demands for more roads. If you fall for other forms of deceptive advertising, you have to live with it. Nobody would expect the council to fulfil the claims of those enhancement pills I bought. But if you believe a property developer, demanding someone else gets you a new road is perfectly acceptable.
There are new suburbs around here with wide, grass berms, wide swathes of grass and trees in the middle of the road, but with carriage ways so narrow cyclists have to go onto the foot path to let the cars past. And the footpath isn't any wider either, but at least it is there - some streets only have a foot path on one side of the road. Some roads are so narrow, buses cannot turn the corners.
The City Council recently built Te Hāpua, a new service centre and library in Halswell. Te Hāpua is, in most respects, an excellent facility. The library holds - among many other things - after school and weekend programs for school children, it has an outdoor pool open over the summer, and is sited next to the domain, with it's sports fields - all things that are attractive to secondary school kids, people most unlikely to be driving.
As well as a major destination, Te Hāpua could have been a great opportunity to provide secure, covered bike parking, a place to change buses out of the rain, perhaps a hub for services to the city, Westmoreland, Aidenfield, Longhurst, Wigram, Oaklands, Kennedy's Bush, Tai Tapu, Hoon Hay, Hillmorton etc.
Surely a council committed to liveable cities and achieving carbon neutrality would have made some provision for other forms of transport? Nope - there is not even a bus shelter. If you wanted to catch the main bus to town, you'd - well, you couldn't, because it doesn't go past the library. The library's web site mentions the parking, but not the two bus services do go past the building.
Despite all the lip service to alternatives, the car still dominates the thinking of planners and designers. The electric scooters show just how little space is available for other forms of transport, but, sadly, rather than see who are the real road hogs, other road users are squabbling amongst themselves, fighting for the few crumbs tossed out the car's window.