Episode 6 - And now the good news: changed thinking since the 1990s

Roger Boulter’s recent book draft (on www.boulter.co.nz) won a 2020 WSP Golden Foot Award. This post outlines some issues covered in the eighth of twelve chapters.

And now the good news: changed thinking since the 1990s

Very major changes, over the last 20 years or more, on how transport is seen suggests a bigger and more central role for planning for walking and cycling.

City centres have increasingly seen space devoted to foot-based activity. Public squares which once were de facto car parks are now attractive public spaces. Overseas there have been examples of freeways being demolished for this purpose.

Some public transport has gone up-market. Some overseas rail services have stressed customer quality experience, and even in New Zealand Airport bus services and Auckland’s Northern Busway are of more ‘premium’ quality.

Cycling’s image has changed markedly since the 1980s. Once seen as the preserve of the poor, the environmentally-concerned, the fitness-aware or the eccentric, the ‘new golf’ tag has, again, been associated with an up-market and more ‘normalised’ image.

From being seen in the 1960s as a passport to opportunities and a better lifestyle, the car is now more likely to be seen as something we wish we weren’t so dependent on. As car ownership has become ubiquitous, it’s less of a ‘status symbol’.

There also seems to have been a generational difference. There are signs that younger adults do not see owning a car as a pressing priority, and prefer to get about by different means.

‘Urban design’ and ‘new urbanism’ professional movements have developed based around local streetscape quality. Although New Zealand examples such as Auckland’s Addison and Canterbury’s Pegasus may still be dependent on the car (and not particularly accessible to low-income people), the intention is there to design settlements based around movement other than driving.

These changes over 20 years or more may be been gradual, but they seem to show a pronounced and clear trend. A more central place, in transport planning, for walking and cycling may being going with the flow of history.