Electric Bike Hub director Jace Hobbs attended the Smart Transport Forum in Auckland this August. This forum is put on by the Sustainable Business Network and is their first focusing on transport solely. In the past, this subject had been one of many in the mix of a SBN conference. Jace is on the board of SBN, but also vitally concerned about the future of transport in New Zealand. As director of the Electric Bike Hub, New Zealands oldest ebike distribution, he had dual business interest in the direction of the forums suggestions.
To be frank, the forum highlighted that Auckland does not work the way it is. Congestion, pedestrian dangers, delays to business and personal life, are all part of the daily mix of living in this city. Some places take a very long time to reach by bus, like the airport. The unpredictability of delay and the shear cost of parking, has shown even the staunchest motorway advocates that we need a new mix of transport options, and perhaps an overhaul of the roading system.
There were several interesting conclusions from the speakers. Gabe Klein, our keynote, pointed out the remarkable transformation of many international cities into liveable, enviable environs, by the careful addition of bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The studies coming out of these metro areas is very conclusive; you cant build roads to alleviate congestion; pedestrian access will suffer with motorway additions, and the desirable qualities of a city are lost with increases of autos. Gabe also made a very strong argument for business activity increasing with a mix of transport options that minimize the use of personal automobiles.
One very important point Gabe made, was the pace of change towards smart cars. Autonomous driving cars and buses are just a couple of years away, merely a blink of time, and the pace of this technology is gathering speed each year. Our cities are going thru a technical transformation not seen since the advent of the personal auto. In short, change is desperately needed, and transport technologies are rapidly offering the solutions. The statistics are clear, said Mr. Klein, disruptive transport options will transform our cities, and we need to embrace these as soon as possible for our own good.
One other interesting note was the willingness of the present government to fund cycleways. They seem to have gotten the message trumpeted around by those of us waving research papers at them about the cost effectiveness of cycleways. Now they get it, they say, and sent a presenter to assure us that they were moving forward with this mix of cycle infrastructure. The figure of 300 million has been widely reported as allocated.
Other speakers spoke about specific aspects of the new metrics of transport. Statistics are much easier to get now, analysis is much more useful, and this has led to successes in the directions the Auckland Council has been taking on transport. Auckland Transport has done much recently to promote cycling, and the coming network of cycleways, including a link over the bridge to the Northshore is heartening.
Meanwhile, being in Auckland for the event was difficult because of dirty, dangerous roadways to negotiate at every turn. We were in the belly of the beast, with all of its most difficult aspects highlighted, but with a lot of promise with the right “smart transport” planning.