Hail To The Nihilist

Category: Urban Revitalisation

Cities and Cars: Foes Not Friends

An interesting conclusion in an article in The Atlantic on cities and cars:

“Today, in many cities, roads and parking facilities continue to grow, as though the problem for the last 50 years has been that the growth was not enough. These cities might be able to guarantee a parking space in front of every destination that still remains (or they might not), but they are likely doing so at the expense of those things that cities really need – namely, people.”

Unfortunately for cities like Adelaide, that seem to be becoming more progressive, there are still a number of laggards that get in the way. Business owners complaining about the lack of on-street car parking were a contributing factor to the failed Sturt Street “Copenhagen-style” bike lanes. Now with plans for something similar on Frome Street, their voice can again be heard.

Wanted: More Vision

Some people don’t seem to get it. Houssam Abiad, a councillor for the Adelaide City Council posed a question on Facebook today:

How do we get another 10,000 people to come live in Adelaide in the next 5 years?

Great question. I responded with something about ensuring new developments have decent foundations on which to build community, citing the struggles that we have had in our stark, beige-townhouse-lined street. If people are going to move from wherever else, especially families or people that value a lifestyle, this is important. Many of the other respondents chirped a familiar song–especially familiar to poor Cr Abiad. Caaarpaaarkiiing.

Adelaide already has one of the highest proportions of free-to-cheap carparking in Australia. This is a problem: it acts as an incentive for people to drive. (Check this great article out on the economics of carparking.) We need to move passed this for Adelaide to be a more liveable, sustainable place. Other movement strategies need to take centre place. Cycling, walking, public transport. Cars have had it easy for too long. Their time is over. (The question wasn’t even about visitors. It was about residency.)

I’d really like to find some stats of how far city visitors travel by car. I wonder what proportion live within, say, 5-10km of the city. I wonder what proportion of that number travel alone. I wonder what proportion of that, travel without cargo. I wonder.

I consider myself an idealist. A visionary, if you will. That’s why I am so anti-carparking. It’s not a solution. It just adds to many, many problems. We ought to be thinking about super-dooper public transport systems and that kind of thing. It’s inevitable. It will happen. Public transport will dominate for at least a certain category of movement.Walking and cycling will dominate for others.

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Another story where the keyboard warriors lack in vision: an article about a Danish study which concludes reducing the hours we work in a week is beneficial to our wellbeing. Firstly, it seems kind of obvious. Secondly, and this is my gripe, comments like this:

There are already many 25 hr/wk jobs out there. They are called part time jobs. However, the roof over your head, the food you put on your table, the college your children attend, the insurance that you keep for emergencies, and everything else you consume every day, the providers of these goods all expect compensation for their hours of skilled labor, and in the end, the currency paid for their time are your man hours.

Yup, that’s a problem. But shouldn’t we perhaps question that norm? More hours at work equals unhappier life. Less hours at work equals a happier life. Shouldn’t we be working towards that ideal? It’s a self-perpetuating dilemma–with a handful of indoctrination mixed in. We live expensive lives because that’s all we know. So we have to work crazy hours to pay for it. Does it have to be like that? Of course not. I live on 1/3 of what I use to and I am happier for it. I intend to bring that down further. One day I may become a tax resister–earn under the threshold so I don’t have to pay any tax at all. (I don’t know how that would sit on my conscience, but that’s not the point.) There are indicators all over the shop that we ought to reconsider our affluence. Studies like this are important. They reveal the negative health effects associated with unsustainable consumption, thus working practices.