So close, so unreachable

A banal message received from a friend, about meeting for dinner:


The tricky trip is Cambridge-Hamilton East, NZ, 20 km.

Cambridge is a small town (20,000 residents), located near Hamilton, 150,000, the regional hub where you can find a diversity of jobs as well as the main hospital, universities, a museum, theaters or shopping centers. The connection between the two towns is obvious, for work, education, shopping, dining out, you name it. Yet, the bus service runs only 7 times per day, on week days, and the time table is obviously built for school kids. On week-ends, there is only 3 trips Cambridge-Hamilton, 4 trips back.

So if you’ve missed your 7.35 bus, you will be there around 10. And if you want to leave Hamilton after 5.15 pm, well you can’t (this is for the week days, on week-ends it’s 4.15).

Without a car, you will have to beg for a ride, or miss opportunities. I doubt you can even study in Hamilton whilst living in Cambridge, given the early last departures (not to mention the loss of social life). You need a car, and if you can’t drive or can’t afford it you miss out. That is called severance, or barrier effect, or exclusion.

Imagine an efficient public transport link, the kind that would be a real alternative. Running from early in the morning to late in the night, allowing you to get where you need to and come back, and doing it with a satisfying travel time. Imagine a service that is actually more efficient than driving, and that is therefore chosen. Less single-occupancy vehicles on the road, less congestion, less wasted time, less spending on new roads, less spending for the users, less crashes, less deaths and injuries, less severance, more opportunities to access whatever you need or want to access, more participation in the society, better inclusion, better outcomes for all.

This is not an utopian vision. This is what towns around the world do, because it works for the people and for the local and national economies.

Dangerous by design


Pedestrian fatalities are stagnating in US, as they are in NZ. Bridget Burdett, Accessibility Specialist and Principal Researcher at TDG, reminded the fact lately, saying that “whatever we are doing, we are doing it wrong”.

The 2 countries are comparable by a strongly car-oriented environment. In the US, some 4,600 people die every year while walking, struck and killed by a driver. The inequity is strong, with poor communities experiencing comparatively more dangerous environments, relying more on walking as a cheap transport mode, but also having lower rates of insurance coverage, and suffering therefore higher consequences of crashes.

People walk along these roads despite the clear safety risk. This is not user error. Rather, it is a sign that these streets are failing to adequately meet the needs of everyone inĀ  community.

Dangerous by Design 2016 is Smart Growth America’s review of the epidemic of crashes involving pedestrians, in the US, and the cities’ and states’ action.

Without surprise, the recommendation is to (finally) take pedestrians into account, in the planning, design, and redesign. On major arterial roads (NZ has a lot of them, cutting through towns, neighborhoods and communities), they recommend better footpaths, better and safer crossings, and lower speeds.