The Wrong Side of my Car

A blog about Auckland City, its streets, and culture shock

12 Dec 2015

The big traffic choker contest

I'm talking about the traffic calming device. This narrow thing where only one car fits side-by-side. Back in Belgium we know them as “verkeerspoortjes”, traffic ports.

I used to play a racing game called Stunts when I was a kid. Well, now my generation has grown up and has applied what we have learned in real life:

Reality vs. video game

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6 Dec 2015

The pink path

There’s a new cycle path in town. It is very pink and called Te Ara I Whiti or LightPath. The path starts at the end of Nelson Street, where it goes from what is now the only proper cycle path in this part of town, to Upper Queen Street, where you can then continue on the Grafton Gully cycle path and the NorthWestern Cycle path. It takes you right over the spaghetti junction.

The start of the path.

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5 Dec 2015

Oh there’s an advertisement for— wait, what?

Spotted this one a while ago at the City mission in Auckland. You don’t see these in Belgium.

And meanwhile the LED ticker goes like “PLEASE DONATE”, and “HELP A FAMILY”. Sure, sure.

2 Dec 2015

The unavoidable traffic infarct conjecture

What is it with cities that always causes them to suffer from congestion all the time?

Auckland is still quite OK compared to what we’re used to in Belgium, but it’s catching up fast:

It seems unavoidable that as a city grows, its traffic grinds to a halt. But why?

You could argue that this happens because there are not enough roads. You’d be right, but why don’t we just build more roads as the city grows? Judging from the discussion about rate increases for the next 10-year plan in Auckland, one issue seems to be funding.

It got me thinking. Why is that? Are we doing something wrong? Or is it just a consequence of how cities work?

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23 Nov 2015

So, to “Auckland 2040” and other NIMBYs…

I see it’s fearmongering time again…

Secret housing plans for Auckland

Tens of thousands of homes in Auckland’s leafy residential suburbs are being rezoned for multiple townhouses and apartments and Auckland Council says homeowners will not be notified about the changes.

Anyone following this saga over here can probably guess who is behind that article…

Auckland 2040 and Herne Bay Residents Association co-chair Christine Cavanagh said there were serious issues of natural justice for residents of the single-house zone.

Oh, boo-hoo.

And by the way, check out the cover image of one of those other articles about this issue:

OMG! Apartments! Those are 3-storeys, right?

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5 Nov 2015

The Tow-Away sign, the measure of success in Auckland

In Auckland, the way to show you have successfully established your business, is by displaying a Tow-Away sign:

The ultimate Auckland collector’s item

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3 Nov 2015

Figuring out again how a bicycle works

Here in Auckland, riding a bicycle is a distant memory at best. Something people did once upon a time, before the industrial revolution. Or back when the animals were still speaking. Or something else long time ago.

So it’s not really surprising to see warts like this in the newspaper:

A bicycle registration system will be introduced so that future cycle lanes will be built when the fund accumulated from cyclist registrations allows for it.

That’s one David Rankin running for council. So I think he’s serious (correct me if I’m wrong). What about this idea:

Restore the access to all the volcanic peaks as it existed in 2011

Yeah sure. Anyone who has ever driven his car up one of those peaks during a sunny summer weekend knows how stupid that idea is.

But I digress. You know there’s trouble when people start talking about bicycle registration, and seriously think it’s a good idea. I guess after being on a car-only diet for too long everything starts to look like cars, and these little things about driving a car—like you need a license, a rego, etc.—just seem normal things for everyone underway on our streets.

But no, they all have a reason, specific to the fact you’re driving a car, and not a Segway or a step or a bicycle. Applying what you know about cars to other transport leads to all kinds of weird ideas.

When you realize that a bicycle is in fact not a miniature car, it’s easy to debunk these ideas.

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18 Oct 2015

Just a minimal bit of courtesy

Some things can be codified in traffic law, like yielding to pedestrians at a zebra crossing. But often, being nice to each other is all we need to resolve a lot of situations.

Sometimes I fantasize of punishing inconsiderate people. But that shouldn’t be needed. Please show just a minimal bit of courtesy from time to time.

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4 Oct 2015

A collision of speed limits and politics

Let me tell you a cautionary tale about what can go wrong if politicians start meddling with the traffic rules.

A popular topic of talk back in Belgium are the speed limits. Why they are so slow. Where you got your latest speeding fine. How much over the limit, and how much euro? Many people consider speeding fines as unavoidable as next Monday. And that forest of speed limit signs. Meet the Belgian driver’s best friend:

Maximum 70 km/h

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28 Sep 2015

The suburb called Hageland

Let’s talk a bit about Belgium, the country where I grew up. The Belgian countryside, more specifically an area called “Hageland”. Named after the hedges which used to delineate fields.

Nice place to live. If you like very small towns where everybody knows everybody. Where you can actually meet other people outside home and work. Where in our local pub, the music is not too loud to talk to your friends. And where they actually know how to tap a pint of beer. Where you’re only a stone’s throw away from the quiet of the countryside. It’s a good place for a relaxing bicycle ride among the rolling hills in the countryside.

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26 Sep 2015

Bicycling in Auckland: the big no-no

I’m an European guy, so when I came here I had some expectation of being able to get around in the immediate area on my bicycle.

I was wrong.

Auckland is not just built for cars. Apart from a small area in the CBD it’s built exclusively for cars. And it’s utterly hostile to pedestrians and even more so to bicyclists.

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25 Sep 2015

Who gives a damn at the Hobson ridge?

So. I showed you around on Hobson and Nelson Street a while ago. Suppose you’re thinking of buying an apartment in that corner of the CBD. Maybe on SugarTree, which stares you in the face every time you drive through the CBD? Or the Fiore, which is currently overgrowing that old building on the corner across the police station?

Building hug!

Then I’ve got good news and bad news for you. Which one do you want to hear first? The good news?

Here’s the good news: nobody gives a damn.

The bad news? Nobody gives a damn.

Let me explain the good news first.

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20 Sep 2015

A stroll on Hobson and Nelson Street

Well, I can hear you thinking already. If you’re going to the city for a stroll, you’re supposed to go to Queen Street. With its little pedestrian alleys on the sides. Its Barne’s dances. But it doesn’t mean it always have to be the same street stealing the limelight, right?

So on we go. These two streets are well known as where you go on or off the Southern motorway.

We’ll start on the South. The southern end of both streets is one of the main entries to the city, where streams of cars from the South and West exit the Spaghetti Junction. But believe it or not, in a few months a bicycle path will emerge from the junction as well, right here, in the middle. More on that later.

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15 Sep 2015

Life on the wrong side of my car

So, here I was, 4 years ago. Newly arrived in Auckland, the city of sails. See, it’s right there on the tourism website.

The city of sails

You know, I used to be one of these kids who was way too fascinated with all kinds of geeky stuff. Meshing together those Lego Technic cogwheels in weird ways. Programming computers, of all things. And those motorways intersections. You can just follow one of those ramps, make some twists and turns through that spaghetti of bridges, and poof, you emerge on the other motorway.

I mean, how do you figure out this thing?

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