Streets ahead

Low-traffic neighbourhoods will give people genuine choice about how they 
Low-traffic neighbourhoods will give people genuine choice about how they get around where they live, a new report argues. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
A new report on low-traffic cities by the Helen Clark Foundation, The Shared Path, suggests an alliance between communities and local and central government to decarbonise transport and return urban spaces to the people who live there.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the OECD and it’s mainly how we get around. But it comes at considerable cost, the report, authored by former Critic editor and Green MP Holly Walker, argues. Transport accounts for about 20% of the country’s climate emissions, more than half of which is from private vehicles. Then there’s the road toll, killing one person every day on average. For these and other reasons, the country would benefit from a substantial reduction in traffic volumes in our cities, Walker writes.

But leaving it up to individuals to leave the car in the garage in an environment that is often hostile to alternatives will fail to achieve the gains the country needs across emissions reductions, road safety, and social wellbeing.

What is needed is transport policy that will drive those outcomes and the research paper argues for low-traffic neighbourhoods.

In those areas, motorised traffic, other than the residents’ own, is discouraged, creating space for active transport — walking and cycling. One of the examples the paper highlights is the work the Dunedin City Council is doing in Mosgiel in partnership with schools to provide a safer environment for children to walk and cycle.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods have been shown to improve air quality, increase physical activity, benefit local business and increase social connectedness. Walker says central government needs to take a lead, supported by local government and local communities.


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