Boulter Consulting

Boulter Consulting specialises in Urban and Transport Planning. It is based in the Wairarapa District in the southern half of the North Island of New Zealand.

Boulter Consulting is based in the Wairarapa District.


Roger Boulter
BA (Hons), CMILT
Boulter Consulting
Urban and Transport Planning
P O Box 89
Carterton 5743
283 High Street South
Carterton 5713
Tel 06 379 8909
Mobile 021 872 654


Check out the latest newsletter, on the 'newsletter' page.

9 June 2020

Book draft wins WSP Golden Foot Award

Roger Boulter's draft book 'Planning for Walking and Cycling in New Zealand' has won an award, in the 'Research' category, at the recent WSP Golden Foot Awards, held every two years by walking advocacy body Living Streets Aotearoa.

Living Streets Aotearoa has for nearly 20 years campaigned for walking to be recognised for the important role it plays not only in transport but also in preventive health, crime prevention, and place-making.

The WSP Golden Foot Awards are held every two years to recognise and commend initiatives which reflect good practice and showcase how walking can be helped. Other winners this year were the Covid-19 Bear Hunt, Brightwater School Consultation (Tasman District), Auckland Design Office High Street Re-design, counting users on a new Palmerston North walking and cycling bridge, and walking champion Chris Teo-Sherrell.

Roger Boulter's book avoids a common mistake of conflating 'walking' and 'cycling' together in transport policies and government initiatives - where in practice cycling grabs almost all the focus for its particular iconic associations, leaving the rather different needs of walking neglected.

"In chapter 4, 'From Jaywalking to Jan Gehl' I point to walking being more about face-to-face interaction and people feeling safe, rather than efficient movement from A to B, which is how engineers and transport planners have tended to see transport.

"This is one reason walking has been misunderstood, and why its needs remain largely unmet, even today in New Zealand transport policy and initiatives.

"In chapter 11, I call footpaths and walking a 'dumping ground'. They've suffered from attempts to solve other transport issues. Example currently topical are the increasing use of footpaths by e-scooters, bicycles and other forms of transport which may make people on foot feel safe (potentially deterring them from walking); the poor condition of footpath infrastructure; and other ways people's right and freedom to walk are eroded" said Roger.

"But there's good news. Over the last 20 years attitudes towards different forms of transport have changed massively. Cities have turned more and more space over to people on foot, and have seen big economic and other benefits from this. The Government's recent 'Innovating Streets' programme, coming at the same time as the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing restrictions, has prompted people to be creative and imagine a future where transport is a whole lot different from how it has been, with walking and cycling more central, to the benefit of us all" concluded Roger.

27 May 2020

Walking and cycling book draft out

Roger Boulter has made available (here) draft text of his book 'Planning for Walking and Cycling in New Zealand'.

No one has written up this story - and no one has Roger Boulter's nearly 40-year length and depth of experience to do so.

Roger is an urban planner - which means he appreciates the importance of qualitative data (not just numbers) - including anecdotes and what real people think "which I feel is the most important type of data there is, because none of our planning is of any use if it doesn't work for those at the receiving end" said Roger.

Roger's book starts with worrying early 20th century ideas that technological advancement will usher in a better and happier world. "This idea soon got shot down by people whose homes and communities got demolished to make way for big roads and soul-less new housing. That was 1960s New York, but 1970s Netherlands saw furious public anger at numbers of children being killed on the roads. Both these movements were enormously influential. The Netherlands then completely turned round the way they planned transport - and one result was the stratospherically high cycling levels we've all heard of (it's not because Holland's flat). Yet old ideas are still strong in New Zealand.

"I've blown a few myths in this book. One is that building cycleways is the best way to help cyclists. It isn't - less and slower road traffic is, where motorists gain as much as anyone else does. The Netherlands have done it - it's down to how you plan transport networks.

"Even our best 'integrated transport planning' exercises haven't quite got it yet - we continue to reap congested roads, poor public transport, and unappealing cycling facilities.

"Transport planners have struggled to grasp the nature and importance of walking. It is more about face-to-face interaction than the network-based travel transport planners are used to. It is the reason cities have existed, and the source of a thriving economy, less crime and people just loving to be there. It's about people feeling safe, not absence of crashes - which is why current proposals to allow cyclists to use footpaths are so misguided" (see below).

"I've tried to deflate hype around 'autonomous vehicles' (self-driving cars) and 'low-powered vehicles' (e-scooters and the like). They're useful, but no magic bullet. Technological panache doesn't make up for the human scale of walking and cycling.

"Nearly 40 years ago I led cycle planning in a major UK local Council, 20 years ago at national level in New Zealand. Apart from outlining history much of which I've lived through and some of which I've made, I point to how we could have a better transport system for everyone - including car drivers. It's been done before, and can happen again - so long as we don't repeat mistakes like in the 1930s, where it was just about getting cyclists onto paths" concluded Roger.

27 May 2020

Roger Boulter gives two cheers for 'Accessible Streets' Regulatory Package

The NZ Transport Agency's Accessible Streets Regulatory Package (on which submissions have just closed) is fruit of painstaking work, and those involved should be commended for it, said veteran cycle planning expert Roger Boulter. Boulter has nearly 40 years' experience in this field, including leadership at national level in the UK and New Zealand.

"In years past, road rules were written by people who didn't experience cycling first-hand. This meant some rules didn't work for cyclists.

"Ever seen a cyclist at traffic lights move ahead from a 'left-turn only' lane? Or 'undertake' a queue of cars? They've often done this to look after their own safety - not to annoy motorists.

"Now, with this Regulatory Package, such moves would be made legal.

"To know how road rules work for a cyclist, you need to be a cyclist. Some of the consultants who have worked up these proposals, people I have known personally for many years and respect professionally, have that first-hand knowledge - and it shows.

"One change cyclists will especially welcome is the requirement for motor vehicles to keep at least a metre away when overtaking a cyclist in a 50 km/h speed area, and 1.5 metres on higher-speed roads. This change was recommended by the 2014 Cycling Safety Panel, and now looks set to become law.

"If you don't think it's needed, try cycling. It's scary having a car or truck pass you close at speed. The rule change won't stop that, but it will help a bit.

"'Low-powered vehicles' - e-scooters and the like - would be allowed to use cycling facilities. This seems a no-brainer, likely to be widely welcomed - but is no magic bullet, because only a tiny minority of roads would be affected.

"Nothing in this Regulatory Package is a magic bullet. Rules can only do so much. Good transport planning can do more, and I've just written a book (currently in draft form, here) on how we could really make New Zealand good for walking and cycling - and for car drivers too.

"It's such a pity this Package is spoilt by moves to allow cyclists to legally ride on footpaths, and open footpaths up to more use by 'low-powered vehicles'. This will actually worsen safety for cyclists. People representing footpath users - especially seniors and people with disabilities, who might stay home if they don't feel safe - should be centrally involved in any proposals to change the law on who can use footpaths" (see below).

"Without these flies in otherwise good ointment, this would be an excellent Package rather than just a mostly good one. So two cheers (rather than three) for the good work done here by the Transport Agency staff and their consultants" said Roger.

27 May 2020

Footpath-grabbing misguided, says veteran cycle planning expert

The NZ Transport Agency's 'Accessible Streets' Regulatory Package, otherwise excellent (see above) is spoilt by a move to allow cyclists and low-powered vehicles (e-scooters and the like) to ride on footpaths, said Roger Boulter.

"The proposal to legalise footpath cycling, or some forms of it, hasn't come about from good, objective and inclusive policy formulation" said Roger, a transport planner with nearly 40 years' experience in planning for walking and cycling.

"It latches onto a tired old canard, shown to be flawed, that segregating cyclists from motor traffic is always best for safety".

Roger has written a book on 'Planning for Walking and Cycling in New Zealand' (see above and this website's 'Writings' page), draft text of which he has sent to the Transport Agency with his submission on the 'Accessible Streets' Regulatory Package (see this website's 'Projects' page).

"Some Transport Agency staff need educating" said Roger. "This situation has only arisen in the last five years. Starting with a new focus on separating cyclists onto dedicated bikeways and off roadways, then came a school cycle trainer embarrassed they can't condone children riding home on roadside footpaths, and a well-meaning concerned Lower Hutt cycling Mum raising a petition. Cycling advocates were divided - many did not support the footpath cycling push - but those who did somehow carried the day. I'd ask all cyclists to please look beyond your handlebars to the needs of groups such as seniors and people with disabilities, who heavily rely on footpaths and need to feel safe there. Current calls to legalise footpath cycling go right against the lessons we've learnt from the past" said Roger.

"The Transport Agency's consultants, used to advise them on the Accessible Streets package, are good - I've known them for years and respect them. But the Agency has got them looking at the wrong data.

"Segregating cyclists from motor traffic needs to be done selectively, and never where it will affect pedestrians, who are far more numerous and more important to our well-being than are cyclists. We need to start by making road and path networks safe for cyclists. That means a different approach to how we plan transport networks as a whole. Past history (like in the Netherlands) has shown this works for everyone - including car drivers, and of course people on foot.

"Footpath crashes involving pedestrians are generally low - you don't need a consultant's study to tell you this - but they're not the main issue" said Roger. "Far more important is whether people feel safe walking. Without this, there are major adverse consequences. With this, we all reap economic prosperity, less crime and a strong sense of place because people want to be there.

"Seniors and people with various types of disability rely on footpaths more than the rest of us, so if they stay home there are social exclusion and mental health issues too. They certainly need footpaths more than able-bodied cyclists do.

"Best practice engagement means those affected by any law change proposal should be centrally involved in formulating that change - lawful footpath users. That hasn't happened. Cycling advocates should certainly be involved in road-based law changes, but not where footpaths are involved" said Roger.

14 August 2017

Remaking urban and transport planning in New Zealand: book draft takes shape.

With the reviewers comments received and taken note of, the draft text for Roger's book (working title as above) has been given a revamp and refocus.

The gist of it is a broad sweep through the history of town planning and transport planning, drawing some lessons for issues current today.

Urban planning started from visionaries imagining a better future (such as 'garden cities'"'), and seeking to work towards that vision. Professions and governments got on board from the early 1900s onwards.

Transport planning started quite differently, from extrapolating data (on households, population, land uses, and incomes) to forecast a future, and then work towards that, pioneered in 1930s Chicago, USA.

This contrast lies at the heart of many issues which have challenged urban and transport planning ever since: urban planning imagines a future, and transport planning (in its classic form, most clearly defined in the 1960s) forecasts a future.

The latter, from the1950s/ 1960s onwards, has been based on assumptions such as that car ownership and use are the default form of transport aspired to, are rising, and unlock prosperity and a better lifestyle. It was taken as a "given" that accommodating this through an urban form based on a "road hierarchy" (distinguishing between through-traffic and local-access roads) and a network of arterial roads for through-traffic, would deliver a better future for everyone.

But then the challenges started.

Starting in New York but then spreading throughout the Western world, residents of poorer, older areas objected in the 1960s to the tearing down of older neighbourhoods, citing the devastating damage done to community support networks in those areas. At the time these residents were dismissed as "anti-progress", but have since been recognised as pointing to the vital importance of the social environment, and involving communities in decisions affecting them. These damaging effects of 1950s road plans had been completely missed by the technical experts in whom political leaders had put their trust.

Then the forecasts overshot in the 1980s. Far from traffic levels approaching a 1990s "saturation point" as forecast in the 1960s, they carried on rising, and 1960s hype about free-flowing arterial roads was replaced with the burden of congestion we have since become familiar with. After much intense professional debate, by the early 1990s it was established beyond doubt that building more and bigger roads generates its own traffic.

The hunt was on to see whether public transport, up until then dismissed as residual poor-person"s transport, could take some of the strain of the ever-rising traffic demand. Road and public transport authorities collaborated on "integrated transport studies" from the early 1990s, which nevertheless excluded significant lay public involvement, as well as excluding from consideration walking or cycling as potential forms of transport.

Planning for cycling arose from the 1970s, from two different origins with spectacularly contrasting outcomes. In the Netherlands, it emerged from a wider movement of public anger at child deaths from motor traffic, and was accompanied by significant restraints on movement by car, as well as very early traffic calming in the form of the "woonerf" concept. New Zealand cycle planning practice, in contrast, derived from Australian road safety initiatives, leaving planning for the car unaffected, with the result that cycling remained a very minor form of transport, in contrast to the Netherlands where it became ubiquitous (the Dutch have not always had a "cycling culture"). Despite comparisons between these two outcomes leading to a recognition that cyclists are best helped by Netherlands-style traffic restraint, planning for cycling in New Zealand remains heavily based around building "cycleways".

Planning for walking was recognised even later, from the 1990s, and architects played a key role. Seeing streets as "places" not movement corridors, planning for walking was more about decisions about how urban street space was allocated. Steadily, from the mid-1990s onwards, more and more urban street space has been transferred from motor traffic movement to people on foot, even including the actual demolition of major arterial roads, as the vital role played by "placemaking" in urban economies and personal safety came to be recognised. Methodologies such as "link and place" seek to bridge the yawning professional gap between architects and traffic engineers, but this remains challenging, and at risk of failure through being too complex to apply in practice.

And the lessons from all this?

Transport planning is about choices. We should never think we "must" accommodate ourselves to a future forecast by technical "experts". Some of the less guarded, more enthusiastic hype about autonomous vehicles, reminiscent of the breathless 1960s enthusiasm surrounding rising car ownership, provides a salutary lesson. "We" means lay people; the lessons of 1960s New York should tell us that lay people know a lot that technical people miss. Always, transport planners must work closely with those most affected by their planning, and take their lead from the lay public. "Engagement" is not about getting "our" proposal implemented through talking people round to cede us a "social licence to operate".

Choices cannot be made by technical models. Models are important tools, and in some respects under-exploited, but can only ever inform choices, not make them for us. Again, as with other technical matters, there are whole areas that models may miss (especially social effects, and anything not readily expressed as numbers).

We must be ready and open to choose something which has not been chosen before, because the world in the past 20 years is different from the mindsets of previous decades. From about 10 years ago, traffic levels in general have stopped growing " a complete change from the previous assumption that growth was a truism. Millennials do not see car ownership as a status symbol, passport to opportunities, or a rite of passage to adulthood, as their parents and grandparents did.

Transport planning must be approached as a single exercise. So often, planning for cars, public transport and cycling have been seen as separate areas, and they aren"t.

Doing what"s best for one form of transport will work against what is best for another form of transport, an issue which has long been avoided. Difficult and explicit choices of priorities will need to be made. Choices will become all the more important as ambitious integrating initiatives such as the "One Network Road Classification" are rolled out. There is no such things as a "technical optimum": instead, we the public must shape initiatives such as ONRC in ways which work for us.

Although going by different names, what amount to "integrated transport planning" exercises are being rolled out in many of our larger centres (e.g. Auckland Transport Alignment Project, Let"s Get Wellington Moving). If we are to avoid the mistakes of the past, the choices involved in these exercises must be made openly by the public, not behind closed doors by technical people. Then we may finally arrive at a transport system that works.

14 August 2017

Roger awarded "best contributor" for articles in Roundabout professional magazine.

The IPENZ Transport Group this year awarded Roger Boulter "best contributor" (an annual award) for several articles in their quarterly professional magazine Roundabout.

Oh, those Germans: "Either do or do not, there is not try" (December 2016) responds to a previous article in Roundabout about German cycle-friendly roundabout designs. In Germany, roundabouts are designed with tight corner radii and narrow traffic lanes, so that motorists and cyclists can safely share the same space " rather than for speed and traffic throughput efficiency, which is often the case in New Zealand. However, this is not new (as many readers might assume). The same lesson had been drawn in the early 1990s, when "Continental roundabout design" (read: German-style design) had been found to resolve the recurring problem that while roundabouts may be efficient and safe for general motorised traffic, they can be lethal and obstructive for cyclists and people on foot. A bigger question then arises: if this has been known for so long, then why have planners and road engineers not been applying the lesson?

This problem may have a lot to do with the "silo" way we approach transport planning, assuming that "providing for cyclists" means "building cycleways" (supported by some promotion). In fact, most cycling takes place on general roads, and so these should be designed for cyclists " as, in fact, the Germans have done " everywhere. Impractical? Well the Germans have done it. The quote "Either do or do not, there is not try" is some advice to this effect given by Jedi Master Yoda to Luke Skywalker in one of the Star Wars films.

ATAP " the return of "integrated transport"? (March 2017) looks at the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. This exciting and ground-breaking project came about for pragmatic reasons: a desire to bring Government policy together with that of Auckland Council. The Government"s focus gave prominence to "roads of national significance" while Auckland Council gave first priority to its Central Rail Link. History was repeating itself: in the late 1980s, the UK Government"s priority was roads, while local authorities in Birmingham and the West Midlands gave first priority to rebuilding a rail line between Birmingham and the West Midlands town of Wolverhampton. The 1989 "Birmingham Integrated Transport Study" (BITS) was the result, widely copied not only across the UK but also in some places in New Zealand (and the rail link, by the way, has long since been built).

BITS was widely studied, and its shortcomings were shown to be exclusion of public involvement (through a largely "closed door" collaboration between official bodies) and ignoring of walking and cycling (through those official bodies being a road authority and a public transport authority). ATAP, despite including some exciting innovation possibilities (for example, the closest New Zealand has yet come to trialling road pricing) seems to show similar shortcomings. For example, on cycling, it simply notes the existing work of NZTA"s cycling team (largely some cycleway building in major centres, supported by promotion), and has no significant coverage of cycling to or interface with public transport, or applying filtered permeability methodology to road network design, both of which would make more of a positive difference for cycling. Coverage of walking in ATAP is also conspicuous by its absence.

Mayer Hillman " a giant in the research community (June 2017) looks at Mayer Hillman, Emeritus Research Fellow at London"s Policy Studies Institute. Now retired, Mayer has for many decades strenuously opposed the idea that "cycling is dangerous". His seminal 1992 Cycling: Towards Health and Safety was the turning point, showing conclusively that what cycling did for health far outweighed the statistical risk of death or injury. Equally seminal was, with other co-authors, his 1991 study One False Move: A Study of Children"s Independent Mobility, which (along with much more work by Mayer Hillman) pointed to the great gains, in terms of physical fitness, psychological development and social skills, of children being a able to roam "free range" walking and cycling; implying that the approach to take is to make the road environment safe, rather than have adults escort them everywhere.

1 December 2016

2 Walk and Cycle conference, Auckland, July 2016 " biggest-ever " and best??

Reportedly, the 2 Walk and Cycle conference, in Auckland in July, had the biggest-ever attendance of the now well-established conference series. It was brimming with a lot of good advice.

Keynote presenter was Gil Penalosa, a consultant and brother of Enrique Penalosa, the Mayor of Bogata, Colombia, a city which has achieved something of a poster-child status, largely for its innovative Trans-Millennio high-quality bus service, definitive world-class "bus rapid transit".

Gil"s motto was "8-80" " the idea that a city and its streets should be designed so that an 8-year-old child and an 80-year-old elderly person would be comfortable using it. I noticed that this resonates with the useful message often heard from acolytes of Roger Geller, the cycle planner from Portland, Oregon, USA, about designing cities for the "interested but concerned" sector " interested in cycling but concerned whether the road system would be safe for them.

Both these work when you base your wider transport planning around a reduced role for the car. They"re not achieved just by pumping money into "cycleway" programmes (which certainly wasn"t at the core of Gil"s message). I think most conference attendees realised that, but to my mind it is all too easy for us to either forget or dodge this question, because reducing or slowing motor traffic, long established as the most important priorities in helping cyclists, can only be addressed by broader planning. History shows that even backing up cycleway building with "travel behaviour change" promotion programmes won"t go very far towards this on its own.

Other highlights for me included the launch, a bit low-key I thought in a break-out session, of the NZ Transport Agency"s Cycle Network Guidance - Planning and Design, which even some Transport Agency staff have admitted to me is more about infrastructure design than it is about transport planning. As Axel Wilke, who led a lot of this work, said during its launch, the issue is not so much knowing what design to adopt, but knowing where to look amidst the bewildering plethora of design advice out from various global sources. This Guidance is only available on-line, and I understand a reason is so that the details can be updated easily, as the minutiae of the cycle facility design world shift themselves about. On planning, the Guidance rolls over much that was in the older 2004 Cycle Network and Route Planning Guide, which Transport Agency staff have stressed to me remains very applicable. As one of that earlier Guide"s co-authors, I"d say it was progress for its time, but missed (because of how its brief was defined) much that was current even then in the area of integrated transport planning. The new Guidance repeats this lack, added to which integrated transport planning (and not just infrastructure design) has moved on a lot in those intervening 12 years. All told, the Guidance is good on engineering but weak, and in places actually flawed, on planning.

One of the more interesting other presentations I felt was by Andy Smith and Bevan Woodward, on the Auckland Harbour Bridge Skypath proposal. This brought to the fore a very curly question " is it ever appropriate to forsake patient reasoning for "direct action"? There was something of a divergence within the Auckland walking and cycling advocacy communities on this, and a direct-action megaphone-led confrontation resulted, with the aforesaid two gentlemen leading walkers and cyclists (in the glare of media publicity) across the Bridge, against official prohibition. Seeing the slick walk-through animation of the current proposals, and seeing how close this facility now is to being built " which undoubtedly will revolutionise cycling and overall cycling levels in Auckland " the nagging question which haunts me now is: would we have ever got so far had these two gentlemen not got angry and done what they did?

Of course this isn"t the only high-profile bike path in Auckland " a few major ones are already in place, including the (famously pink) Lightpath beside the Central Motorway Junction, and the Quay Street waterfront separated path. I had had a good nose by myself of the first one earlier (it"s worth a walk-over) and the latter was opened by the Prime Minister during the conference. Good progress, but let"s keep some perspective " I showed a picture of the Lightpath in my presentation and said that there had been a steadily-growing international trend, over the past couple of decades, in favour of demolishing motorway intersections like this, not just converting unwanted lanes for walking and cycling use. My own presentation material (on my forthcoming book Humanising urban and transport planning) can be found as follows:

This little snapshot of a few conference vignettes gives just a taste " it is worth a fuller trawl through the 2 Walk and Cycle 2016 conference website " and talking of taste I"ll close with the Bike to the Future Awards Dinner. These are jointly hosted by the NZ Transport Agency and the Cycling Action Network (CAN), and replace CAN"s previous Cycle Friendly Awards. Although the Agency"s predecessor bodies have in past years given sponsorship to these awards (as indeed I have done), this is the first time an official government agency has co-hosted them. Two issues arise here. Firstly, while independent we can be fairly sure that something will receive an award on its merits (at least, so I would claim, as a former judge). With government awards, there will always be the question whether something receives an award in order to raise its profile for the government"s own "political" reasons. As an insider said to me at the conference, "the Minister likes to open things". Secondly, this was the first year when there was no category under which a good planning document could be nominated " the range of subject matter had narrowed, and planning of infrastructure was covered, but not planning which did not resulting in infrastructure. It"s that same lack I referred to above with the Cycle Network Guidance, although no reflection on the various excellent initiatives which did receive recognition.

1 December 2016

Talking the walk " changes "afoot" for footpath use?

Walking has always struggled for recognition in comparison with the more "sexy" and iconic cycling. Cycling speaks of health, fitness, and environmental responsibility, while walking can seem mundane and, well, rather "pedestrian".

Many were against merging the separate walking and cycling conferences, when this was suggested in 2008. It"s fine for officials, who then only have one conference to attend, but walking has very different needs, as well as arguably playing a more important role than cycling does in "placemaking". Read just about anything by Danish urban design guru Jan Gehl and a main theme is that if somewhere is really pleasant and inviting for walking (not just functional) then people stop, chat, people-watch, enjoy the scene, and attract more people who all go on to spend money in local businesses " so the whole place thrives economically and culturally. Reena Kokotailo, who led the ground-breaking 1999-2000 National Pedestrian Project and then went on to lead the Ministry of Transport"s early 2000s walking and cycling strategy work, used to warn strenuously against what she called "the joined at the hip problem", the idea that officials can lump "cycling and walking" together and do justice equally to both together. Alongside sexy and iconic cycling, walking would get smothered, warned Reena, and this seems to be exactly what has been happening this year " at least, according to some walking advocates I got talking to at the conference. "Under siege" was one phrase I heard.

Conferences are great for meeting people face-to-face you had previously only heard of, so when I saw "Jo Clendon" on the badge of someone next to me at a coffee stand, I made a point of making friends with her. We chatted a good amount, I went to her presentation and she to mine, I think we parted as friends, but I was quite open about being strongly opposed to a petition she has before Parliament to legalise cycling by children, young teenagers, elderly and "accompanying adults" (quite a wide category).

Jo is either skilled in media relations, or has someone who is so skilled helping her a lot here. Her message is slick and persuasive, replete with well-chosen imagery, feel-good monikers like "the cycling mum", "bikes welcome" and "bikes belong", and a "why wouldn"t you?" tone of language. All very cuddly. She says her aim is to encourage children to acquire cycling skills, and cites school cycling instructors saying they feel it is "wrong" that they can"t teach children how to safely ride on footpaths (rubbish " they can explain the good safety reasons why footpath cycling is in most cases illegal, which effectively does the same job).

The problem I have with this is that skills of interacting with motor traffic are only acquired " in careful and graduated stages " in the presence of that traffic (that"s how people learn to drive a car), and there"s a wealth of professional literature saying that taking children away from traffic works against their acquisition of safety skills (and thus their resilience against road traffic danger). I think in particular of my friend the London Policy Studies Institute Emeritus Research Fellow Mayer Hillman and his influential co-authored 1990 study One False Move: A Study of Children"s Independent Mobility.

Living Streets Aotearoa, New Zealand"s national walking advocacy group, are strongly against Jo Clendon"s desired law change, as are many disability advocacy groups. The Cycle Action Network were divided, but have been persuaded by Jo"s supporters among them to back her petition, although many CAN members have voiced to me similar concerns to those I have. I"m due to speak to Parliament"s Select Committee on Transport and Industrial Relations on Jo"s petition in the New Year. If you wonder why I oppose what many (like Jo) see as common sense, I"d be glad to explain more, but I"ve been around a long time and seen other calls to encourage more uptake of cycling through encouragement to cycle away from the traffic. It never works " watch this space, but should Jo succeed I predict her law change will be followed by calls to encourage all cyclists to get off the road, out of the way of (motor) "traffic" and onto paths "where they belong", which will end up badly designed and more dangerous than the roads (and that"s before we even look at the effect on walking and pedestrians). The kids Jo wants to encourage to pick up cycling skills then won"t be able to do that.

And that"s not all! The Transport Agency is looking at allowing some categories of "low-powered vehicles", like e-skateboards and e-scooters, to use footpaths too " part of wider research also involving "e-bikes". Internationally, sales and interest in these innovative technologies seems to be growing strongly (and no doubt there is a lot of money to be made by whoever steps up as NZ entrepreneurs in this area!!!) " but many of those involved in this Transport Agency research have personal backgrounds in cycling advocacy! There seems a massive power imbalance between the walking and the cycling sectors here. My suggestion, which I thought was (and still think is) very reasonable " that those involved in this research should work closely with Living Streets Aotearoa as the main national walking stakeholder body " received an angry response (by phone) almost immediately after I posted an internet comment " a strength of reaction which still surprises and puzzles me. Planning best practice, from the 1960s-70s onwards, moved away from detailed, multi-year, costed technical-based "blueprint" grand plans, replacing this approach with such theories as public participation, communicative planning, advocacy planning and much more. The basic idea came to be established that plans should be strategic, broad-brush and flexible (not detailed and prescriptive) and that planners should work in close dialogue with (not against) those most affected by planners" decisions. All the above is very useful grist to the mill of my forthcoming book Humanising urban and transport planning " and I even did my 1977 planning degree dissertation on 'Public participation in local authority decision-making'.

16 June 2016

Roger publishes on transport sustainability, and other things....

Roger Boulter"s article Sustainability - chasing our tail has appeared in the June 2016 issue of Logistics and Transport NZ, the journal of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. The June issue had a sustainable transport theme.

Meanwhile, two items from Roger have appeared in Roundabout, the magazine of the IPENZ Transportation Group. Firstly, a brief historical outline (here) of the NZ walking and cycling conferences " topical, with the 2 Walk and Cycle 2016 conference approaching in early July.

Secondly, a short piece on footpath cycling. A petition currently before Parliament on this has produced a significant response in social media, and Roger"s piece is reprinted from Cycle Aware Wellington"s website. Roger doesn"t favour the idea " read why here.

14 April 2016

Congratulations to Lakeview School's Bikes in Schools project - Wairarapa's first
Congratulations are in order for 'Bikes in Schools' at Masterton's Lakeview School. Yesterday saw the project's opening, the first in the Wairarapa.

'Bikes in Schools', an initiative of the 'Bike On New Zealand Charitable Trust' originated when Hastings businessman Paul McArdle went for a "Just do it!" approach, taking his own initiative to provide bikes, ancillary equipment and a bike training track at the school his own children attended. This has inspired others around the country, with many supporting similar initiatives. Lakeview School is the first for the Wairarapa.

Morning drizzle cleared in time for the first group of children to ride the new track around the edge of the school sports field, after retired professional racing cyclist Alison Shanks, visiting from Hamilton, cut the ribbon. Some of the children then tried out their skills on a short obstacle course. Many individuals and organisations had chipped in with sponsorship and devoted a lot of time and energy to making yesterday's outcome happen. Well done, everyone involved!

2 April 2016

Roger calls on cycling advocates: see the cake not the icing.
In a magazine article, Roger has called on the NZ Cycle Action Network to 'see the cake not the icing', saying that mainstream government activity will make more difference for cycling than the concentration of specialist activity represented by the NZ Transport Agency's National Cycling Team.

"The National Cycling Team is doing great work" said Roger, "but the biggest difference for cycling has always come from areas of government activity other than cycling programmes".

Roger's article appeared (here) in the March 2016 issue of 'Chainlinks', the magazine of the NZ Cycle Action Network (CAN). CAN (formerly the Cycling Advocates' Network) has recently undergone a major restructuring, aiming at mass membership and working closely with the NZ Transport Agency to implement the fruit of a major increase in government interest, budget and staff resources devoted to cycling since late 2014.

"For example" said Roger, "the recent joint Government and Auckland Council transport 'alignment' project focuses very much on reducing congestion and increasing the use of public transport. Cycling and walking could play a really important part in both of these. Transferring some of the short-distance trips (which are a very significant proportion of the whole), to walking and cycling could have significant congestion benefits for general motor traffic. Walking and cycling can also boost public transport use, if environments around rail stations are inviting and safe for walking and cycling, and access to rail service infrastructure is easy to use.

"A lot of this falls outside what we think of as cycling programmes".

29 March 2016

Roger gathers transport planning lessons together in 'planning book'.

At time of writing - early 2016 - Roger is well advanced in writing a book on lessons from the history of urban and transport planning.

"Readers of my end-2015 newsletter will have read of my book-writing on historical lessons for cycle planning" said Roger.

"You can't really benefit cycling just by building 'cycleways' - so, logically, you can't bring out historical lessons for cycling separate from wider transport planning.

"And you can't cover transport planning without embracing wider urban planning of which transport planning is just one aspect.

"I've delved into philosophical trends from at least the 1700s, which led on to produce a very impersonal form of town planning, and transport planning, through to the middle 20th century. This legacy still haunts us today more strongly than we would realise, or care to admit. But there is good news! There is also a legacy of thinkers, from at least the late 19th century, who have fought this, and sought to give urban planning a more 'humanised' form.

"On transport planning, it has often been cycling which has attracted these 'rebels'. From the suffragettes and other free-thinkers of the early 1900s, to the post-oil-shock 'greenies' of the late 1970s, cycling draws like a magnet people who just want to 'do their own thing' and not conform to the orthodoxy of the time.

"History is important. For example, how many know that the first 'cycling facilities' were devised in 1930s Germany, out of a world view that cycling was 'inferior' - a world view which at the same time also invented motorways for 'advanced' transport? And that those first 'cycling facilities' were vigorously opposed by the cyclists at that time?

"Over at least the past 20 years, there's been a gradual but steadily-building clamour, and action on the ground, for higher quality provision for 'alternatives' to the car: from pedestrian spaces, to 'transit-oriented development', to 'bus rapid transit', to 'protected' cycleways. This is a really significant sea-change.

"And responding to it will take more than just bolting together a roads programme with a public transport programme with a 'cycleways' programme. I hope this book will be a helpful contribution on where urban and transport planning as a whole should be headed. Because, with total vehicle kilometres pretty well static over the last few years, fewer teenagers wanting to drive or own a car, and even commentators like Jeremy Clarkson questioning whether the car has a future, it is an exciting time to be a planner!"

5 February 2016

Hamilton Rotarians hear Roger on cycle planning.

Roger was guest speaker in February to the Waikato Sunrise Rotary Club. On the banks of the stunning Waikato River, just metres from the future Te Awa Cycleway (funded under the Government's Urban Cycleways Programme) the Rotarians, over breakfast, heard Roger share his thoughts on planning for cycling, in a presentation here.

04 May 2015

Roger Boulter challenges 'new conventional wisdom' on planning for cycling.

Roger Boulter is challenging a 'new conventional wisdom' which comes at a time of unprecedented government enthusiasm for cycling.

His opinion piece (see this website's 'Writings' page) in the March 2015 issue of the IPENZ Transportation Group's Roundabout magazine, seeks to remind readers of some forgotten past history.

"I've been planning for cycling, on and off, since the 1980s" said Roger, "and very few professionals working in this field in New Zealand can remember back this far".

"Valuable lessons were learnt over about 20 years leading up to the mid-1990s - after years of painstaking research" said Roger. "The most valuable lesson was that you can never get more people cycling just by providing off-road or 'separated' facilities. You must also get the traffic to behave itself, and upskill cyclists on how to cope with it.

"After this breakthrough finding in 1996, national governments worldwide turned their backs on simply meeting demand for private car travel, and aimed instead to manage travel demand, shifting it onto walking, cycling and public transport. I was instrumental in basing New Zealand cycling strategies and practice around this over several years from the late 1990s, culminating in the NZ Transport Agency's award-winning 2004 NZ Cycle Network and Route Planning Guide.

"Now in New Zealand we want to have our cake and eat it. We base strategy around 'Roads of National Significance', while at the same time pushing a new fashionable concept, 'separated' cycleways. In the past this approach has not got 'interested but concerned' people cycling, neither has it reduced crashes - when provided alongside mainly car-based transport planning. In some extreme cases, this has actually increased danger.

"Separated cycleways have worked in a great many cases overseas - but in the context of wider measures to shift away from the car. We don't have that in New Zealand. Separated cycleways also have some very nasty potential detailed design pitfalls, which could increase danger unless they are really well thought through - and New Zealand has little experience in this.

"I've raised this with the NZ Transport Agency" concluded Roger "because I can't keep silent when I see the same mistakes set to be made as happened 20 years ago!"

1 January 2012

Roger leaves the NZ Planning Institute

As from 1 January 2012, Roger has let his membership of the NZ Planning Institute lapse.
"This is a big step for me" said Roger. "Membership of the appropriate planning professional body has been important to me, first in 1980 the Royal Town Planning Institute in Britain, and since 1997 the New Zealand Planning Institute following my 1995 migration. It's a decision I've been considering for some time. I've found over time that the work I do is more and more outside the subject matter the Institute covers".

17 March 2010

KiwiRail Manager signs off Preliminary Economic Evaluation Handbook

Ross Hayward, KiwiRail's Group General Manager Rail Passenger, has 'signed off' the Preliminary Economic Evaluation Handbook. This is the fruit of research into areas of benefit either omitted or under-counted in the NZ Transport Agency's official Economic Evaluation Manual (EEM).
"The problem with the 'EEM'" said Roger "is that it started life about 1990 as a guide to benefits motorists could expect as a 'return' on the petrol taxes they paid. It's got a lot broader since then, but the benefits to motorists have always been identified and researched in more detail than the benefits from public transport. Don Wignall of Transport Futures Ltd and I started from our research of a few years ago - 'Identifying the benefits of long-distance rail services' - and drew on the best evidence available, always being cautious in applying new forms of benefit, and getting Professor Nash from Leeds, England, one of the world leaders in transport economics, to peer review our work. Using this Handbook, we've been able to show that the benefit-cost ratio of rail services - what we get back from what we spend - tends to be significantly better than using the EEM alone".
Roger and Don look forward to the methodologies behind the Handbook (which are not 'owned' by KiwiRail) being more widely applied.

18 July 2008

Roger (and Don) laying down tracks on regional urban form. Roger argues, in the NZ Planning Institute's Planning Quarterly journal June 2009 issue here, that public investment in long-distance and regional passenger rail makes economic sense. Rail systems, Roger argues in the article, also give us the seeds of mixed-use, high-density, community nodes in the form of stations, whereas arterial road based systems are always fighting against 'ribbon development', direct property access and on-street parking.

This is the latest in several related articles. Roger has also had articles in Logistics and Transport NZ's journal, and NZ Railway Observer magazine here, jointly with Don Wignall of Transport Futures Ltd ( The Planning Quarterly article also follows Roger's presentation on this topic at the NZ Planning Institute's 2009 annual conference.

Contact Roger if you want to 'take this train' of thought (pun intended!) further.

29 October 2008

Roger highlights lack of land use/ transport planning integration. Land use and transport planning tend to be separate from each other, Roger claimed at Wellington's Planning Law Update conference. And 'urban design' often focuses only on internal characteristics of settlements, while on a regional scale we continue to plan for car and roading growth and downplay rail's potential. Read the full paper here.

3 October 2008

Robert Ibell wins Boulter Consulting Award for Cycling Champion of the Year.
Robert Ibell, outgoing Chair of the NZ Cycling Advocates' Network (CAN), won this award at CAN's Gemini Cycle Friendly Awards 2008, in Christchurch. The Award was presented by Lianne Dalziell, Minister of Commerce. Check it out here.

I have known Robert for many years, and am delighted he has won my award. It is well-deserved, and represents the major contribution Robert has made as 'the voice of cycling' to politicians and professionals alike. - Roger Boulter

29 July 2008

On 29th July Roger addressed a meeting of the NZ Roadmarkers Federation on the changing political, policy and government organisational context. His written report is available as a PDF file.

14 July 2008

On 14th July Roger addressed an Auckland conference on long distance rail transport. The full text of his address is available as a PDF file.

Roger Boulter