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The Death and Life of...

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Urban greening in high density environments

Creating 'Vertical Forests' in high density residential developments

A Story from The Netherlands: Why People Cycle Everywhere and What We Can Learn from Them?

By Amy Ikhayanti.

The Netherlands, a country of 18 million people, is also a home of 22.5 million bikes [1]. This number doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that the Dutch cycle to everywhere: to school, to grocery store, to another city for a meeting, or even the short distance to the apartment’s communal garbage area. People also use bikes to transport children and goods: from small packages, suitcases, groceries bags, or even a TV. Once you’re used to be a two-wheeler, a bike can become an irreplaceable mode of transport.

Photo 1: Cyclists in The Netherlands
Source: Bike Citizens 

The story of cycling in The Netherlands doesn’t stop there. An integrated public transport and bike system allows commuters and travellers to carry their bikes to the trains, both on normal and peak hours. It doesn’t come free, though. A day ticket for carrying your bike into the train is 6.10[2]. However, you shouldn’t worry if you need a bike as part of your commute. A folding bike is free of additional train charge, but you have to make sure that you fold your bike properly once you’re inside the carriage. Or, if you are reluctant to bring your own bike, you can rent OV-fiets[3] from the train stations for only 3.85 per day[4].

When a cyclist arrives at the city centre, he or she doesn’t have to worry about finding a parking space, somewhere in the centre’s underground parking garage. Many Dutch city centres provide a basement parking for cars to meet the needs of car users, while maintaining car-free area on its shopping streets and squares. A cyclist can always find a parking space right in front of the shop, hop-off the bike and leave as soon as needed without being bothered by parking tickets. 

Going back home on a dark night, you don’t have to worry about the traffic either. There are extensive bike paths all around the city. Where there isn’t any, a cyclist should not worry about the vehicle traffic because bikes get priorities over cars. Nevertheless, you should remember to put on your front and back lights (helmet not mandatory). Otherwise, you may get fined 55[5] by the police!

Changing our setting to Melbourne - what can we learn from The Netherlands to promote cycling as a transport mode?

Photo 2: Cyclists in Melbourne
Source: Sportsbet

Both Melbourne and The Netherlands have a bike-friendly public transport system, along with its own bike share. Melbourne also has an extensive bike path throughout the CBD. However, it is not enough only to have a very good cycling infrastructure at one place. It is also important to have a robust cycling network to the surrounding areas to encourage movements to and from the CBD. It requires not only cooperation with the surrounding Councils, but also a bigger strategy to manage the whole structure, in the metropolitan area and also the whole state.

At the same time, it is also important to promote the advantage of cycling over driving cars. The Netherlands applies a higher tax for gasoline and parking tickets compared to Australia. At the same time, they invest heavily in bicycle infrastructure, from bicycle garages next to the stations to bike paths and bridges [6]. In other words, it’s necessary to create a conducive environment that encourages people to cycle.

Nevertheless, it’s also important to remember that Melbourne (Metropolitan Area) is much larger in size compared to Dutch cities. Considering that many people commute to the CBD for work and study, riding a bike as the only mode of transportation for residents of the outer suburbs can be challenging. As such, a campaign to familiarise public with the use of multi-modal transport system with public transport and bike is crucial.

Looking back, Melbourne has possessed some of the supportive attributes to encourage cycling as a mode of transport. Knowing that, we are perhaps on the right track, anyway.

[3] Fiets is the Dutch word for bikes

Hop Off Pops

By Mark Sheppard.

Zucotti Park at night (Source: Wikipedia, 2017).

No, this isn’t a Dr Seuss rhyming story.  POPS stands for privately-owned public spaces.

POPS are not new.  We’ve had them in our shopping malls and office forecourts for decades.  But with the growing cost of land in our cities we seem to be increasingly relying on POPs rather than publicly-owned spaces to expand our primary public realm.

Does this matter?  Well, that depends on how you want people to act in your city.  If you think it’s really important to make sure everyone behaves within carefully confined parameters and doesn’t do anything that might be provocative (and pays for the right to be in the space by buying a coffee), then POPS are for you.  But if, like me (and John Robert Smith), you think public spaces are where people should be able to express themselves freely, exchange ideas and hang out regardless of their ability to afford frequent caffeine intakes—particularly in an era when digital communication is threatening our culture of face-to-face socialisation—then we should be concerned about the rise of POPS.

Guardian Cities reports that many local governments in the UK are refusing to reveal the extent of POPS and the restrictions on the rights of people who use them.  So not only is our public domain being privatised, but so too is information about that privatisation!

What do you think?  Should we insist that new public spaces are publicly-owned or at least have no additional restrictions on people’s behaviour?

LGBTQI Communities and Effective Planning Practice

By Amelia Zavattaro.

Oxford Street, Sydney (Source: Sydney Your Say)

The current Marriage Equality Postal Plebiscite is a contemporary issue on many of our minds with significant personal meaning for many of us.

Accordingly, it’s prudent to consider the intersection between planning practice and the LGBTQI community beyond the lens of hetero-normative planning discourse. This intersection is often ignored in planning literature and in practice as LGBTQI issues are rarely considered in the public planning process. (Doan 2015, 1)

Professor Petra Doan, a foremost scholar in this area specialises in research pertaining to the global trend towards the demise of identified ‘queer spaces’. Doan ascertains that there is a reluctance in the planning profession to include people within the LGBTQI community as a stakeholder within planning decision making processes. As a result, there is a paucity of data in relation to planning for queer spaces. Doan contends that whether this resistance is the result of explicit heterosexist bias, mere silence or planners’ reluctance to engage with the LGBTQI population, the demise of identifiably queer spaces and neighbourhoods is becoming pervasive. (Doan 2015, 1)

So, what are some contemporary issues facing the LGBTQI community arising from planning practice?

Doan asks us to consider moving beyond the limitations of defining queer spaces as designated neighbourhoods and to view the population as more diverse and mobile than previously perceived. This enables planners to respect existing histories while understanding the nature of the community at large.

The broader issue of social equity in terms of gentrification is another key concern. As traditional queer spaces are gentrified, displacement results for both residents of these areas and existing LGBTQI related services. Once displacement of these services occurs, identifiers of safe and inclusive queer neighbourhoods are removed, rendering it difficult for additional services to enter the area.

The LGBTQI community comprises vulnerable minorities whose needs should be taken into account in planning decisions, especially decisions affecting key areas that feature services and businesses for the community.

Overall as planners, in order to improve communities and our built environments, we need to listen to the social environment around us to understand how the communities that make up our cities live, experience and desire to use spaces.

Finally, this article seeks to raise points asserted by contemporary literature to get us all thinking about how we and others feel safe and use the built space around us. For an in-depth discussion about the role of planning practice and LGBTQI communities, see Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces, ed. Petra Doan (2015: Routledge).


Doan, P (ed), Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces. 2015, Routledge

The Suitability and Affordablity of Seniors Housing

By Kirsty Smith.

Disrupting the seniors living sector
The housing crisis is affecting everyone, not just the Gen Ys as popular media would have you believe. The housing crisis doesn’t just relate to affordability but suitability. The established models of seniors living and the way we think about, and design retirement living needs to be turned on its head to address the social and economic challenges that an ageing population is creating.

The typical models of seniors living developments have been targeted at, and occupied over the last few decades by the “silent generation”, those born pre 1946. Unlike the noisy boomers - Xers and Ys, they don't like to make a fuss, they grew up in an era where they were told to be seen and not heard. So much so, do people even know they exist? They lack online presence that’s for sure! Is this the reason that the senior living sector has become stagnant in recent years, lacking direction and innovation in design? If so what is the future?

The baby boomers are now entering the sector, these are the generation born in the decade following the end of World War II. They are considered a generation who have "had it all", cosseted by parents who experienced the Great Depression and raised in the prosperous post-war era. Many benefited from free tertiary education and relatively low housing costs. This is the generation that invented the computer, the internet, the miniskirt, fought for women’s rights and experienced cheap international travel for the first time. As Rebecca Wilson, founder of online forum for over 60’s put it at the recent PCA Retirement Forum – “The Baby Boomer and war boomer has changed and adapted like a chameleon throughout their life and retirement will be no different”.

So how will these disruptive change makers effect the seniors living sector? Firstly, they will expect the sector to adapt to them not vice versa. So with that in mind the idea of co-design in new developments is an obvious one. It makes sense to ask the people who will be living and using the space to contribute to designing it.

A successful example of this is the new $1b retirement village in southern Queensland by Aveo. They used recent research into the sector and consulted with potential residents which led to the incorporation of a childcare centre into the village. It follows similar examples from Europe, where the many positive benefits of interacting with younger generations, especially children, have been demonstrated in co-located aged care with childcare or kindergartens. While this may not be the obvious choice for an over 55s community, or right for every community, through co-design you can work out what is.

The notion of co-design and getting resident input and buy in upfront closely relates to shared values in aged care and looking past the individual needs. Shared values encourage a sustainable market-based, consumer driven aged care system. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, where information and comparison is available at the click of a button, providers need to change their additional offerings to residents, working to continuously create more social value for residents, their families, the communities they operate in and society as a whole.

We acknowledge that the seniors living sector is complex and challenging. There are many people, processes, and policies in constant evolution. However, co-design methods empower the consumer to define needs and preferences. It also enables the various companies and influencers in and around the care continuum to link services, innovate, evolve the market and improve lives.

The above will help the sector shift from ‘what we can offer you’ to more ‘look what we have created together’. What other initiatives could this sector employ to ensure it is delivering what the market wants?

Additional reading: