27 February, 2009

A national cycle network? In NZ? Here's hoping!

The most positive rumour I've heard for some time --- from stuff.co.nz this morning:
...a cycleway the length of New Zealand [is] expected to be among the centrepieces of the Government’s Jobs Summit today. [The] $50 million cycleway built the length of the country.... would provide 3700 jobs and would take two years to build.
[Full Article]

Such a project would be a truly enlightened idea. Not only would it provide jobs in a flagging construction and engineering industry and be a draw-card for tourists and local cyclists, but it would be a significant step towards more sustainable transport in a country whose transport policy has recently looked more like that of 1970s USA than that of a country in the 21st C. which trades daily on a "clean green" image, yet has levels of public and active (i.e. walking, cycling, etc.) transport that are minuscule in comparison to those in, say, European countries.

The positive side effects of increasing the number of people cycling (safely and comfortably) are huge. Public health agencies estimate the savings to the health system from cycling to be about 50 cents per Km. Studies abound showing that employees who use active transport to get to work are more productive, more alert, less prone to stress, take fewer sick days, and, are more likely to arrive at work on time since they are freed from traffic problems.

Apart from the jobs and the more productive workers, the economic benefits would include points like people having more money to spend at local businesses if they can easily use their bike for shopping rather than a car. The environmental consequences of people cycling, instead of driving, can't hurt either.

Hopefully the network would be something like the Sustrans national cycle network in the UK.

This is made up of cycle lanes within towns and cities for cycle commuting and shopping, local cycle routes between nearby towns ans suburbs and then longer cycle trails across the country. The network is well signposted, similar to the way a highway/motorway network is and is a mixture of dedicated cycle paths and cycle lanes alongside roads where it is safe to cycle. (That means NOT just putting some green paint along the side of SH2 North of the Wellington Motorway)

Nothing has been announced for certain (or even uncertainly) yet --- but perhaps we will hear more later today. Fingers crossed and here's hoping!

25 February, 2009

Cuba St Carnival

Great weather, great music and great fun at the Cuba Street Carnival on Saturday. I particularly enjoyed hearing Niko Ne Zna and Ginger Brown early in the day, and seeing the outdoor knitting for the trees in Cuba Mall.

Photos are in the Picasa album (flick me a message if you want decent copies of any of them).
09-02 Cuba St Carnival

23 February, 2009

More on Section 92


It seems no one has anything good to say about the section 92 ammendment which is due to become law this Saturday (unless I have my dates wrong). The National Business Review ran an article which, though it citicised the law for being shoddily written and of little benefit, claimed that ISPs wouldn't want to cut off customers since doing so would reduce profits. Presumably though, there is
some kind of penalty they must face if they don't act when the law compels them to. Unless the ammendation is even more useless than I suspect, being tootless and unjust. It's possible I suppose. If it becomes law I guess we will find out.
Posted by Picasa

19 February, 2009

Higher Things

No time for a proper post since I want to get some "real" writing (i.e. chapter two) done before I go to cross fit with Travis this evening. So, quickly, here are a couple of photos from a trip up the South face of Taranaki in the weekend. About three hours up to Syme hut on Fantham's Peak on Saturday afternoon. Two hours up the scree field to the summit of Taranaki on Sunday morning and them three, thigh-burning hours of downhill from the summit back down to the carpark. Parfect weather all the time when it mattered.

09-02 Taranaki Summit

Guilty upon accusation

Currently before the NZ parliament is a proposal known as the Guilt Accusation Law: Section 92A. From what I can tell it basically says that if an individual is suspected of illegal file sharing or using their (or someone else's) internet connection in a way that breaches copyright laws then, upon receiving a complaint, the ISP which this individual was using must take steps to make sure this doesn't happen any more --- specifically by cutting off that person's internet connection. There are a couple of problems with this law as it is proposed, the worst being that it assumes guilt by accusation --- once a complaint is received the ISP is compelled to act which puts them in the position of spending time and money determining if the accusation is true or taking the easy way out and cutting off internet access to the accused without bothering about evidence.

TelstraClear have already said that it is unworkable for them to go playing detective and determining guilt (to do so they would have to be spying on what everyone is doing on the net which is both creepy, and, I imagine, expensive for them to do), so they will have a policy of cutting people off upon receiving a complaint. The law makes no allowance for the accused to appeal to anyone if they feel the accusation is false. It puts all the responsibility on to ISPs but doesn't make it easy for them to act fairly (without expense to themselves). Imagine a small business where one person is file sharing illegally --- their ISP gets a complaint and the whole business has its internet connection cut, and they have no one to appeal to. Click on the annoying flashy banner add below to go to the Creative Freedom NZ website to learn more about this and to sign the petition saying that you think this is a silly law.

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. CreativeFreedom.org.nz is against this unjust law - help us

10 February, 2009

Waitangi weekend and puking in public: The Wellington Rugy Sevens

After a weekend of listening to real-estate agents dressed as cartoon characters and accountants in Barvarian costumes yahooing their way around Wellington, bottles of Steinlager pure pure clutched tightly in each hand, I wanted to say something about Waitangi weekend and the Wellington Rugby Sevens. I'm all for people dressing up in funny costumes and having a good time. But the river of puke, broken glass, and enduring revelers that I had to negotiate when I walked down Cuba Mall to the bus early on Sunday morning tarnished my impressions of the event somewhat. However, my comments were pre-empted by the likes of Robyn Gallagher with her post "Welcome to the Muntryside" and by the folks at Wellingtonista who commented on the Sevens:

"I can't claim to speak for all the Wellingtonista, but I have to say it: Sevens weekend is horrible. There's a lot of gushy talk in the main media outlets about how colourful and vibrant and alive the city becomes, but one could say the same about a nasty fungal rash. Many of us who live in the central city can attest to how colourful and vibrant and alive the city is most of the time, and in an appealing, organic and independent way, but we found the CBD close to unbearable during the weekend."

Of course, the Sevens is only one aspect of aspect of Waitangi Weekend in Wellington. This Venn diagram posted by the Masked Barfly sums things up pretty nicely.

05 February, 2009

Shitty Cars?

I found this on the very excellent Social Biking Blog. (go look at it)

Here in NZ we don't have a car industry to bail out so the government has had to find another way to redirect tax spending away from people trying to do the right thing --- they've taken 'reliable' funding for walking, cycling and public transport and put it into state highways.

28 January 2009- Funding for public transport, walking and cycling projects is not guaranteed, Transport Minister Steven Joyce says, as the Government ramps up its investment in state highways.
The Press reported yesterday that the powerful Canterbury Regional Transport Committee had shifted $38 million of "reliable" regional funding from public transport, walking and cycling into state highways. The non-highway projects will now compete for funding in a nationally-contested pot.

Joyce said yesterday that the Government would roll back plans made under the previous government to spend 9 per cent less on state highway construction over the next three years.

Asked if funding for public transport, walking and cycling projects would be cut as state highway funding increased, Joyce said it was too early to say but later said the funding was not guaranteed.

This is the full article in The Press.

That 9 per cent reduction in highway construction spending (in addition to helping improve public transport and construct some cycling/walking paths) could have helped pay for a Bikes at Work tax break:

23 December 2008- Employees in the USA who regularly use their bicycles to get to and from work are now eligible for a $20-a-month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bicycle-related expenses. Employers will in turn be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes.

The Bicycle Commuter Act was part of the larger set of Renewable Energy Tax Credit Initiatives included in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, a.k.a. the "Wall Street Bailout Bill, signed into law by President Bush in early October 2008. Section 211 of the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" allows for a "qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement" for "reasonable expenses incurred by the employee...for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment."

(More here.)

Wouldn't that be a nice idea?

02 February, 2009

Congratulations Esther and James!

There are a few wedding photos in the Picasa gallery now, for people who like to look at that sort of thing.

It was a truly excellent wedding by the way, all very enjoyable. If anyone wants to see the full set of photos from the weekend, or wants full resolutions copies for printing, send a message to me or to Emma and ask for the link to the archive of them.

09-01 Esther & James' Wedding