After a couple of posts looking at the proposed concretisation of the car’s dominance over nature, with a 6 lane highway racing through Haitaitai and an overpass through / over / around the Basin Reserve, all courtesy of the NZTA, perhaps it is time to look at somebody else’s vision for the streets of Wellington. Why don’t we have a look at this image, number 3 in the series, on Boulevards:
This could be Kent Tce, or Cambridge Tce, or a bit of both. But what if it could be Taranaki St? Could it even be Tory St? We should ask Miley Cyrus, she’ll know. Wherever it is, it looks nice, and I want to go there now.
It is of course part of the WCC document on WGTN2040, or what the capital may look like in 30 years time: part of the WCC’s vision that was started off by the previous local body administration, under the leadership of Mayor Kerry Prendergast. I’m not 100% sure if the vision as published now under Mayor Celia Wade Brown, would have been just the same under Kerry – would there have been a different emphasis, or is it all by the Council officers and hence hands off by the elected politicos? I guess we’ll never really quite know.
The irony is, and it will not have escaped attention, that there is a massive gulf between what the WCC says it wants, and what the NZTA says that Wellington is going to get. The vision of a leafy biking / running track with happily picnic wielding couples having lunch on the lawn sits firmly at odds with a 6 lane highway and the occasional pedestrian crossing.
Of course, the NZTA proposal may well get swept up in a wave of regulatory Resource Consent hell, in which case it may well end up in the hands of the newly minted Environmental Protection Agency. Double irony here of course – the new head of the EPA is to be none other than Kerry Prendergast.
Time, perhaps, to take a brief diversion and examine exactly what is meant by a boulevard. The font of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, says that a
“Boulevard (French, from Dutch: Bolwerk â€“ bolwark, meaning bastion) has several generally accepted meanings. It was first introduced in the French language in 1435 as boloard and has since been altered into boulevard. In this case, as a type of garden or a type of road, a boulevard (often abbreviated Blvd) is usually a wide, multi-lane arterial thoroughfare, divided with a median down the center, and roadways along each side designed as slow travel and parking lanes and for bicycle and pedestrian usage, often with an above-average quality of landscaping and scenery. The division into peripheral roads for local use and a central main thoroughfare for regional traffic is a principal feature of the boulevard. Larger and busier boulevards usually feature a median.”
The image of the Boulevard they give as the ultimate is the Champs-Elysees in Paris – apparently the most beautiful avenue in the world. Meh. I’m not so sure. Last time I was there it was all full of snooty French women and snooty French waiters, and featured a massive barrage of madly driven French cars tootling up and down the centre strip. Not really such a nice place to be, either in or out of a car.
There’s also another Boulevard of equally world famous proportions – but with a completely different feel about it. Even more at home with the motor-car than the Champs Elysees (named after the Elysian Fields – the place of the dead heroes in Greek mythology) is of course the Strip at the heart of Las Vegas. Less trees, more neon, but still lots of boulevarding.
I guess that the key thing at the heart of any Boulevard worth its french aperitif is of course the ability to boulevard up and down the pedestrian part of the street. Champs Elysees, Vegas Strip, Las Ramblas: all of those, have the same key quality and ability to support a pleasurable pedestrian atmosphere. Champs because of its retail atmosphere, Vegas because of its nightlife, and really, my favourite of them all: Las Ramblas in Barcelona because of its sheer ability to house people having a damn good time, night or day.
And yes, it just does happen to be exclusively pedestrian. What would happen to some of our streets if the cars ere to be driven out completely? Which one would you choose?
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