Let’s Get Wellington Moving will be killed by ideology; we need a Paradigm Shift in our thinking
Unless we see a Paradigm Shift in our way of thinking, it is likely that LGWM will be strangled or make things far worse. In a city that is choked in traffic, no one can agree on what to do, and a lot of that is falling to ideological views that polarise our thinking and create paralysis.
There are so many groups that have an ideological interest in the outcomes of LGWM now that any hope of reaching a consensus on initiatives seems unlikely. This is frustrating because there are many solutions that provide multi-modal transport outcomes and could free up the city.
In my opinion, LGWM has been a failure because ideology has got its roots well and truly around the package leading to a non-event. I imagine after countless months of not being able to find consensus, followed by a government change, the authors simply threw their hands in the air and gave up and instead of publishing recommendations and priorities, put every option on the table and said: “let’s see where it goes.”
Job done for LGWM.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned something called Paradigm Shift and its importance in an issue like LGWM.
A Paradigm Shift is when you change your thinking quite radically, moving away from an ideological and emotional standpoint based on your limiting the evidence you consume or just making shit up, to something that is evidenced based. It’s hard for us to do that because of our biases, and the closer we get to change the more we resist it. It’s otherwise known as the “oh shit” moment. That moment when it clicks, and your mind changes.
We need to get all parties to the point where we can have nice things; everyone can get what they need for transport modes they need, with some personal change along the way.
Here is how it works.
I want you to look at the picture of the playing cards above. This is an experiment that Thomas Khun carried out many, many years ago, to develop the theory of Paradigm Shift. He shuffled a pack of cards and dealt them one after another to participants who were asked if they noticed anything about them.
Participants were frustrated after a time, each knowing that something was not quite right, but not quite picking up on what it was.
Look at the cards again. Is there anything different to these playing cards that you can see? Have a close look, spend a minute, just check.
Participants in Thomas Kuhns experiment began to come up with wild ideas. As people got nearer to that “oh shit” moment, they became more and more resistant to it, and we see this same psychology when it comes to ideology and change in thinking. In the end, we fall back to either end of the spectrum, “all cars are evil and destroying the planet”, or “all cyclists are entitled, wankers.” We saw both of this week in the online debate.
Have you figured the cards out? If you have, and you didn’t cheat with Google, then you should put your name forward for Council, because the number of people who can spot the problem is small, and it’s a key skill we want our leaders to have.
In that picture, the hearts are black, while the spades are red, and it should be the other way around.
And there is your “oh shit” moment. What you believed to be a true image was, in fact not, and you may not have seen that.
As I write this piece wild weather has descended on the capital, and traffic chaos reigns supreme from double-deckers buses in danger of being blown over, cyclists being blown over, and other vehicle movements gridlocked due to various weather-related hazards. Resilience, there’s a priority.
The players in this ideological war appear to be in several camps, and you can see the spectrum of how deep that runs depending on which group you are watching.
The anti-car brigade who decry “car fascists” from the highest roof tops is hell-bent on lobbying to ensure that nothing other than a cyclist or pedestrian has right to the transport corridors. Nothing is left off the hate list; cars (whether electric or not), e-bikes (you don’t get fit on an e-bike), scooters, and any other form of powered transport are quite simply of the devil.
They shriek from Twitter, and any other platform provided any time anyone suggests anything to the contrary. They rally hundreds of similar thinking persons every time there is “consultation” on anything transport related, skewing the results of already poorly written surveys.
There are the Greens, most of which in politics is now independently wealthy, who will not cave into any further investment in roading, of any kind, because of the ideological view that if you do so then, congestion will increase rather than decrease. Vehemently anti-car they do not see the irony in flying around in pollution emitting aircraft to push their mission statement.
As we move across the spectrum, we find Labour, who are approaching the balanced part of the scale but are trapped by owing allegiance to the Green party and aware of the power of small lobby groups (at either end of the spectrum) who are harnessing social media in the same way that the 1080 protestors have learned to do so effectively.
Labour must be concerned by the fact that lack of progress on any LGWM solutions hit the pockets of the most vulnerable. Slowly increasing public transport costs coupled with unreliable service means that people are paying more and are forced from time to time into using costly services just to get to work, or they’ll lose jobs.
They also know that the failings of public transport are pushing that low-income group into buying cheaper, more polluting, vehicles to get to work, an expensive proposition when you consider that parking costs now come into play.
Moving on our spectrum, we find the nimbies. Those that are terrified about any change within the vicinity of their neighbourhood, seizing on any popular ideology that will support their cause. Forming lobby groups, they play on fear, uncertainty, and doubt, to derail change.
As we move along our spectrum, we find the average resident, who probably has more than one car, wants to do the right thing and is tired of the polarising debate. This group grows larger every day as public transport fails. More and more cars join increasingly congested arterial routes, and the death cycle is perpetuated.
Those whose business relies on four wheels are in this area as well. Plumbers, builders, electricians, couriers, other tradies, who’s demand is increasing year on year are trapped in traffic leading to long days, increased stress, and a reduced take-home pay.
Then there are the economists that warn that unless we unlock the city, we’ll continue to see the economy performing poorly. Partly because of the increased cost of services, due to increased travel time, and partly because where public transport has failed, residents now must fork out far more than usual to travel, leading to lower spend on other items.
We move across the spectrum to the car advocates and car companies. Astoundingly, the most sold type of vehicle in New Zealand is an SUV, once the necessity of a tradie, now everyone wants one.
Next month we will see the emergence of a new local “party” that will be unashamedly pro-car and most likely attack the other end of the spectrum with great vigour to secure votes for the local body election.
Everyone on that spectrum believes themselves to be correct and none are willing to move.
Even when a simple solution is offered, such as a decent overbridge over Cobham Drive rather than cheap and potentially unsafe traffic lights, the war goes on. It what could have been a solution that proved that multiple interests could be met, it turned into a squabble of the highest level, with all the various factions showing true colours.
You see, the problem with ideology is that you just can’t debate it. It becomes rabid, rude, insensitive, and attacks people rather than ideas. It refuses to believe that any position other than its own is valid and attempts to put those positions to the sword.
In the case of Cobham Drive, nearly 7,000 people have signed a petition asking for an overbridge. I am quite certain if you asked all those people if they would contribute some of their petrol tax to such a scheme they would wholeheartedly agree.
The local politicians first agreed that traffic lights were a preferred option, before running backwards as quickly as possible once they saw the reaction of the residents. Once again, the Councillors out East walked into another election issue.
Chris Calvi-Freeman is banking on cyclists voting him back into the ward. However, he at least has not only made his point of view clear, but he has also responded to feedback and changed his original position somewhat. Now, that is important, whether you agree with the direction that he moved in or not, he moved.
Missing in action yet again, are Simon Marsh and Sarah Free. Simon is probably just trying to keep his head under the radar and Sarah is no doubt bound by the Green ideology. Regardless, it’s yet another black mark against both for not listening too and commenting on the concerns of residents, regardless of where on the spectrum they sit.
To reach consensus, we are all going to have to leave the current position we find ourselves sitting on the spectrum. It’s that’s simple. Start there. How can you change your current position?
I firmly believe that LGWM has the answers for everyone. However, choosing cheap options will have unintended consequences, so expect good solutions to cost more. And, holding ideological positions, particular people in power, will ensure that nothing ever happens.
And we need consensus. Otherwise, in ten years pedestrians will still be being knocked over, public transport would have failed, cyclists will be injured and killed in increasing numbers, the CBD will be a shell of its former self, and the emissions from ten thousand idling vehicles will be choking the city.
Well, maybe in twenty years, but you get the point.