ConferencesConsumerismPeak OilSociety

APC11 Presentation: Susan Krumdieck – Sustainable Transport and Urban Design

Susan Krumdieck, speaking at the Australasian Permaculture Conference (APC11)
in Turangi, New Zealand, April 2012
Photo © PRI

Susan Krumdieck is an Associate Professor working in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Originally gaining her PhD in the U.S.A., her home country, Susan decided to relocate to New Zealand, where her desires to be more proactive along sustainability lines would be less likely to end in job termination!

Susan has since used her position and considerable talent, and that of her students, to collect data pertinent to dealing with the plight of urban centres in a peak oil context.

Susan’s talk, below, is both highly interesting and amusing. It’s highly recommended you take the time to watch, and while doing so you’ll soon discover why she has had a strong influence on the local councils of several New Zealand cities (and elsewhere), helping them to see a little clearer the transitional path they must undertake. All power to you Susan!


  1. To make people walk and bike the most important feature is a very messy street pattern:

    “Jacobs argued that cities that have the most complex and messy street patterns provide the most walkable and enjoyable experiences for visitors and residents.

    He listed cities that have numerous intersections per square mile as a guide to their walkability.

    For example, San Francisco has 300 intersections in the Market Street area, making that street almost a non-vehicle street, he said, along with Paris (281), Tokyo (988), Savannah, Ga., (538) and Portland (341).

    Venice, from which cars and bicycles are banned, has 1,725 intersections per square mile, he said.

    “It’s very complex, it’s very messy and people walk,” he said.

    “Brasilia has 92 intersections and you don’t walk there. Irvine, California is the classic automobile city. It has just 15 intersections, the lowest I’ve ever counted,” he said.”

    This can only be achieved through self-organization, as only self-organization can bring complexity:

    The first thing we need to do is to get rid of planners, the governments only role should be to provide for self-organization:

    Nature is self-organized, and so is true sustainability. Anything that is planned is not sustainable!

  2. Good ideas and some of them are being succesfuly implemented in practice in many other countries/contexts. The reduction of VMT and associated use of oil underpins much of the current Smart Growth debate in the United States. In Portland, OR suburban growth is grdually replaced by the re-integration/densification of the built environment around public transport corridors of the light rail system that was built and operated since 1970s. I like the idea of modelling tools as a decission support for long term planning.
    As for the driver of change, it is not a city form but primarily behavioural issue. The ease of using a car and abundance of cheap fuel. Again in US the rising prices of oil (104$/barrel as I write this) pushed people to use public transport. The big question is do we have systems in place that will enable this transition? As for Oyvind comment – I doubt that self-organization can help in deployment of efficient public transport, it is a role of government to pool resources and finance deployment of the system (as in case of Portland, Oregon). Bikes will not handle all the traffic. Other issue is transoportation of cargo/goods – not mentioned in this lecture. Again integration of rail/EV may be an answer but it need serious strategic choices in deploying infrastructure.

  3. have to agree on Oyvind’s last comment there. Lukasz, if you dont get the urbanscape designed well for human endeavour and living, you will get inefficient and time and resource-wasting behaviour, based upon necessity. Trying to solve the problems invoked due to modern city assembly via transport is akin to putting a band aid on a broken leg and expecting that to be a viable, sustaining solution for the leg. Unfortunately we are in the situation now where most modern cities are so stupid that they have nothing to do with the needs and desires of people. We are best off mining the cities for resources and building new ones based on sound social design and permaculture principles. This will inevitably involve de-centralising most if not all major living functions, and allow for very geo-local communities to produce all the main “necessity” functions – food and natural medicine production, water harvesting, renewable energy production, waste management, commons leisure / rec use, and so on and so forth. If this is not doen right, everything else that follows will go astray. It all begins at the doorstep… IMHO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button