Australia’s most flamboyant former Prime Minister died a few days ago, aged 98. After decades of war-time and post-war time conservative rule, it would certainly have been refreshing back then in the seventies to have had such a progressive reformist, reforming something new every week. On the other hand, given most of Whitlam’s reforms were merely symbolic, let me just mention that he was one who cancelled the supply of free milk to Australia’s school children. I enjoyed that milk, Whitlam, you jerk.
He is also the “visionary” responsible for extending sewer services to Australia’s most outlying suburbs when cesspits would have been fine. If you are responsible and live in an apartment or terrace, your neighbours and you are paying more than the true cost of maintaining the short length of sewer serving your properties. You pay more so that people in free-standing houses can pay less than the real cost of maintaining their sewers. This is, of course, democratic, like splitting the bill when the other end of the table polished off five bottles of wine.
Not only are those house dwellers polishing off more than their fair share of sewer maintenance budgets, they also cost more than they pay for asphalt for resealing their roads. They get subsidised electrical cables, telegraph poles, and their latest indulgence, national broadband that should only be for those who live in high density settings.
Which brings me to bike infrastructure. Why throw it at suburbs?
If suburbia were a fait accompli I would say, by all means, try to redeem it with bike infrastructure. But I think any suburban subdivision out of quick cycling range of a city centre with an inter-city rail station is an aberration that should be given back to the wallabies. As for the free-standing houses closer to town, they need to be demolished and replaced with apartments.
I’ve been listening to some StrongTowns podcasts, reminding me of a bee in my bonnet from some years ago when I bought a small terrace house in the city and realised I was paying double and getting half. It costs more to maintain suburbia than can be recouped from suburbanites’ land rates and taxes. Low density urbanism relies on subsidies from apartment dwellers. More importantly it relies on colonial force in resources rich countries, to be sustained.
You might think you’re above this if you live in a house close to town. Au contraire my petite bourgeoisie friend. You are occupying land space that could accommodate 20 households. You have pushed 19 families beyond city limits from which they now must commute.
Various architects have looked at the problem of densifying Australian suburbs, for example with rear lane ways serving new houses at the rear of each block. zzzzzzzzz
If you take away the buildings and just look at the property boundaries, suburban land parcels are about the same size as blocks in Manhattan. The difference in New York, is buildings aren’t set back from the front or side boundaries and are typically 5 or 6 stories tall with 4 dwelling units per level. Don’t think it can’t happen here. Upper Manhattan had free-standing houses that were replaced, one-by-one, with blocks of apartments. The spell we are under will be lifted one day.