For a Better Brisbane

Archive for March 2010

15 minute neighbourhoods?

The Queensland Government’s “Growth Management” Summit continues today. One idea being floated is the “15 minute neighbourhood” idea. South Bank reasonably comes very close to this ideal as it has many workplaces (Hotels, Engineering firms, restaurants, Cinema etc), residential living (apartments overlooking an amazing park) and education (Griffith Uni, South Bank TAFE). Stones Corner or Toowong also resemble this ideal.

Right now, most jobs are in the CBD; This means long commutes to the CBD for work. Imagine working locally, or even from home using your super-fast broadband connection. The enabling technologies are there: Skype for phone calls, DimDim for conferences, e-mail and cloud computing.

But will any of this actually work? Almost anything is possible with a large enough government budget,  funding allocation and ambitious targets for whatever program, but genuine and long term change will only come about when embraced by non-government organisations such as the private businesses and non-government sectors.

There needs to be some long term advantages for businesses to leave the CBD and stay out.

Bernard Salt seems to think this might be petrol at $5 per litre. Urban renewal might be another- Melbourne Docklands seems to be a move in the right direction.  So, good transport links, transit-oriented developments for people to live close to their work and broadband will help. Developing city-enabling infrastructure in places like Townsville might be another.


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March 31, 2010 at 12:45 am

Posted in Urban Planning

Density without destruction?

Is it possible to increase density in urban areas without upsetting the neighbours?

Over the weekend I spent some time around Brisbane’s West End.  It’s a suburb with many ‘tin and timber’ character homes. It’s also where industrial areas along the prized Brisbane riverfront are undergoing urban renewal.

One thing you notice in West End are the signs on many fences and letter boxes: “Many stories not 30 stories!”. It’s clear that there are residents who don’t like the idea of high rises towering above them. Unfortunately, things like “population caps” are completely unworkable. The only practical way is up.

But can we get increased density  while preserving character and lifestyle?

Perhaps small developments like multi-unit dwellings and townhouses might be one answer…

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March 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Brisbane’s Fried Egg

Brisbane is a fried egg. At the centre is a very dense but compact CBD “yolk”. Surrounding it is extensive lower density housing reaching to the horizon’s edges. This is the “white”. The lengthy distances makes it a challenge to get workers into the CBD for work every morning.

Northern Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha. Click to enlarge

What is clear is that Brisbane isn’t “running out of space”. Space is there, but it is not being used to its full potential. A high density ‘ridge’ of residences extends from the Milton business precinct all around to The University of Queensland campus at St Lucia. These denser suburbs may be a guide for how higher density might be incorporated into Brisbane.

Southern Brisbane. A large student population living near UQ campus and demand for riverfront residences has driven higher density. Click to enlarge

In the next post, we’ll look at how higher density incorporates into existing suburbs without upsetting the neighbours or towering structures.

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March 21, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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On ya Bike Brisbane!

More and more people are taking to two wheels. Better bikeways and facilities to cope with increasing demand and improve safety are needed. New bicycle centres at King George Square and the Royal Brisbane Hospital now mean bike owners can get storage and a shower for a small fee. Cycling is also a great way to keep fit while commuting to work or to relax on weekend without being glued to the box. Brisbane becomes smaller and accessible on a bike.

Many suburban bike routes are bike lanes painted on the road surface like below:

Bike lanes in West End

These are great for more confident cyclists who can deal with traffic. The main hazards are vehicles pulling in and out of car parks, doors opening and buses which can stop and pull over suddenly, turn into your path or sandwich you between a big bus and parked cars if people are not alert. Riding on the footpath might feel safer, but at blind corners and ‘T’ intersections, cars can pop into your path without warning.

UQ Lakes bikeway

The best kind of bikeways are those that are completely separated from traffic. This bikeway, just off the Eleanor Schonell Bridge at UQ Lakes, shows how its done. A former road  was reclaimed for two bike lanes while retaining a separate pedestrian path. The Jacaranda trees form a canopy which lines the bikeway and dapples shade onto riders. Towards the end of the year, the trees turn mauve with blooms, making a great ride even better.

UQ Lakes bikeway looking south

Proper bikeways that are attractive and look nice need not be expensive or fancy. We need more bikeways which keep cyclists, motorists and pedestrians out of each others’ way like this in Brisbane.

BrisUrban notes: Bicycle Queensland has a map of known magpie swoop spots. Find it here

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March 18, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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