Book Review: Sizing up the City: Urban form and transport in New Zealand

sizing up the citySizing up the City: Urban form and transport in New Zealand Edited by Philippa Howden-Chapman, Keriata Stuart and Ralph Chapman, Steele Roberts Publishers, RRP $29.99, ISBN 978-1-877577-27-7, Available now.

Sizing up the City is a collection of essays explaining how the city works: where we live, how we get around and the wider effect those decisions have on our lives. The love affair with the car is broken down, graphed, and a blueprint for a more liveable city is put in its place.

Sizing up the City should be required reading for politicians, trainspotters, cyclists, and anyone who lives in a city or uses a motor vehicle on a regular basis. Unfortunately, much like the required reading you endured at school, Sizing up the City is rather dry.  That’s not to say I didn’t get into it – I did – I agreed with many of the conclusions both heartily and out loud – but it was in no way light reading.

Sizing up the City is a collection of academic research, but reads as a call to arms. For example, one quoted survey found that in New Zealand “81% of total travel time was spent as either a passenger or driver in a private motor vehicle.” Another suggested that returning the number of bicycles on Auckland’s roads to 1980s levels would save around $200 million in healthcare annually. Annually! And before you say ‘cycling in Auckland is too dangerous,’ the study goes onto suggest that around 116 lives would be saved each year. An overseas study is quoted as suggesting that, controlling for all factors, “cycling to work is associated with a 28% reduction in mortality.”

Sizing up the City is focused largely on Auckland, but that’s understandable, because not only is it (arguably) New Zealand’s bestest city, it has the most cars and the most transport-related issues. Still, most of the information is applicable to other cities, both in New Zealand and around the world.

Sizing up the City is produced as a PDF. I had no trouble viewing it on my Kobo ereader, but I found it was better on my computer. The larger screensize, and the ability to search the document made for a more enjoyable reading experience, but this is just a reflection of the faults of the Kobo, rather then the format.

It would be a stretch to say I enjoyed reading Sizing up the City, but it was an absorbing and very worthwhile read. Recommended.

This review is cross-posted at!

3 responses

  1. I think I need to read this! Is it only available as a PDF or can I also read it the old fashioned way? And do you have a link to where I might be able to purchase it? Thanks!

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