I just heard of the Yogi Berra fallacy last week. I don’t know anything about him other than his name is very similar to Yogi Bear from the old cartoons, he supposedly was a baseball player, and he apparently said the quote below.
The Yogi Berra fallacy has now become the name for all sorts of other statements like this. They’re clearly nonsensical, but at the same time I like them because I can kind of get where he’s coming from.
The crux is really in the definition of “nobody”: when Yogi Berra says “nobody goes there” what he’s really meaning is “me and the types of people I associate with don’t go there”.
Yogi Berra fallacies seem to come up all the time in urban and transport planning.
I often hear slight variations of “no one goes into the Christchurch central city anymore because the roads there are too congested”.
Or “because all the car parks are always taken”.
I also hear this one a bit “no one catches the bus because you’re crammed into a small space with lots of other people.” (Elon Musk basically said this)
Cycleways are another hot topic and I often hear something kind of similar, where people argue simultaneously that (a) no one rides bikes while also (b) people on bikes always get in my way when I’m trying to drive my car around. E.g. a local councillor summarising the feedback she hears in this tweet:
Intensification is a another one. Government have recently passed laws forcing city councils to be less restrictive in their zoning in certain neighbourhoods and allow people to build more homes on their land if they want to. I’ve heard reactions to this which essentially boil down to “no one will want to live in these neighbourhoods now that they’ll have lots more people living in them”. (e.g. this newsroom opinion piece)
It’s good to keep this in mind when thinking about transport infrastructure. If someone says “we shouldn’t invest in cycleways or public transport because nobody uses them, what they probably mean is “we shouldn’t invest in cycleways or public transport because I don’t use them.
Who knew an American baseballer from before I was born would be so spot on with 21st century New Zealand urbanism?