bikes-parked-under-trees-near-tokyo-photo-by-morgan-averyThe shorter version

I want more protected cycle lanes and shared walking & cycling paths around Waitematā, and around the rest of Auckland.

Why do I want that?

  1. Safety: people shouldn’t need to feel like daredevils just because they want to ride a bike to the shops or the movies. (CityLab.)
  2. It’s good for business: According to an ongoing trial in New York City businesses along protected cycleways did better than comparable nearby retailers who weren’t on the cycle path. 49% increase on cycleways vs only about a 3% increase for the other nearby businesses. (FastCo.)
  3. Parking: Depending on rack design you can comfortably park 10 to 12 bicycles in the space taken by a single car, and sometimes as many as 20. Car parking in the central city has been a problem for years and will only get worse as our population continues to swell. (CityLab.)
  4. Congestion: Our roads are full, rush “hour” now lasts most of the morning and afternoon. Every person on a bike is a person not in a car, leaving more room for those people who really do need to drive. With only about 1% of people getting to work on a bike in Auckland right now, there’s a lot of room to improve and the infrastructure we’re building will cater to them for years to come.
  5. Young people: Bicycles are liberating for young people and teenagers who want to get around our city, and cycle lanes help keep them safe. My son is far too young to be riding on the street yet, but the thought of him having to routinely ride on roads as dangerous as I’ve dealt with for most of my life gives me the absolute shivers.
  6. Older people: With modern battery assisted bicycles getting ever more affordable it’s becoming a much more feasible way for people to get around our hilly city, even if they aren’t fit young people.
  7. Joie de vivre: You’re more exposed to the weather but let me tell you from personal experience that life is just better when you’re on a bike or on foot than in a car. I’ve been a car commuter and that’s the most miserable way to get to work by far.

The (very much) longer version

I’ve ridden bicycles in Auckland since I was a kid, I learned to ride on the street in front of my house, then rode for fun, as most people did, throughout my childhood. I’d often ride to Ponsonby Intermediate and later to Western Springs College (that ride down the hill on Old Mill Rd was a daily thrill), and rode across town to Mt Eden virtually every day when I was at Auckland Metropolitan College. Later on I’d ride into town where I’d lock my bike and take a shuttle bus to my AUT business & computing course over on the shore. After that I rode my bike to work at a technology startup in Newton.

Right now I walk because it’s a very comfortable short stroll between my home and office and it’s easier to drop off my son on the way if I’m on foot than on a bike, but if it was any further I’d still ride.

But it can be dangerous out there: I’ve been knocked off by a courier opening her door, sending me crashing down into traffic on Ponsonby Rd; I’ve been knocked off by a drunk driver on a side street, sending me tumbling head over heels. (And yes of course I’ve also managed to crash entirely of my own accord, but when no cars are involved the consequences of that are minimal. Mainly ego.)

Cycling infrastructure is cheap compared to virtually all other transport infrastructure – It’s only costing Auckland $111M to build a huge 52km of new cycle lanes, compare that to the astronomical budgets we take for granted for even quite small sections of road.

Cycle lanes are lightweight (you don’t usually have to build much to make them safe) and because bicycles are light it has quite low wear and tear, but the cycle lanes themselves can have a surprisingly high maximum throughput (higher than individual car lanes of the same width) yet they make people on bicycles enormously safer than when they have to share space with cars, trucks, and buses.

Now I want to address something very ugly about cycling in Auckland, and that’s the degree of animosity expressed by some drivers towards bicycles. I’ve never really felt it directly myself, but I believe the people who say they experience it.

I find the haters pretty inexplicable, but they can’t be ignored. Not ignoring them doesn’t mean we should continue our decades long habit of investing exclusively in roads and ignoring other infrastructure just to suit them, especially when those other forms of transport will make for a far brighter future in Auckland.

What it means is that we need to find a way to bring them along with us. We need to convince them that cars can’t be the first choice when it comes to getting people to and from work and around our city anymore. Not because we hate cars (I really don’t) but because our city will grind to a halt if we go that way. There’s no way to build enough roads to escape congestion. The only chance we have is to provide other modes.

A city with trains, buses, ferries, trams, walking, and cycling is better than a city that just has cars.

I quite like driving a car sometimes. For the occasional road trip they’re unbeatable. Cars are fun. Just like I said bicycles are liberating, cars can be liberating too. But there’s no escaping the fact that cars kill cities. They choke them, literally and figuratively. They encourage an urban design of sprawl, a design that makes using any other transport mode less feasible. They make our streets inflexible. They close off other options. They require a disproportionate amount of space compared to every other way of getting around and they’re dangerous to everyone who isn’t in a car.

In cities, for most people, and for most trips, cars are the past.
Every other option is a better option.


» Read about the campaign for a truly bikeable Auckland.