What is becoming increasingly apparent, is that from an international perspective, New Zealand is years behind in the way we plan our cities. Cities have changed rapidly over the decades, but the way we use our streets has become stuck in a time warp.
Our city’s streets need to be viewed as a valuable public space. But instead, they are being used as funnels to maximise traffic flows and store cars. Cities that are great, take care of their people. It’s people that bring life and vibrancy to a city. People need to feel welcome and safe to use the streets. And in the 21st Century, people and businesses are mobile; they can live and operate anywhere in the world.
It is no accident that the cities in which the needs of people are given priority are also full of bicycles; people using bicycles to get about their business. That can happen because those cities have provided infrastructure that makes riding a bicycle an attractive transport option. Providing infrastructure for riding bikes is a rational and practical thing to do because it makes financial sense. Riding a bicycle can be a quicker and easier way of commuting. It saves time and money and is healthy. In some cities, more people do their daily commute by bike, than by car.
Riding a bike is not only for recreational purposes. It is not only the domain of eco-warriors and sports-warriors, as it is often portrayed in New Zealand. People will choose to use a bicycle for transport purposes on a regular basis when good quality infrastructure and bike friendly policies are in place. Any city in the world, including Auckland, could cater for bicycles. Within 5 years, New York has added 640 km of bike lanes and created a public bike hire programme with over 10,000 bikes.
Of course there will be resistance to the process of catering for people on bicycles in the city. But it is time for the public to get used to the paradigm shift that is required. It is happening all around the world.
‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.
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