New cycle path, missed opportunity.

via Auckland Transport

John Key prepares to ride the Grafton Gully cycle path. Image via Auckland Transport.

Congratulations Auckland. You are now the proud owners of a brand new, high quality, dedicated cycle path. The new ‘Grafton Gully’ path connects the CBD to the North Western cycle path. It runs parallel to one of Auckland’s motorway corridors so you will be safe from those speeding cars, at least while you are on the path. Anything that gets more people cycling or helps those people already doing it to continue cycling, has got to be a good thing.

The path, of course, has it’s limits. The main one being that it runs beside the motorway. It has no street frontage; the places that people want to go. Shopping, dining and stuff.

One day, I would also hope that Aucklanders can organise themselves into an advocacy group that operates at a distance from the organisation that builds motorways for us. The argument for building a cyclised city is surely more compelling than having to rely on a motorway being built through your neighbourhood. Will the building of cycle paths all come to a sudden end when the last motorway is built? Pejorative suggestion?, but still…it’s hard to criticise a government’s motorway obsession if a cycle path is thrown in to sweeten the deal. Is it a fair price for being unable to speak directly and critically?

When I saw the photo of John Key riding a bicycle on the newly opened path, I also concluded that this was a missed opportunity.

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Celebrating the opening of a cycling path and promoting cycling as something that all New Zealanders should and could be doing, are not the same thing. Making cycling look normal is critical and far from a trivial matter. Here was a chance to direct the conversation. The cameras and eye balls of the nation were momentarily trained on cycling. A misunderstood concept for most. It’s a serious task…ensuring that the PM and all New Zealanders can describe in unequivocal terms what the ingredients of a cyclised city are.

This was an opportunity to front foot the story for the non-cycling public. This was an opportunity to preempt the questions and doubts about the role of cycling in the city. The stakes are too high for anything to be left to chance. Look to the car, sugar and tobacco industry for ideas and inspiration. Cycling has so many good things going for it, but on its own that is not enough. It needs a really serious nudge. And it’s not as though our PM hasn’t enjoyed the wheeled pedestrian experience before.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

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2 comments

  1. Sitting here in San Francisco (California, that is), I think it’s great to see the Prime Minister on the scene riding a bike, dressed in normal human “walking around” clothing, not spandex racing kit as many politicians (and non-bike riders) do when they show up for ribbon-cuttings, that’s what really gets my goat — it’s transport, not sport. It might be better if he’d showed up on a granny bike with a basket, but I’d really give him a gold star if he’d completed the normal human costume with a bare head, or a fedora or derby, but that may be illegal in NZ and I suppose Mr Key would have to mind that 😉 . . .

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  2. Hi Andy and welcome to sunny Auckland. You are correct. Helmets are compulsory in New Zealand. It certainly adds to the dangerized perception of cycling.

    Not long ago, a coroner mooted the possibility of also making hi-viz clothing mandatory. That was after an extensive investigation following a spate of cyclist deaths as a result of being struck by vehicles.

    I strongly believe that the process of normalising cycling needs to be done in tandem with building cycle infrastructure. There is a need to present the wheeled pedestrian version and make that distinction from sports and recreational cycling. As far as I can see, we haven’t started that process yet.

    Thanks for joining in the conversation. 🙂

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