Words of an addict: “Just one more motorway.”

Congestion Sucks

Traffic is not like water; it doesn’t evaporate.

“No city in the world has ever been able to pave it’s way out of traffic congestion”,

is what I wanted to yell at say to Duncan Garner when I heard him announce on his radio show of his support for the removal of six pohutakawa trees to make way for an extra lane of traffic. Duncan, cities that are overrun by, or over reliant on cars are not happy or healthy cities. Please, wake up and smell the fumes.

And besides, it was Janette Sadik-Kahn who told an Auckland audience in 2014, that our “current transport model is a luxury we can no longer afford; change is an economic imperative.” It’s the economy, stupid. I know whose wisdom I prefer.

To his credit, Duncan recognises that his support is based on selfish needs; he wants his driving experience to be enhanced. But he also repeats the familiar line that our addiction to cars and the lack of decent public transport means we have to keep building and extending the motorway/roading network. That there is no alternative. That is such a crappy argument.

My children would also eat KFC everyday, if I gave them no alternative.

 

I’m hoping that the six pohutakawa will be saved. I’m also hoping that their survival will be the catalyst for a higher level of engagement on how we want Auckland to develop. I fear that its wonderful natural endowments are being eroded by poor urban (non)management. Sprawl is no longer our friend. It never was.

Our arrival at this point is no accident. Sprawl, and the induced demand for the more motorways, cars and driving it has created, have come about through decades of deliberate policy settings at a national level. Give the people what they want, but first, starve them of informed debate. That’s how the political process seems to work.

We are told that the removal of the trees will create space for new cycle lanes. I really hope that the people who speak on behalf of cycling in this city, publicly reject this offer. But ‘at the end of the day’, pragmatism is the chosen path. I mean, for a change, how about the trees are left alone, AND the cycle lanes are built? How about we ask the transport agency (the public organisation charged with catering to all road users) to nick a bit of space off the motorist? That’s a novel idea. But while the person on the bicycle is known as the ‘outlier’, that’s always going to be a tough sell.

The bridge without access to walking and cycling

That Auckland harbour bridge that does not provide access to walking and cycling

Within this context, it comes as no surprise that Aucklanders can still only get across their magnificent Waitemata harbour by motor vehicle or ferry. Needless to say, you drive for ‘free’ but pay to take the ferry. No provision was ever made for walking or cycling. But that may all change with the #skypath project inching ever closer. You can add your voice to growing calls to make it happen, by completing a quick submission form.

There is a lot of stake here. The 6 pohutakawa and the #skypath should not be seen in isolation. Together they are the physical manifestation of the government’s continued commitment to funnel the ‘lion’s share’ of transport funding into roading projects at the expense of alternatives. That’s the big picture that needs to brought into relief. There’s a bigger story to be told and people like Mr Garner will not do us any favours.

It’s nice to get a new cycle way built but does it have to come bundled with an oversized motorway or roading project? It has all the connotations of a Faustian bargain. How long will the juggernaut roll on, unchecked? Addiction is hard to deal with. Acknowledging the addiction would be a good first step. Saving the 6 pohutakawa would feel like progress is being made towards moving beyond denial.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat.

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