On your bike?

An Auck­land group is de­ter­mined to make cy­cling safer to get those ‘maybe cy­clists’ back out on the road

Element - - Transport - By Paul Smith

W

ho’s afraid of the big bad bike? The car is king on New Zealand roads, be­ing used for four of ev­ery five trips we make. Amaz­ingly, two-thirds of these car trips are less than five kilo­me­tres long. That’s no more than a 20-minute bi­cy­cle ride at a leisurely pace, yet less than one per cent of all of our trips are made by bi­cy­cle. Many of us recog­nise the need to re­duce our car use and un­der­stand the men­tal and phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits of cy­cling. We prob­a­bly also re­mem­ber how much fun it was to ride a bike as a kid. So why don’t more of us ride more of­ten?

Fear is the rea­son most of­ten given for not rid­ing a bi­cy­cle. To the ma­jor­ity who don’t ride, cy­cling is dan­ger­ous. In a 2010 sur­vey, only one in five peo­ple thought cy­cling was safe on busy Auck­land roads. But is our fear un­founded?

Rid­ing a bi­cy­cle is, in fact, rel­a­tively safe. Min­istry of Trans­port sta­tis­tics say that 289 mil­lion kilo­me­tres of road are cov­ered by cy­clists each year, with a death toll of around 10 each year. And it is be­com­ing safer, with cy­cling deaths on the whole de­creas­ing since 1990, when 27 deaths na­tion­wide were re­ported. So while the non-cy­cling ma­jor­ity per­ceive a dan­ger­ous ac­tiv­ity, ex­pe­ri­enced bi­cy­cle riders know that the ben­e­fits far out­weigh the risks. Still, if more peo­ple are to choose to ride rather than drive, those per­cep­tions of dan­ger need to be changed.

The lat­est cy­cle counts in Auck­land sug­gest ‘build it and they will ride’ – cy­clist num­bers have in­creased where off-road cy­cle­ways have been pro­vided. But Stephen Smythe from the Green­ways Project doesn’t be­lieve the cur­rent ap­proach is enough: “Auck­land is not spend­ing much on cy­cling and the ex­ist­ing net­work of cy­cle­ways is in­com­plete. We need a step-change in vi­sion, in qual­ity, and in spend­ing, to at­tract peo­ple who would cy­cle but not on Auck­land roads.”

The Green­ways Project is a not-for-profit group of like-minded Auck­lan­ders with a vi­sion is to use ex­ist­ing parks, re­serves, es­tu­ary paths and re­claimed street space to cre­ate a safe and pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment in which to cy­cle and walk. The net­work of paths – sep­a­rated com­pletely from the roads – will link with fer­ries and public trans­port, giv­ing ‘maybe’ cy­clists an op­por­tu­nity to ride on their own terms. “Peo­ple might choose to ride a bi­cy­cle once a week. If the es­ti­mated 50 per cent of Auck­lan­ders who are ‘maybe’ cy­clists re­place one car trip with a bi­cy­cle trip, it will re­sult in over half a mil­lion fewer car trips each week,” says Stephen.

The ini­tia­tive would be rel­a­tively low cost and fits in well with Auck­land Coun­cil’s vi­sion of Auck­land as the world’s most live­able city by 2040 and Mayor Len Brown’s prom­ise of more walk­ing and cy­cling op­tions.

Green­ways are try­ing to dis­cover what cy­cling op­tions the ‘maybe cy­clists’ want to see in Auck­land. Have your say at http://www.

me­dian.co.nz/com­mu­nity. Maybe by 2040, the car will not be king in Auck­land. Copen­hagen has a traf­fic prob­lem. There are re­ports of grow­ing con­ges­tion in the four-me­tre-wide bi­cy­cle lanes, a scarcity of bi­cy­cle park­ing and safety fears re­sult­ing from ag­gres­sive and in­con­sid­er­ate cy­cling. These com­plaints all seem fa­mil­iar, ex­cept for the bi­cy­cle part.

Growth in cy­cling in Copen­hagen has out­stripped the abil­ity of the au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide suit­able fa­cil­i­ties. Cur­rently, over a third of peo­ple cy­cle to work or school and the city is aim­ing to in­crease this to 50 per­cent by 2015.

Anauck­land ac­tion group are try­ing to make cy­cling safer in Auck­land. Photo: Ted Baghurst

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