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