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Fear and loathing in cycleland

Written By: - Date published: 3:52 pm, June 15th, 2021 - 32 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, climate change, global warming, local government, science, supercity, transport, uncategorized - Tags:

I am pleased the right have moved on from overtly racist attacks on minorities.

But I am bemused by the current level of vitriol that has been thrown at a group who apart from wearing lycra is doing nothing wrong.  It seems that instead of attacking ethnic minorities the right is now keen to attack minorities who travel differently to the rest of us.

And local government is getting a bit of a hiding.

Out west we had a recent demonstration against the Henderson Massey Local Board’s attempt to make the centre of Henderson more human friendly.  Part of Great North Road and Rathgar Road have been pedestrianised as part of a trial.  Oddly enough recently the protestors chose to march on the very piece of road that had been liberated for human use thereby at the same time protesting it but displaying the virtue in making sure our town centres are accessible to everyone.

It has become particularly feisty after a local councillor declared that it was “time for the Local Board to listen and make a call on this one” and insulted them by implying that to date they have not been listening.  Her stunt reeks of cheap political opportunism, precisely the sort of political behaviour that we can no longer afford.

In my home turf we are also installing a cycleway as a trial.  The effect is that a few people some times will have to walk an extra 300 or so metres to get to the train station.  If it was me I would appreciate the extra exercise.

Some are not pleased and there are claims that making this part of Glen Eden slightly safer for cyclists is wrecking the township.  There is lots and lots of research that suggests that making areas more walking friendly and cycle friendly actually improves business conditions.

From the NZTA publication Benefits of investing in cycling in New Zealand communities;

Various studies have shown that cycling infrastructure can lead to an increase in retail
sales. People who cycle have been found to be more likely to stop and visit shops more often,
and to spend more money at those shops over time, than people who drive. Cycleways that
run past shop doors can be a very good thing for retailers.
• Four and a half years after the implementation of bike lanes in a retail area of San Francisco,
66 percent of merchants believed that the bike lanes had had a generally positive impact on
their business and/or sales.
• Similarly, when Salt Lake City removed a third of car parks from nine blocks of a main
shopping street and improved footpaths and added bike lanes, retail sales increased by 8.8
percent in the first six months.
• Retailers often overestimate the number of people who have driven to their stores. A
study from Wellington, New Zealand showed that only 6 percent of shoppers on Tory Street
were using the car parks along that street. Retailers also overestimate the contribution of car parks to their business. An Australian study found that switching one car park to six bike parking spaces could create an increase in retail spend related to that space, from $27 per  hour to $97.20 per hour.

The argument in favour of improving walking and cycling infrastructure I would have thought was overwhelming.  But talkback radio induced fear and loathing that is totally inappropriate is being broadcast and amplified.

Mediawatch at Radio New Zealand recently said this about the problem and quoted Stuff reporter Joel MacManus who covers the transport issues for Wellington’s Dominion Post:

“The reaction is always strong – and it’s getting increasingly strong on both sides with cycling. We saw a more aggressive ‘anti-cycleways’ push first  – but now there is there is equal frustration on the other side from cycling enthusiasts, as well as climate activists and urbanists who want to see change in their cities and towns and are getting frustrated that the change they want is not happening,“ he said.

“It’s tribal. People identify as a driver or a cyclist – and there aren’t that many cyclists in New Zealand. People often think of cyclists as enthusiasts doing it for sport and recreation,“ he said.

“And with every piece of climate reporting, some people feel like they’re being asked to change their ways – and people like driving because it’s convenient. But any transport network in a city needs to work with a number of options,” MacManus said.

While transport conflicts make headlines, the changing patterns of how we use transport do not.

That’s the big goal and an easy lever to pull for climate change. That’s the low-hanging fruit. If you can convert more of those small trips to cycling or e-bikes that’s a huge amount of transport emissions in this country,“ he said.

Joel MacManus said it is not well understood that transport is also a gender issue. While critics and media stereotype cyclists as male and older, there’s a reason.

“You can look at the split of people cycling and it tells you a lot about how safe it is. You have a certain small group of people who will bike regardless – and it is heavily male. In cities that have safe paths you see it’s much closer to a 50-50 split.”

He cited a 2014 survey in Wellington showing a group of highly active cyclists prepared to ride no matter what – and it was overwhelmingly male.

“The people who said they would cycle if it was safer are exactly the people who aren’t cycling now,“ MacManus said.

The fear/hate combination this issue is provoking is a potent one.  We are now or should be at the stage where climate change is that urgent a problem and that clear a threat that people should be afraid.  If not of the weather consequences then at least of the dramatic change that has to occur.

But people need to understand that there are no plans to make it compulsory to become lycra clad bikers.  But the more we can persuade to do this the better.

Maybe this is the problem.  Dealing with the fear of change that climate change demands is going to require a lot of political skill.

32 comments on “Fear and loathing in cycleland ”

  1. Ad 1

    +100 Hang in there Henderson Local Board.

    Don't fold like Onehunga did.

  2. People identify as a driver or a cyclist

    Bollocks. The overwhelming majority of cyclists are also drivers. Any tribalism is from drivers who never ride a bike.

  3. barry 3

    Cyclists are frustrated at nearly dying every time we go out in traffic.

    A small number of people (car drivers) are scared of changes to their lifestyle for a variety of reasons.

    Retailers are scared of losing any custom and their current patrons are often telling them stories of difficulty getting to them because of congestion and lack of parking.

    Most people are happy to share the roads with cyclists, pedestrians and the ones making the noise are a minority.

    A lot more people would use public transport or cycle if it was safe, affordable and convenient.

  4. RedBaronCV 4

    There seems to be an awful lot being invested in "mode" change for speculative outcomes (no one seem willing to commit to any hard numbers here) and cycling seems to have overwhelmingly grabbed the space which also includes walking and public transport and small electric non bike vehicles (think golf carts).

    The total to date over Auckland , Wellington and Christchurch and I'm sure it's not all is over $1.3 billion so I do think there has to be some discussion even if cyclists don't want it.

    If the cycling is for leisure and hobby (no matter how good the exercise) the community doesn't need to fund it on a super scale above other pursuits to the tune of $1.3 billion. Gardening vegetables is doubtless a greener exercise.

    If it is to support business ( as above- but cycling and walking are pretty much conflated) then which businesses are we subsidising to the tune of $1.3billion and why.

    If it is to support greening transport the numbers are tiny and even if they treble are still tiny – 60 cyclists fit on one bus. And as I have said before there is nothing green about the cyclist going up Adelaide Road yesterday holding up the bus using the lane. I held back to let the bus overtake as I should. But at $1.3billon shoring up other green options looks a far better bet. But a lot of Wellington arterial routes cannot be double laned like this so the bus waits on one selfish individual.

    And finally I have seen some of the young people I know around Wellington in tears because this is putting up the rates and rents when we need to concentrate on the pipes and a good number of them walk to work. So why should they have their dreams and finances shattered because a group of determined middle age males want their dream of bowling unobstructed down a beautifully formed sealed route devoid of any other user for a leisure cycle realised.

    Bear in mind I'd rather see the money go to public transport and if our current arterial routes can't provide sufficient space to have all cars cycles etc pushed off for the hours in the day that public transport needs to run fast and efficiently

    The more the cycling group talks then I’m afraid the more I see them as pretty selfish. Why don’t they catch the bus like everyone else – no need to defy death then. And don’t tar all car owners with negativity- many use the bus as well realise road use rationing in busy centre’s is the way to go.

    • RedBaronCV 4.1

      And it does nobody any service when those who want a debate about effective transport spending are trolled as being motivated by "fear/hate" that's a distraction to stymie discussion.

    • Pierre 4.2

      The problem you describe is not so much too many cyclists in the bus lane as too many cars in the car lane. The obvious answer to this is that road space reclaimed from cars benefits everyone (even motorists). Whether you invest in buses or bicycles, the long-term positive outcome is that people will eventually stop using cars so much. There are probably cheaper ways to do the infrastructure, but the overall idea is sound.

      Also, if you believe cycling is mainly a leisure pursuit, it shouldn't be. I know a good cycling network when I see crowds of children cycling to school, old people trundling slowly to the local shop. If all you see are sporty types on flashy racing bikes, you're missing out on the vast potential for cycling as a fairly normal and convenient mode of transport.

      • Hi Pierre,

        There is a war going on between public transport and private transport. Cars and bicycles vs. Buses and trains.

        Rather than being enemies public transport and cyclists need to become allies.
        Cycling does have potential. But it also has its draw backs. Weather for one. If there is no public transport how do cyclists get to work on rainy or blustery days.
        Cycling is also not practical for the very old or very young, or the infirm, or people with babies and children. A whole demographic that has just as much right to get around as anyone.

        Some time ago I was reading about transport in Cuba during the fiercest period of the sanctions. All vehicle imports were stopped and fuel was hard to get. To get around virtually everyone who could ride a bike did so. As the sanctions eased and with fuel imports from Russia the government were able to convert trucks to carry trailers with passenger seats. Known as Camels for their strange humped shape connection to the truck beds, this form of public transportation became wildly popular. and the most common way to commute to work and to go shopping and do business. Cycling dropped to the sort of levels we see here in NZ. As the sanctions eased more the Cuban government were able to import second hand buses from the US, Weirdly many of the iconic yellow American school buses are being used all over Cuba. The Camels were mostly able to be retired.

        To get private cars off the road. To address climate change, and pollution. To address the waste in resources that private cars represent. To save on the cost of expanding and building more and bigger motorways .And yes make room on the carriageway to create safe and segregated bike and pedestrian paths, public transport must be greatly expanded.

        Cycling ans walking cannot prosper and expand in our modern cities unless public transport is also expanded and made safer and more convenient and available.

        If we are talking about climate change and pollution, buses lend themselves to electrification better than private cars. Already the Auckland city council has committed to electrifying the whole Auckland bus fleet.

        Public transport, like public health, like public education, is best and most efficiently and equitably delivered by single payer.

        The concept is simple; Fare Free Public transport has the ability to transport tens of thousands of former car drivers in comfort and safety in all weathers. To cater to bikes and to give bike riders more range I think there should be provision for dedicated cycle stowage on buses and trains.

        It is my honestly held opinion that a fare free busway across the Auckland Habour Bridge will free up the space for a dedicated cycleway.
        Negating the need for a hugely expensive bike bridge, the purpose of which is to retain the full eight lanes of the existing bridge to continue channeling tens of thousands of private vehicles into the city,to continue endangering cyclists and pedestrians and the environment and climate.

        I really can’t understand the hostility to this concept

        [Deleted a spurious “1” from user name]

        • Incognito

          Cycling is also not practical for the very old or very young, or the infirm, or people with babies and children. A whole demographic that has just as much right to get around as anyone.

          What a load of disingenuous bollocks! Most people are able to use a pushbike, including old and young, as the Dutch can attest. Nice try though.


          Something about Cuban Camels, which I couldn’t parse.

          Something about cyclists needing and relying on PT, which I could not logically follow.

          Something about you not understanding, which made perfect sense to me.

      • Incognito 4.2.2

        It can be summed up like this:

        Don’t build it, because it ain’t there.


        Don’t go there, because we’re here.


        How not to get there, because there ain’t nothing there.

        What do these have in common? Answer: lack of imagination, forward thinking, and boldness.

      • RedBaronCV 4.2.3

        The cars do the same speed as the bus. The 5k per hour cuclist holds up traffic where there is not overtaking even in a relatively lightly traveled space.

      • Foreign waka 4.2.4

        And we assume (lets review that word…ass u me) that trades people, delivery trucks and vans, small enterprises vehicles, emergency services, professionals etc. are now switching to bikes and buses? And I can see us biking into a deep recession….

        If we look at Wellington, a city with very windy, hilly, almost one lane roads it is not really an option for biking. There is a bit of a motorway between the north entry, Petone/Hutt and the Ferry Terminal that merges to an every so decreasing space towards the main artery to the airport. May I repeat: to the airport. This is the place were visitors and tourist land and they certainly do not want to bike to town. Public transport is virtually not available.

        I wish every NZ lander would have seen modern cities and how they operate. The solution is NOT having toddler to old people on bikes. It is a lazy planning approach that promises a solution but actually does not offer any. It could be supplementary in some areas where it is safe to do so.

        Smaller electric people movers/buses seating 20 or so would be a very reasonable solution. With a more frequent timetable and destinations were people actually need to go would make more sense and is feasible for everybody. Planning the service with a network that basically would branch out like a spiders web should provide a good result. If started with one section, perhaps Airport/Miramar as this is the difficult one, it can be extended over time without having to fork out billions (My mind wanders to those 16 we have paid the rich..)

        And the service should be owed by the people of the city, managed by the council and liability towards to taxpayer taken seriously. We all see what happens if a contract company does not even know what country they are serving but are more concerned about the shareholder return. Meanwhile we pay through the nose and get nothing. Strictly speaking a case for assessing whether the consumer guaranties act has been breached towards those who pay – the taxpayer.

      • RedBaronCV 4.2.5

        Pierre No there weren't that many cars in the car lane and had the cyclist been in the lane I was in then I would have followed him at the 5k uphill he was doing.

        But I am prepared to put the buses welfare first but the cyclist was not ? And his private usage comes before public usage and before any other private usage like mine. So he gets priority over me and my dodgy knee for what reason exactly?

        Also do cyclists envisage sharing a cycle lane with other low speed users like skateboards or scooters powered or otherwise?

        I do wonder if bikes are so great though – why they did not survive the introduction of cars. Then we would all be living in these lovely little flat biking communities that keep being raised as utopian pictures.

    • mikesh 4.4

      Many of Wellington's problems stem from kerbside parking. This interferes with the free flow of traffic even where there are no cycle lanes. In the Berhampore/Island Bay area, if they removed kerbside parking along Adelaide Road and the Parade there would be more than sufficient space for cycle lanes.

      • RedBaronCV 4.4.1

        Some of the less able bodied depend on being able to get out of a car that has pulled over to let them out. But able bodied cyclists need to come first?

  5. DukeEll 5

    <i>"But I am bemused by the current level of vitriol that has been thrown at a group who apart from wearing lycra is doing nothing wrong."</i>

    This is the problem with both sides of the debate.<sarc> It's not my side causing problems, i'm doing nothing wrong ipso facto i'm doing right. </sarc>

    My only concern about bike lanes / bridges is that they are the new car motorways. nothing else should encroach.

    I agree that for too long it's been to much about cars. but balance is needed moving forward. not for the car people, but for all vehicle people however motorised.

    The suggestion in the herald this morning about a second bridge was a good one. build one to free up two lanes of the existing for bikes and pedestrians.

    Too much of the discourse is wrapped up in "my way of getting to work is better than yours no matter the circumstances." whether your wear lycra or high vis.

    I live above work as i hate traffic, so actually i'm better than everyone

  6. coreyjhumm 6

    It's not just "the right" , a majority of the hatred I see comes from working class people like me who have no issue with cycle lanes (when they are designed well and not insanely complicating and sometimes destroying roads to the point we have to make two illegal u turns just to get to our house on the side street the planners have destroyed) it's the time it takes to build the things that infuriates people the most. Ripping up main arterial roads for in some cases over a year or several years and day in day out seeing noone working on the things.

    Small business owners who have their business basically invisible and inaccessible to the public due to being surrounded by iron fences and ripped up roads and signs and cones and a lot of times they are designed like they are in chch CBD , to force people out of their cars so people walk or bus or cycle to town when most people say bugger that I'll go to a local mall where I can park , the chch CBD inner city road rebuild should be the text book what not to do if you want to get businesses and people in the cbd, because as much as we want people out of their cars, cars aren't going anywhere soon and NZ's public transport is woeful and pretty much ends nationwide at 11.30 every night.

    Alot of poor communities and struggling home owners see their areas degraded and run down and then see the costs of the cycle lanes and rage and rant about it.

    I have moved several times to avoid road works and they just follow me, they are once again ripping up my road after ripping it up for two years building a bus lane, to build a cycle lane and I just don't understand why they didn't do it all at once

    I'll also never understand why key infrastructure and main arterial roads take months and months and years and year to be built in this country. Why rip roads up if you're not gonna be able to do it all at once because the workforce is too spread out, why not do one project at a time , quickly before starting the next one instead of drawing fifty projects at once out for years.

    I don't drive so I don't care about cars but this is not a left v right issue. It's an OMG HURRY THE F UP AND BUILD THE THING AND BUILD IT RIGHT thing for me.

    • mickysavage 6.1

      I hear you. I marvel at China's ability to pump out huge infrastructure quickly and wonder why we can't do the same. But I do understand the reasons …

    • Ad 6.2

      Sydney and Melbourne people just accept perpetual disruption.

      Auckland is now a similar city: perpetual network disruption from works.

      And it's going to get worse.

  7. woodart 7

    the attacks have very little to do with cycling, or cyclists . bullies always need a target, preferably one that doesnt fight back. thats why the environment has been such a good target . its kind of fun to watch the nats pretend to care about farmers in the electric V dino juice farm vehicle argument. they dont care, theres not enough votes out in the sticks nowdays. not many votes but you can still get plenty of dog whistles….

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    Dear Mickey,

    One thing you mentioned above worried me greatly- felt like a huge red flag-I assume that you are discussing the cycleway out west- it was this phrase.

    In my home turf we are also installing a cycleway as a trial. The effect is that a few people some times will have to walk an extra 300 or so metres to get to the train station. If it was me I would appreciate the extra exercise.

    Now cyclists by definition are usually pretty able bodied and 300 metres is not too long a walk for someone like you.

    But not everybody is able bodied and 300 metres is a very long way for some of the elderly, anyone who is injured, has a stroller and a couple of small children, in lousy weather, carrying a significant load. For some it would make the difference between being able to access the train or not. So I really think the question that needs to be asked is "whose life does this make worse, who is going to be disadvantaged by these changes" and why is this a good idea because after all they are public transport users if they are going to the train. The cycling lobby should be asked outright who they are disadvantaging as well because I struggle with the idea that the able bodied make the lives of the less able worse. Might also be a good idea to go to the station at various times just to have a look and see who is using this that doesn't fit the norms.

    And bear in mind some of these people don't have the ability to lobby on their own behalf, may be embarrassed to disclose physical shortcomings or be reluctant to face a cycling lobby that is vocal middle aged males for fear of ridicule.

    Local government needs to look after the parts of the community that are not so good at looking after themselves. It is also good of you to be on one of these boards, it can't be easy and you have my admiration.



  9. Adrian Thornton 9

    Not all of us wear lycra Micky…some are still I am pleased to say concerned with aesthetics as well as progress, they are not mutually exclusive.

    209 meilleures images du tableau Velo | Cyclisme, Bicyclettes et Bicyclette

    • Jimmy 9.1

      What year was that photo taken? Looks like the 70's? or 80's?

      • Adrian Thornton 9.1.1

        Those two men are Louison Bobet and Jacques Anquetil, two of the greatest (and stylish) riders in cycle racing history, the photo was taken somewhere about 1958-61.

  10. Cyclists (and I am one) need to grow up and realise that they are intruding on motorist space that was never designed for cyclists (or paid for by them).

    What is so bad about getting off the bicycle at an intersection and walking the bike across?

    Respect for other road users is a two way thing.

    OBTW wear something easily visible and have active visible lights on and working. paying road taxes would be helpful.

    Breaking police cordons is not justified for personal pleasure. I am not at all startled at the Bezant thing.

    The arrogance should chime wonderfully with hipango and jc

    • Pierre 10.1

      Cyclists (and pedestrians) have as much a right to use the road as cars do, where is this idea that motorists have priority? It's not too much to ask cars to slow down and drive responsibly, especially on urban roads.

      • Foreign Waka 10.1.1

        Pierre, the concept might be alien to you – the one who paid owns the show. So get off you bike and pay up if you want to use the road.

        • Incognito

          All pedestrians get off the pavement and back into your SUVs and utes if you want to use the pavement until you pay up your Pavement Tax. Thou will not cross at a pedestrian crossing unless thou pay toll; jaywalkers will be tolled extra as will people with prams & small children, guide dogs, walking sticks, and wheelchairs. In fact, people should stop existing until they pay their Existence Tax and the higher the burden on society, the more tax you shall pay. The concept might be alien to you, but it is known as Utilitarianism. We need more of it, much, much more.

    • lprent 10.2

      … intruding on motorist space that was never designed for cyclists (or paid for by them)

      Clearly you’re willing to believe complete bullshit and to not engage your brain.

      Motorist related expenses like vehicle licence fees, fuel taxes, road user charges, public transport passenger fares, registration, and WOF costs don’t pay for more than about half of the roading costs, upkeep, or services like police and have never done so. Not at the national level nor at the local level.

      Many of the costs are directed at other areas or the costs of transport. For instance vehicle licences are

      The majority of the money paid for a motor vehicle licence goes to Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) to help pay for personal injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents

      From what I have gleaned, taxpayers and ratepayers carry about half of build and maintenance costs for our road network directly and indirectly through their taxes and rates. For instance when you look at the accounts it appears that taxpayers largely pick up the downstream finance costs after the builds and as the roading is transported into the government assets in the balance sheet.

      The NTLF from things like fuel taxes is effectively mainly used for new transport developments as seed capital and for state highway maintenance to repair damage that is almost entirely attributable to high weight axles loads – ie trucks. In any case, most of the money for the NLTF is used for state highways and the public transport subsidies. Both are generally unimportant for urban commuter cyclists – who are probably the majority users of cycling kilometres.

      Urban cyclists don’t do a lot of riding down motorways and many of other the state highways inside the city are too congested by cars at higher speeds to actually ride on. They have limited (ie nearly non-existent) space on public transport.

      So to imply that the road user charges and fuel taxes fund cyclists is just stupid and ridiculous.

      Incidentally, the problem in Auckland is a state highway issue in that there is currently no access over the harbour without doing a 30-40km trip to get from the St Marys bay to Birkenhead or taking Ferry if there is room for bikes on it (seldom). There are no ‘intersections’ to walk across. There literally no useful routes to get over the harbour for cyclists or pedestrians. Basically the Ministry of Transport has completely prioritised motorist and shipping access despite having a mandate to provide transport for both pedestrians and cyclists and the taxpayer funding over decades to do it.

      So where are the urban roads funded ?

      The maintenance of urban roads are largely directly funded by ratepayers and largely subsidised by taxpayers for some new development. The proportion of NTLF funds directed at council and regional roads from fuel taxes etc won’t even cover the cost of urban road damage by truck axles.

      So the people paying for urban roads (mostly ratepayers and some from taxpayers) includes pedestrians and cyclists. However until recently the car and truck owners, retail shop owners, and the others seem to be prioritised by our current and previous local policies. However they don’t pay (possibly with the exception of the regional fuel tax in Auckland) any more than pedestrians and cyclists to for the roads and pathways that cyclists and pedestrians use.

      Something that you clearly don’t understand or are simply too lazy to look up.

      Based on solely on your ignorant and quite stupid comments. I suspect that you don’t ride regularly. Otherwise you wouldn’t be this damn lazy.

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