- 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.
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.