I’m not a cyclist. I don’t own a bike and I hate the feeling of Lycra . I drive my car over offensively short distances sometimes and I’m unapologetically lazy about walking to the shops.
My only bias is being a big fan of whatever makes moving around Auckland a bit easier because, as anyone who’s spent more than a few hours in the 09 knows, getting around in Auckland can be a goddamn nightmare.
There’s a surprisingly simple reason cycle lanes are so empty and, despite the loud naysayers, it’s not because no one uses them. Cycle lanes are often empty because they are so efficient. Your cycling workmates are already at work, showered and ready to start annoying someone with some kind of annoyingly accurate stat about their carbon footprint . Meanwhile, you (and me) are still sitting at the stupid traffic lights on the motorway onramp.
For every negative statistic you can find for bike lanes, I can find you 27 worse ones for cars and buses.
Public transport in Auckland is a complete shambles. I have lost count at the number of times I’ve had to pay for a taxi ride home or call someone asking if they could pick me up because the bus that was supposed to take me home after a late shift didn’t show up.
The reality is: people who want a reason to complain about something, will always find one. If cycle lanes were always congested, with queues of cyclists trying to make their way into and out of town (the bloody cheek of these people), people would slam them as inefficient. Because cycle lanes are always empty, they slam them as ” useless ” .
I’m never going to ride my bike to or from work. That sounds exhausting and, honestly, I don’t want to deal with helmet hair. But I love cycleways. I love the fact that they take cars off the motorway and make my journey slightly easier. I love that I can annoy cyclists by going for runs along them with my headphones on so I can’t hear them when they come whizzing by and shouting “on your riiiiiight!”. I love that they’re a safe way to get around. I like knowing that a city like Auckland, with no subway and a very limited train network, is building a cycle network worth being proud of.
“But the cycleway takes away carparks right on the main street!” Yeah, ok, Karen. I never find any parking on the main street anyway so you can be like me and go park on a side street and walk the rest of the way. I don’t know anyone who’s ever stopped going somewhere they needed or wanted to go to just because there was no guarantee of a carpark right outside that door.
And as for the numbers and the forecasts and the complicated maths, I don’t actually care and I don’t think you should either. No one is counting how many people use the designated car parks for parents in my local supermarket. We all just agree that, regardless of whether two people or 200 people use them, it’s important to have them. No one cares how many people visit any of the local parks near you. No one is going to say “Only 217 people a month go to that park, shall we just knock it down a build a carpark?”. We just leave them be, because they’re important pieces of infrastructure for a liveable city. So why are we so uptight about tracking down how many people use a cycleway? Why does it matter?
We can’t be the city we want to be in 50 years if we don’t start working towards it now. Imagine if 50 years ago we’d built a subway network underground? We’d all be getting in and out of Auckland so much faster these days, instead of clogging up the motorways on this seemingly day-long rush hour we live in. We can’t be short-sighted and assume that, because not many of us will use it now, it’s not worth investing in.
There’ll always be people unhappy about fewer cars on the road (think petrol companies, mechanics) and it’s naïve to assume there is anything out there in the world that will ever be unanimously and universally loved . Of all things to hate, cycleways should be really low on your list. So low that, by the time you get to get angry about it, you might actually realise they were a great idea all along.
I’m not here to tell you what to do, but since it already sounds exactly like that’s what I’m doing, I suggest you leave the cycleway alone and start getting upset at things worth getting angry about, like the price of milk and cheese in a country full of cows.