Last month we enjoyed a very exciting Local Board meeting where a known citizen of Devonport spoke with passion in public forum about why Lake Road is as bad as it is; it’s the bike lanes, of course. They need to go. There was the raising of voices and the banging of fists as the point was forcefully made. Someone came to film it and we all tried really hard to ignore the staging of it all, orchestrated, I suspect, by one of our elected members in possession of a similar transport persuasion. We were told that we had to demand that Auckland Transport remove the lanes immediately and get on with making the road for cars.
This much-aggrieved (retired) gentleman described the 40 minutes it took to get to Takapuna to attend the meeting. I quite unhelpfully informed him that my ebike ride into Takapuna, from the same starting point, took me 8 minutes. If you opened the door of the Council chambers, you’d see my bike parked right outside it. Yes, I was a bit smug, and no, I don’t think my response won any awards, but I’m not sure why we’re still having this stupid argument over the place of cycle lanes on our roads. It’s been pretty well documented, you make more space for cars, more cars will fill it. That to me, would be an embarrassing fail, when it comes to “improving Lake Road.”
I find it remarkable that some folk vehemently believe cyclists are not worthy of accessing direct routes. If we unpick the argument that cycle-lanes need to be off main roads, then what I’m really hearing is that a car driver’s journey is more urgent, more important, and far more necessary than the journey of a cyclist. We are learning here that a car journey is of higher value than a bike journey. And yet, if you weighed the value of this gentleman’s journey against my own: me, busy mother of 3 with days that start in the 5’s walking the dog before making 3 different flavoured sandwiches, dropping kids off to school before heading to a day at the Local Board Office vs. a retired gentleman who presumably has less dependents to care for, and possibly has more time to make travel choices (did the Gold Card not arrive in his letterbox?). Call me presumptuous, but I would suggest that the need for expediency on my journey outweighs the need for speed on his. So, in spite of his plea, the day that I write a recommendation requesting that Auckland Transport remove the bike lanes from Lake Road, is the day I know I’ve lost myself. My children will find me meandering aimlessly down tree-lined paths made for bikes; and whilst it may be a more pleasant journey, I certainly won’t be going anywhere fast.
When I shared this experience with my husband later that night he prodded me in the ribs and told me to be careful lest people give me grief for the large diesel truck I drive when I can’t make (or at times choose not to make) my journey by bike. He’s not wrong. I (we) do have a diesel-guzzling ute that we use as a family vehicle. It’s good for summer camp trips and our DIY days. The surfboards get strapped to the back and the sandy wet togs get thrown into the trailer. I love our ute and until there’s an electric equivalent made that has a range of at least 300km (and I can afford it), I won’t be trading in any time soon. But the truth is, this is not a car vs bike debate because I’d hazard a guess that about 99% of bike users are also car users. This is a travel-choice debate. This is a debate that leads us to reduced emissions, healthier lifestyles and slower paced neighbourhoods. It’s a debate that results in a mind-set shift, and an equal value placed on every road-corridor user.
In May this year the Ministry of Transport released a discussion document called Hīkina te Kohupara – Kia mauri ora ai te iwi / Transport Emissions: Pathways to Net Zero by 2050. I’m going to write a more fulsome post on this one later, but it’s worth noting here some of the damning facts about the role transport plays in our emissions profile. Transport accounts for 47 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions and would you believe it, this trend is still going up. This places us as the fifth highest per capita producer of CO2 emissions from road transport in the 43 OECD countries. Wow, what an achievement! Baseline modelling indicates that transport emissions in our country will be 9% above the 2005 levels by 2030. But hang on, didn’t our Government declare a climate emergency on 2 December 2020? If these little nuggets of hard truth aren’t enough to convince people of the need for reprioritizing our road corridor space, so that the bike journey or the bus journey become a genuinely viable option for getting around, then I simply don’t know what will do it.
Sadly though, this type of attitude is not unique to my area. A day later I open FB and see a friend in Glen Eden has shared a photo of an anonymous “creepy note” left in her letterbox. A welcome invite to protest the proposed cycle-path on Captain Scott Road – a bike lane that leads to the train station, town and schools in Glen Eden. It reads, The more people that protest the cycleway, the more likely it will be removed. There’s only one place for this kind of creepy note to go, and that’s the hungry bin where worms will make a meal of it.
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.