Lessons from Vancouver for Auckland’s emerging cycle culture

Auckland Conversation the BruntlettsAuckland Conversations: Vancouver Cycle Chic – Chris and Melissa Bruntlett, Modacity

 The Bruntletts from Vancouver spoke at the Auckland Conversations on 4 November 2014  from their perspective as parents of young children who gave up the family car in 2010 to enjoy the health, environmental and social benefits of walking, cycling and public transport. They shared their experiences as their home city develops a welcoming cycling environment.

Their observations about what has been happening in Vancouver since the construction of a network of separated cyclelanes provided valuable for lessons for why should also strive to improve every day cycling in Auckland.

They talked about the importance of a bike friendly policy including:

  • Lower speed limits
  • Providing for bikes on buses
  • Improved connectivity

Four common complaints about cycling investment that they have experienced in Vancouver ( “bikelash”) are very familiar to what we hear in Auckland:

  • Fear about losing parking
  • Speculation that cycle paths create traffic congestion
  • “taxpayer” groups – the cost of constructionshould be considered a luxury
  • Just caters to law breakers – red light runners

However they are able to point to data that tracks the benefits for all road users of installing separated cyclelanes:

  • Just a 30 second increase in traffic delays
  • 18% decrease in collisions
  • 80% decrease of sidewalk cycling
  • 34% of people cycling are women (an important indication of success)
  • 4x increase in children cycling downtown
Melissa Bruntlett and Leah Murphy (Frocks on Bikes Wellington) riding Tokyo bikes
Melissa Bruntlett and Leah Murphy (Frocks on Bikes Wellington)

Melissa who blogs about her cycling experiences (and contributes to Momentum Magazine and other publications) advocates for the slower, simpler more civilised bike culture that is provided by “Dutch” style upright bikes. This style of bike, that I am fortunate to enjoy with my Velorbis, is ideal for  riding for utility rather than exercise at slower speeds and means the rider can dress for their destination (part of the Frocks on Bikes manifesto)

It was interesting to hear the impact of separated cycling infrastructure on British Columbia’s compulsory helmet requirements. Chris reported that as people have felt more safe and comfortable cycling there is less use of helmets and the law is becoming unenforceable.  I think we will see the same thing happen in Auckland eventually.

The presentation was interspersed with Vancouver Cycle Chic films produced by Chris showcasing everyday experiences of riding a bike.  A particular favourite features Amy and her dog Winston who travels in a bike basket.

In Auckland the conversation has only just started regarding the business benefits of bikes. Without local data we are struggling to convince retailers that bikes mean business. In Vancouver cycle lanes have resulted in increased revenue, more tourists and additional businesses popping up along popular routes like craft beer tasting rooms. The Vancouver experience made it easy to imagine the benefits that business districts like  Ponsonby Road and K’rd will reap from  separated infrastructure.

It was really refreshing to hear from non- experts (of the technical engineering and urban planning kind)  about what safe and accessible space for cycling means in practice. Melissa mentioned that being a no- car household has improved their quality of life and provides more time together as a family.

Chris and Melissa’s visit to NZ and Auckland Conversations presentation will hopefully inspire Aucklanders, especially parents, to embrace the benefits of our city’s own emerging bike culture.

Other highlights from the Bruntlett’s visit to Auckland 

Blend with the BruntlettsBlend with the Bluntletts ride on 2 November  organised by Generation Zero, Transportblog, Blend Store and the Frockers at Frocks on Bikes – Auckland

Photos of the ride by Chris Bruntlett 

Bcast Green Desk 4 November – my interview with blogger and writer Melissa Bruntlett, who lives life on two wheels in Vancouver, about Van Cycle Chic – Observations from an Emerging Bike Culture.

Kia Ora Aotearoa – Melissa’s blog about her visit to Auckland