Beyond Bikelash: Building and maintaining momentum

I was impressed with the momentum underway in Wellington.   Just as Sara mentioned in her presentation councils can keep delivering and we must support our council leaders to do just that (submitting on plan, presenting at council, emailing decision makers).

I was really delighted to be a speaker at the conference. I’ve been attending 2 Walk and Cycle since my first conference in Taranaki in 2009 originally as an advocate and then as an elected member over my 12 years on Auckland Council.  I always learn a lot and feel energised by the people power in the room.

Headline in the Press following the Asia Pacific Cycle Conference 2017

I first met Sara at the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress in Otautahi in 2017 when it felt like the sting was coming out of “Bikelash” for both of our cities. As it was reported from the Congress “A national rash of cycleway projects is making some motorists grumpy. But the cycle lobby seems to have its strategy sorted” .

It goes on “But now – impossible to believe, she (referring to me) agrees – Auckland is in the middle of a $200 million investment in 52km of dedicated cycleways. “There’s been a radical realignment of our cycling universe.  One of Auckland’s political advantages is that the cycleways are an Auckland Transport-run programme and so less susceptible to rate-payer pressure, she says.” (ha!)

Incredibly those projects in 2017 I said where “safely in place” are still not delivered 7 years later, 6 years behind schedule. At the 2Walk and cycling 2021 I asked the question Why is it taking so long to deliver an urban cycling network?  Leadership, sexism, the claylayer, the overplaying of community opposition were all factors and continue to be barriers.

Meola Road, Pt Chev to Westmere, under construction March 2024

What I would call a “bikelash” local government election in 2022 and budget cuts further threatened the programme in particular three routes covering the inner west of Auckland including this one in the photo.

It took an exhausting campaign by a well resourced community – 7 schools, 50 organisation, local residents associations, 3 business associations all in support- has got AT back on track but only just.

Stop de Kindermood protest in the Netherlands in response to rising road fatalities in the 1970’s

I often look at this photo – its on the wall of the Big Street Bikers office –  and wonder what it will take in Aotearoa to really push through on delivery after so many delays.  What will be the NZ version of the Netherland’s stop  de kindermoord (stop child murder) protest movement.   Do we need direct action to turn government policy and force delivery by agencies like Auckland Transport.? Does every lever possible need to be activated?

Clearly it is not just bikelash we need to move beyond but a full on culture war.

Community advocates
Radha Patel, Western Springs College student leader, Newtown School parents presenting to Auckland Council, Boopie Moran presenting to the AT Board

From my time council I know the importance of playing the council influence game – present, lobby, submit.   Showimg elected representatives the evidence  and support should be enough.

Boopsie Moran, extraordinary community advocate taking the time to present to the Auckland Transport Board on Katoa, Ka Ora Auckland’s speed management programme

Mums who just want their kids to get to school safely fronting up to speak at council

Students like Radha who petitioned for a safe crossing to school and advocated for the project .  It should not be this hard and exhausting for volunteers but we know how essential it is.

What I think is going to have the biggest impact on the decision makers as Sara covered is from the momentum gathering pace around the country of people taking advantage of safe infrastructure and jumping on active transport.  The majority of households have a bike- increasingly an e-bike, the majority want to be able to walk, scoot, wheel and cycle. (Waka Kotahi, NZTA Understanding attitudes and perceptions of walking and cycling survey 2023)

Politicians cutting the ribbon on cycling projects Top Left Glenn Innes to Tamaki stage 1; Bottom left Te ara i whiti Lightpath. Right Quay Street temporary cycleway opening with John Key, Simon Bridges and Len Brown

Famously it was the feedback the focus group from boomers who had experienced the Otago Rail Trail that convinced John Key to invest in urban cycling back in 2014 ( and if you look carefully from these cycleway opening pics the common denominator is a Minister of Transport and now Waka Kotahi board chair Simon Bridges). This is normal transmission and it needs to resume.

Mayor Wayne Brown riding on the footpath, ACT leader David Seymour with his e-bike; Quote from Richard Prebble


The decision makers (and in the case of the quote our elder statesmen) are so close to getting it!

I want to end on a positive note.  This is a giltch .

It is not normal for the Minister of Transport to decline to attend the conference,

It is not normal for senior agency leaders to not attend.  It is not normal to be “othered” when active transport is just what everyone does at some point on every journey and kids want to be able to get to kura safely.

It is not normal for leaders to pivot to road building priorities so readily (and change course off the back of media releases ) but not to have provided the same service for active transport – in the case of Auckland over 12 years of a progressive, supportive council!

Cover of the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2024

It is not normal during a climate emergency for a GPS that is so ill-informed, incoherent and lacking in any credibility.    Whatever your political persuasion the draft GPS (consultation closed on 2 April)  Zealand’s transport system and the communities it serves, now or in the future.

We can bring the discussion back on track and continue building momentum using every lever in our powers – I am sure this will happen including judicial review of the decision makers.  This is our street fight.  We know that it is the right thing for the health, well-being and freedom of current and future generations.

Reimaging the GPS as Transport for Life. Illustration by Carol Green

I ended by joining the call to attend the Transport for Life rally after the conference calling for a safe, fair and clean transport system and an evidence-based pathway to a healthy transport future for everyone in Aotearoa.