What my mum knows about cycling

Barbara Grace with her electric bikeMy mum, Barbara Grace, has had a lot of time to think about what would make Auckland a great place to cycle. When we immigrated to NZ in 1982 she brought her bike and since then hasn’t stopped cycling for transport around town. Today she has three bikes – her folding Brompton, her bike for performing with the Velociteers (New Zealand’s only synchronised cycling performance group ) and her electric bike which is her new pride and joy. She rarely uses her car as she also has a convenient bus stop right outside her house and a goldcard!

It wasn’t that long ago people used to say to her “I know you, you are the lady that cycles around Ponsonby” – she was recognised because so few people were on bikes. She has been waiting a long time for Aucklanders to appreciate the benefits of cycling and for the roads to feel safe for everyone.  She’s  had a few scary moments herself – most recently knocked off by a guy who “just didn’t see her” as he turned out of a side street into her path (despite being  “high viz” as she  was lit up like a Christmas tree).

Barbara Grace performing with the VelociteersSo my mum has been following with particular interest the recent debate about cycle safety following the tragic fatality in Parnell early in January. I think she nailed it with her most recent letter to the NZ Herald that was published last week.

Dear Editor

Thank you NZ Herald for having a week of bike related stuff.  So many opinions from the daft to the very useful.

This is what I know:

  • A small but significant proportion of all road users don’t  obey the rules and are ill-disciplined and arrogant. Trying to work out whether motorists or cyclists are worse is impossible and  pointless. An important difference is that its the motorists who  kill and injure on a regular basis.
  • Cyclists contribute as much as anyone to road maintenance etc. and provide a positive cost/benefit.
  • Because the number of cyclists is increasing all the time (hooray!) we need to get our act together and have bells and lights and show more respect to pedestrians.
  • Every year cycle tourists from overseas, leave NZ shaken and horrified at the way they were treated on the road, this is no help at all to our tourism industry.
  • In spite of the problems, cycling in Auckland is the most efficient and enjoyable way to get around the city.

Thank you

Barbara Grace

Barbara Grace taking part in the 2013 Pride Parade on her Brompton


Melbourne – cycling around the world’s most liveable city

VelociteersIn early March I travelled on a private trip to Melbourne with the Velociteers who performed at the Melbourne Bike Fest. I took the opportunity to check out why Melbourne is considered to be one of the world’s most liveable cities.

The first thing that struck me was the number of people using bikes for transport especially young women.  Melbourne suffers from similar issues to Auckland with car- centric city design, excessive speeds and road congestion. However unlike Auckland there is connected bike infrastructure that makes cycling pleasant and safe. It wasn’t perfect but there has clearly been investment in  a whole variety of different approaches to encourage cycling – painted green cycle lanes, shared paths, contra-flows, traffic calming, intersection public bike schemetreatments  and separated or “Copenhagen” lanes.

The Melbourne public bike hire scheme introduced in 2010 has also increased the visibility of cycling. Over the four days I was there I used the service for all my trips. I found it to be convenient, cheap (registration is $2.40 per day with the first half hour free ) and took me to where I wanted to go around the city centre.  I was able to make the compulsory helmet requirement work by taking over my own helmet and being willing to carry it around between trips. (Not an option that suits everyone – although helmets are for sale for only $5).

However experiencing the Melbourne bikes also convinced me that in Auckland we should not make a public bike hire scheme a priority until we can offer connected and safe routes.

Other aspects of Melbourne that I appreciated were the number of water fountains as part of the street scape reducing the need for plastic bottles and the ban on smoking on the beaches.

[A version of this post featured on the Cycle Action Auckland website generating a number of comments about prioritising a bike share scheme]