Heather du Plessis-Allan: Why I hate cycleways

Author
Heather du Plessis Allan,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Sunday, 16 December 2018, 9:16AM
The first reason I hate cycleways is that most of the ones I've seen are ridiculous wastes of money.
The first reason I hate cycleways is that most of the ones I've seen are ridiculous wastes of money.

hate cycleways.

I don't hate all cycleways, but I hate so many of them that I've started to almost hate the good ones by association.

If you don't understand why anyone can hate a piece of infrastructure, I'll explain it to you.

But before I do, a couple of points.

First, I'm not on any sort of fringe here. Many people hate cycleways. In fact, so many people do, that two prominent Wellingtonians are launching a local body political party to stop all future cycleways in the capital. There's been an outpouring of support for the pair.

Second, I don't hate bicycles themselves. I'm partial to a bit of a bike ride on a good day. Especially those Onzo bikes littered around Wellington. They're great to scoot around the city on while motorists sit bumper to bumper on a sweltering day. I've actually spent more on hiring Onzo bikes in the last 10 weeks than I've spent buying coffee.

And yes, I've deliberately established my bike-riding credentials so that I can't simply be written off as anti-cycling. Or anti-progress. Or anti-climate.

Just anti-cycleways.

The first reason I hate cycleways is that most of the ones I've seen are ridiculous wastes of money.

Take for example the Oriental Bay cycleway opened this week in Wellington. The bit just built is great. Thumbs up. But that's probably not where it's going to end. Members of Wellington City Council now want to make it longer. The next bit's not yet funded, but they're keen.

But the next bit doesn't need a cycleway. Oriental Parade's promenade is so wide you can fit three cyclists abreast and still have room for pedestrians.

If the cycleway opened this week cost $900,000 for 350 metres, the next bit is at least three times longer so will probably cost three times as much.

Here's an idea. Go to Bunnings, buy a couple of tins of paint at $150 a pop and paint a strip down the footpath. Cyclists on one side, pedestrians on the other. It's not a novel idea. Auckland does it on the footpath between Britomart and Mission Bay. That footpath is about a quarter of the width of Oriental Parade's.

The second reason I hate cycleways is that the powers that be often completely ignore the community to build them. Just look to the Island Bay Cycleway. The community didn't want it, it got built anyway. Then it was such a stuff up, they're having to tear it up and try it again at a likely cost of $10 million. That's an expensive 1.7 km.

Finally, I hate them because they've become an ideological symbol. Commonsense has left the building. It feels like authorities build these things to prove how progressive and planet-friendly they personally are.

It's not actually about keeping cyclists safe. If it was, you wouldn't be tearing up Oriental Parade as a priority. You'd instead be getting on with building a safe cycleway on the motorway heading into Wellington. For 700 metres on SH2, cyclists have to share the busy and fast road with cars going at 110 km per hour. Yes, there are complications because the build needs several authorities to say yes but it's been on the table since 2012. Six years.

Here's another idea. If you really want to keep cyclists safe and get more people on their bikes, let them on footpaths. Change the rules. Allow them to share the sidewalk with pedestrians.

Yes, there will be the odd bike on human smash, but that's a lot better than the odd bike on car smash.

And it's cheaper.

And you can do it right now.

And it's not an ideological statement. It's commonsense. Which is probably why it won't happen.

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