Get ready for Bike Wise Month

By Amelia Reynolds

It's Bike Wise Month but more could be done to make pedal-powered transport safer.

NZTA's Bike Wise Month takes place each year in February. Photo / Getty Images
NZTA's Bike Wise Month takes place each year in February. Photo / Getty Images

The tragic death of 37-year-old Auckland cyclist John Tangiia at Parnell Rise last month has brought to question the realities of cycling safe in Auckland. With NZTA's annual Bike Wise Month kicking off in February, more opportunities for a discussion on how to best create a bike-safe city, and a more sustainable one at that, will be offered.

Bike Wise Month is a series of family-friendly events, including national Go By Bike Day on February 12, which aims to work towards the overarching vision of the Bike Wise Strategic Framework 2010-2015 that "all New Zealanders enjoy a culture and environment that positively encourages and supports cycling in New Zealand for enjoyment and transport".

In Auckland, Quay Street will be temporarily closed to cars on February 8 for Ciclovia. The Ciclovia movement, meaning 'bike path' in Spanish, originates in Columbia where every Sunday since the late 1970s certain streets in urban centres are made car-free and are exclusively accessible to people-powered modes of transport.

Ciclovia events have been seen in Melbourne, Quito and on Waiheke Island. Auckland's event will offer an array of street games, entertainers and food stalls.

The following day, the Church of Ascension in Point Chevalier is offering bicycle blessings free of charge where anything that goes using human power will be blessed in an informal, fun and "slightly religious" ceremony before setting off for a ride.

A series of bike lessons for beginners, safe guided bike tours and bike maintenance classes are also being offered throughout the month.

Investment on the way

Andrew Knackstedt, a spokesperson for the NZTA, says that significant investments are being made to improve the safety of cyclist's right across New Zealand.

Auckland Transport's 2014 Cycling Report, released two days after the death of Tangiia, identified what share of the $160 million targeted nationally for walking and cycling between 2012 and 2015 will be invested into Auckland.

A proposed $10.3 million is to be spent on 15.4km of new cycleways and 6km of new footpath between 2013 and 2014. The extension of the North-western Cycleway down Grafton Gully is due to be completed this year as is further work on the Western Ring Route along the Causeway and at the Te Atatu and Lincoln Road interchanges.

In the lead up to Bike Wise Month, NZTA has launched a $400,000 Share the Road campaign that aims to humanise cyclists and make drivers think twice when they pass bikes on the road.

Knackstedt stresses that an additional $15 million spent on cycle and walking projects may not look like cycle improvements in the books but they are definitely cycle improvements on the roads.

"We are working constantly to widen road shoulders and improve signage, road markings and accessibility for cyclists, and this is largely absorbed into the wider roading spend for highways and local roads," Knackstedt says.

Could do better

Youth organisation Generation Zero criticises Auckland Transport's piecemeal approach to cycling infrastructure. On January 15 the group launched a petition calling on Auckland Council to prioritise the construction of separated cycleways.

They want to see a full commitment to half of the Auckland Regional Cycle Network being completed by 2016, the initial goal outlined in Auckland Transport's Regional Land Transport Strategy 2010-2040.

"Auckland has really failed to adopt a network approach for separated cycleways in Auckland which really means that regular commuters that want to cycle don't find it safe," says Ryan Mearns, director of communications for Generation Zero.

"It's a little haphazard right now and isolated and we'd like to see that come together in a conclusive and comprehensive plan for Auckland."

Mearns praises other centres such as Christchurch, which is investing $37 per capita per year in cycle infrastructure compared with $5.50 for Auckland.

He references New York City too. Between 2006 and 2011, the city significantly invested in separated cycleways, resulting in 40 per cent fewer cycle injuries and a significant increase in retail spending.

Mearns acknowledges that some quality cycling infrastructure and investment is being made and praises the council's partial underwriting of the Sky Path, the $28 million privately invested one kilometre composite material tunnel that will provide pedestrian access over the Harbour Bridge, expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

However, without a greater commitment to a network of separated cycleways, Generation Zero questions the reality of Auckland Council's shared vision, adopted in March 2012, to make Auckland the world's most liveable city.

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