Pedal protest sprints over bridge

By Mathew Dearnaley

Dozens of cyclists staked a claim to the harbour bridge yesterday by riding across it to a rally of 400 pedallers and walkers on the other side.

Organisers of the Getacross rally, called to push for bridge cycling and pedestrian paths, said the illegal dash over the southbound clip-on at 1.20pm was by a "rogue" faction.

"I didn't know anything about it - I'm jealous," said Cycle Action Auckland deputy chairman Graeme Knowles before fulfilling a promise to police to urge the riders to find other ways of getting home to North Shore.

The Herald drove past 42 cyclists in a long bunch on the bridge's outside lane, which reduced traffic on the clip-on to a crawl although not vehicles on the main structure.

One cyclist, a man in his mid-40s, said the protesters had a support vehicle following them for safety.

He said they were experienced cyclists for whom the ride was no more dangerous "than any other day in Auckland traffic".

"We did it to protest about a situation where cars rule Auckland."

The man would not be identified apart from calling himself a keen triathlete and frustrated commuter wanting his children to inherit a right to ride across the Waitemata.

Police cars racing over the bridge were too late to stop the protesters, and officers made no arrests after rally organisers assured them there would be no return ride.

Acting Sergeant Martin Beeby said the stunt appeared to have been conducted in an orderly fashion, and "there was no harm done". But he noted that cyclists risked $250 fines for riding on a motorway.

Mr Knowles told the rally he was "pleased to see you're all here in one bit but I don't want anyone cycling back over the bridge, okay?"

"But hopefully the day will come when we're able to do it legally."

Auckland Regional Council transport chairwoman Christine Rose, who cycled to the rally, challenged anyone who said it was unsafe to ride over the bridge or wanted to know who organised the illegal dash.

"I'd like to know why it isn't safe, why can't you cycle across, and who organised that."

Ms Rose said walking and cycling across the bridge was an equity issue and "a human right". She said the push for links across the bridge, costed by consultants at up to $42.8 million, would optimise benefits of a more expensive structural strengthening project for which engineers did not have to go "begging bowl in hand" to the Government for money.

The rally heard addresses of support from Labour, Green and Act candidates and Auckland City minority member Leila Boyle, who invited submissions against that council's opposition to walking and cycling on the bridge.

The regional council and North Shore City support the idea in principle, but the Transport Agency has deferred a decision until this week on whether it will forward a project application to the Auckland Regional Transport Authority.

- NZ Herald

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