I spent a year living in Mexico in 2005. During that time I owned an old ute which I used to go to the beach. While it would be fair to say that the roads were somewhat chaotic there, I truly believe that Mexican drivers were better than Aucklanders.
Never have I seen so many aggressive drivers as here in the city of sails. I agree more with the Danish consultant who called it a 'City of Cars'. So much of the infrastructure is set up for cars, rather than pedestrians or cyclists, that drivers think that they own the road.
With morning and afternoon drive time plagued by congestion, I decided to take a stand against the awful air and water pollution caused by car use and join the 1.2 per cent of people who commute to work by bicycle.
The other day it was raining and I was riding home in the dark with reflectors, a light and a high-vis vest on Ponsonby Road. I am lucky to have an awesome electric-assisted Zoomped bike that means I can zip around meetings in town and get up steep hills without breaking too much of a sweat - which makes it a great solution. It also means I have a speedometer.
I was travelling right on the speed limit of 40km/hour yet, this wasn't fast enough for the solo man in his car behind me. He leant on the horn and dangerously accelerated as he shot past pulling the fingers.
The next day I was nearly taken out by someone texting while driving.
Auckland averages about 50 injuries to cyclists from vehicles each year and the memorial white bikes that are dotted along Tamaki Drive in particular pay homage to wasted lives at the hands of accidents. It is no surprise at all then, that aggressive driving is to blame for the lack of uptake of cycling as transport.
The stupidity of this situation is that (as I have said before) we suffer from road rage, from air pollution and our waterways receive heavy metal pollutants from car use, but if Auckland drivers weren't so bad, cycling would be an excellent solution.
The fact is that on average, over two thirds of car journeys are less than six kilometres and a third of them are under two.
I have seen Auckland Council make significant improvements already and applaud the planning work done on the waterfront, which is most certainly cycle-friendly. But to tip the scales on our transport woes, much more needs to be done.
For an example of somewhere that has got it right, go and visit Melbourne. Over there you save time by cycling to work on a safe road where cars are only there for parking (they block off roads to prevent heavy traffic from using them to get to the city) and trams are given a higher priority than cars.
For other solutions, try carpooling on Letscarpool.govt.nz or look into electric cars (and keep an eye on the car sharing scheme being proposed by Auckland Transport). Electric cars have far less impact on the environment (they have less moving parts meaning less hydrocarbons get into the waterways- plus no fuel is burned) and human health and will also save money in the long run. With Elon Musk opening a new factory for lithium batteries at Tesla, their cost is also coming down, making them an ever-more viable option.
But in the end, looking back at how short most of our driving distances actually are, we really should get on the bike, make it safer and change the culture of aggressive Auckland drivers. You don't own the roads, in fact you make them dangerous and unhealthy so pull your heads in.
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