Cyclists, as a group, are a tough bunch to love. En masse – which, as anyone in a car who's followed a gaggle of them out for a Saturday morning amble will know, is their favourite configuration – they tend towards the pious. I don't know a lot about virtue signalling, but I think if you put wheels on it, it would look like this. For every entitled motorist with a Maserati there are at least two asses on Avantis demonstrating their own excellence. "We are saving the planet and ourselves and we don't care who knows it," their body language screams. And then there's the outfits.
Let Google autocomplete "Cyclists are ... " and you, like me, will almost certainly be shocked at the vitriol shown by the theoretically impartial search engine. "The worst" and "a menace" are two of the milder suggestions.
Even more annoyingly, cyclists are in the right. Increasing the number of them on the roads not only adds to the sum total of mobile sanctimony, it does indeed cut pollution, reduce congestion, make people healthier and, in many cases, give the rest of us a much-needed chuckle.
If we judge a society by how it treats its worst citizens, cyclists provide us with a great opportunity to be the best we can be. If practitioners are going to pedal about on their contraptions, there is no option but to give them their fair share of the road.
Giving them their own little lanes to toddle about in is not only sensible and humane, it has so many advantages for the rest of us it's hard to understand why it winds so many people to a fever pitch of frenzy.
But it does. The problem, if I'm able to hear the message correctly over the undercurrent of whining, seems to be that "they" are forcing cycling on "us" by making it safer and easier for cyclists to pursue their passion. And "they" are spending "our" money to do it. The latest cuddly neighbourhood to have its commercial face ground into the PC mud by the jackbooted heels of AT – ie, to have acquired a cycle lane - is Mt Albert, whose windswept canyon of a shopping centre is now bike-friendly.
According to some locals, enabling bikes to safely travel through the shops cuts foot traffic.
This, presumably, is the foot traffic that safely and deftly wound its way through speeding vehicles to get from shop to shop. According to my sums, however, the amount of space that would hold one car, often with just one person in it, could accommodate four or five bikes.
Small shopkeepers can tend to be change averse. In High St a substantial number of them are opposed to plans to pedestrianise their neck of the woods. And indeed, it may be that Mt Albert's cycle lanes are not thronged with eager shoppers from the Lycra-clad legions. It's all a bit "If you build it they will come" and there is no guarantee that they will. But there is no doubt that if you don't build it they are much less likely to come.
AT, as often, isn't doing itself any favours in this discussion. When a council rep says insouciantly that the benefits of cycleways may not be apparent because it is part of a 40-year plan, you can understand why some critics might feel the council and its minions are out of touch with the people who pay their salaries.
But the future is happening every day, whether we like it to not. And alternatives to cars, including bicycles, are an important part of that future.