Why are people so frightened of bicycles? By people I mean especially those people in the media, my colleagues, who think it's sharp to use any old nonsense to try to destroy cycling. Ha, that bike lane is empty! Haha, that one cost too much! Hahaha! It's all a con!
Is it because they think it's a waste of public money? Not really. Active transport – cycling and walking – is budgeted to cost a mere 3 per cent of the $28 billion being spent on transport by central and local government in Auckland over the next 10 years.
It's the cheapest transport option we have. It's also the healthiest, most life-affirming and most climate-friendly, and the funding it gets is not enough. It's certainly not enough to start frothing at the mouth about.
Is it because bike lanes are a waste of road space? That's ludicrous too. Every bike lane has the potential to carry far more people than a lane of cars, because bikes can travel closer together.
There is nothing less space-efficient on the roads than a car, and we spend colossal amounts of money to keep them there.
Because no one uses the bike lanes? That's not true either. Despite what you may have read or heard this week, the growth of bike riding in Auckland is bigger than the growth of any other transport sector. That includes cars, by the way, even though Aucklanders are buying several hundred more each week.
On Nelson St, cycling increased by 33 per cent this October over the same month last year. On Quay St, cycling numbers appear to have exceeded a 2026 target already. Yet driving is increasing hardly at all.
As Vera Alves has written in a wonderful column on the Herald website, the reason you don't often see congestion in bike lanes is that they are efficient. While you're stuck in traffic, she wrote, your cycling workmates are already at work, showered and ready to start their day.
Even the obvious self-interest for a driver – more bikes means fewer cars – doesn't register.
It's just hatred. Why think it through when you can pull the trigger on a flamethrower of fury.
Hating on bikes has had a destructive impact in this city. Good plans have been compromised and delayed and good planners have been sidelined. Several of the city's senior public servants have been spooked.
Sadly, that's even true in Auckland Transport itself. When AT was criticised in a controversy about cycling numbers that broke this week, I asked its head of communications, Wally Thomas, if the CEO, Shane Ellison, would be responding publicly. I thought Ellison might be keen to lead from the top.
Thomas listed a number of responses, none of which involved Ellison and most of which were not from AT at all. I asked him again, and again he fudged the answer. I asked a third time: would Ellison "be heading up any kind of response or even putting his name to one?"
"He's been closely involved and aware of the issues," said Thomas.
So, no. A public body under a highly publicised attack – and the boss, presumably advised by his communications maestro, chose not to front.
Here's a marker to watch. So far this financial year, AT has spent only $0.9m of its $10m active transport budget. The year started in July, so it's early days, and Ellison has assured the council the work will be done. But they missed their first-quarter target.
The true absurdity of the attack on bicycles is that it blinds the haters to the scale of change happening all around them. In urban design it's not just cycle lanes we're getting, it's a whole different – and mostly better – city.
Sometimes change comes hard and fast and it catches everyone out. Are e-scooters the next disruptive technology?
A shop in Sylvia Park sold 600 of them last Saturday. That's not gimmicky hire. Those scooters are now owned by people who will use them every day. Already in central Auckland there are e-scooters wherever you go, wherever you look. That's not even true of bikes yet.
Should we ban them? Run them out of town with commercial or legal barriers? Not at all. Better answers are not hard to grasp: limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths, direct them into bike lanes where they exist and, aha!, build a lot more bike lanes.
Meanwhile, dear old AT says e-scooters are currently not allowed on trains unless they fold down, although you can take your bike.
Legislators – central and local, and their officials – really need to learn how to keep up. AT says it's looking at how to do that now.
And if you think e-scooters are going to change things, wait till you hear about e-ferries.
At the launch of a new ferry strategy for Auckland this week, Michael Eaglen of the shipyard and boat building company McMullen & Wing talked about his dream for 2021. That would be the prime minister, he said, hosting the leaders of Apec aboard one of Auckland's "new electric ferries".
Sleek, fast and silent, made in New Zealand by boat-builders already renowned for their yachts. How's that for a great idea?
Will we really have them by 2021? Unlikely but not impossible. Will we have them at all? Of course we will.
This is the city we're becoming.
And don't stop there. When the CRL is finished in 2024 and the light rail lines not long after, Midtown will be so chock full of people, much of it will have to be fully pedestrianised. And it won't be alone.
This is the city we're becoming.
Within 10 years, assuming full AT commitment, bikes and e-scooters, and who knows, maybe something more to challenge them both, will move efficiently and safely, separated from walkers and from cars.
Yes, all this will create its own problems. Service delivery. Emergency vehicles. But instead of shouting at the clouds, let's work out ways to make the most of it.
How about, say, Auckland's courier companies getting together to trial the joint use of a three-wheeled cargo e-bike in the central city? Actually – they're already doing that.
We need a hundred more things like it. It's called tactical urbanism: quick and easy trials before anyone starts to spend real money.
Auckland's not good at tactical urbanism, but we could be. All it will take is for planners and decision-makers to pull on their big-boy and big-girl pants, stare down the haters and be the leaders we pay them to be.
As for the haters, maybe you guys could just take the next few years off? Come back in 2024 and enjoy the city we've made for you. Because I'll bet your Maserati against my bicycle on this, you will love it.