I have a very smart friend who is an extremely active citizen in her community and her city in general.
She is a doer who stays on top of things, keeps up with local and national politics and devotes much of her time and energy to helping the community. She was an early adopter of the e-scooter, uses the city’s bike lanes and is committed to saving the planet and taking cars off the road.
But, and here’s the big but, she made a very valid point the other day about these bike lanes. Guess who doesn’t use them? The cyclists.
She and her husband walked along the banks of Tamaki Drive in Auckland, the very Tamaki Drive that was derelict for years when extremely expensive, extremely wide bike lanes were built. And what she experienced was cyclist after cyclist after cyclist riding on the footpath, not the bike lanes.
Within five minutes, she spotted no fewer than 10 cyclists speeding past them on the footpath. Worse, they were abused for getting in the way of cyclists. She and her husband were walking on the footpath where pedestrians are supposed to walk. They were abused by cyclists trying to ride on the footpath instead of the bike lane.
Now when you criticize the behavior of cyclists you are accused of being anti-bikes, so let me stress that it is anything but. She said she sided with cyclists when they got their gold-plated bike lane paid for by 99 percent of taxpayers who don’t use it. She was happy for them. Until they abused her when they almost ran her over because they wanted the footpath to themselves too.
And this is where cyclists, some cyclists, not all, are doing a great disservice and losing people’s support. There were more cyclists on the sidewalk than on the cycle path. The bike path was empty.
My friend’s point was: Why should hardworking tariff payers fund expensive and sprawling bike lanes when cyclists don’t even use them? She has appealed to Auckland Council and Mayor Wayne Brown to penalize cyclists using footpaths when a cycle lane is available. She said until cyclists adopt them, the vast majority of taxpayers who don’t use them shouldn’t fund another meter of new bike lane. She said money raised by fines for cyclists clogging footpaths could instead be used to fund the new bike lanes.
She makes sense I guess, hard to argue with her. They have expensive lanes built especially for them, so why not use them? Even cyclists agreed with her. Some say that if there’s no bike lane, they’ll hit the road before they even think about jumping onto the footpath. One cyclist pointed out that cyclists who ride in packs on busy roads also bring cyclists into disrepute, and those who believe it is their right to verbally abuse pedestrians on the footpath are equally loathed.
Someone wrote to me recently and said in Wellington that it’s the bike lanes that create so many bottlenecks that traffic through the city has been reduced to a crawl. Frustrating when traffic crawls past empty bike lanes.
It’s the same in Auckland.
And I’m just not sure that those who designed the bike lanes and decided that they should have that much street space really thought about the winter months and that half the year the weather discourages cyclists from even using that to ride a bike. So bang for buck, are they all really worth it?