The 2016 AT Active Modes survey is full of good cycling news, as already noted by Matt. Just to recap: firstly, more people are riding bikes. Apparently we can thank the ‘considerers’ for this: folk who were once merely bike-curious are sliding over comfortably into the category of ‘occasional’ riders.

Consider yourself – at home! Consider yourself increasingly part of the cycling furniture.

Also, over the last two years, the percentage of people biking once a week or more has doubled, from 6% to 13%. And nearly one in three Aucklanders has jumped on a bike at some point in the past year – compared to one in five in 2014. That’s significant.


So what’s going on in people’s minds to make biking more attractive? You might remember that last year’s survey floated a theory that traditional demographic factors (blokes on bikes) might be putting ordinary people off riding bikes – complete with a scary photo of MAMILs having coffee.

TRAMAMILSAfter we took a closer look at the survey it became clear the spectre of these happy coffee-drinking Tour d’Aucklanders was a big shiny red herring, and that you could in fact see recreational riding (by all kinds of people, in all kinds of clothes) as an incubator for everyday cycling.

This year’s survey reiterates that most Aucklanders who cycle do so for ‘recreation and fitness’, but I’m curious: doesn’t pretty much every bike ride fit into that category? If I do my errands by bike rather than by car, I might well describe that as a trip for purposes of recreation and fitness, with the nice side effect of getting things done.

In any case, it’s good to see that bike trips for shopping, work, education and to public transport are edging up too.


Extrapolating the percentages to numbers gives us this pleasing picture:


The survey then moves on to thinking about trips, with the goal of converting a few car trips a week to walking or cycling, to take pressure off the roads. (Bring back carless days! But in a fun way, like PokemonGo). As Matt pointed out, this is where things go a bit haywire and downright binary in the assumption department.

People were asked if they could maybe make some regular trips by bike or on foot, and these were their quite promising responses:

  • 29% reckoned they could reasonably bike to work
  • 10% could walk to work
  • 38% could bike to the shops
  • 24% could walk to the shops

… but don’t. Yet.

So there’s tons of potential there. Which the survey interprets thus:


Wait, what? Even though even more people reckoned they could reasonably bike to work and go shopping by bike than do either on foot… the survey compilers leap to the conclusion that bikes are for work trips and walking is for shopping, and never the twain shall meet.

This doesn’t map onto the actual lived experience of anyone I know who’s ever biked to work. It’s a rare trip that doesn’t involve grabbing at least a bottle of milk on the way home. It’s like they’ve never even heard of quaxing. Or seen a bike basket.

Regular weekly quaxing haul from the Avondale Market...
Says daily bike commuter and regular quaxer Jessica Rose: “Why not both??”

And now we come to the bit that really made me smile. No, really.


This one does map onto actual lived experience. The more you bike, the more you freaking love it – like a grinning, joyful loon – and the more the grumps go away. It’s true. Bikes help you shed the monster!

The survey compilers make the case that AT could help more Aucklanders along that path to joyfully biking to work by (a) removing perceived barriers, so people feel encouraged to give it a go – while also (b) emphasizing the emotional rewards of riding a bike.

I’d humbly suggest that quaxing the occasional bottle of milk is also a great place to start. Dust off the ‘recreational’ bike and pop to the dairy. Take the kids. Take the long way home. Next thing you know, you’ll be biking the kids to school and yourself to work and doing it more than once a week and experiencing a radical uptick in joy. It’s science!

Lastly, a bit of good news for AT and its role in a more bikeable Auckland. Of those who’d heard about what AT is doing for walking and cycling, what most stuck in their mind was… new bike lanes and routes. Yes, Aucklanders are paying attention.


And what’s more, they like what they see.


Keep at it, AT. Keep bringing the joy. 



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15 responses to “The 2016 AT Active Modes Survey: the case for joy

  1. Lots to agree with here – while most of my biking is riding to work, lots of it is also to pick up beers on the weekend, get me quicker to the train and then onwards, and sometimes just for fun. And it is usually one of the best parts of my day, and I always look forward to it. But then i’ve been biking since I was young and it is just how I get around.

    however, what’s been puzzling me most lately is this. I live in Glen Eden, with someone who would like to get riding for fun on weekends and up to the shops, and her son, who just wants to use the track at his school and (I’m hoping) one day bike to school. However, the main roads we’d use – Captain Scott and Glendale – are both racetracks, and I really don’t feel confident sending people who are essentially novices out onto them. The footpaths round there are rubbish – often not even wide even for two abreast walking, so that’s not an option. The roads themselves are crazily wide, and in some places could easily accommodate two lanes even with the big metal cockroaches parked along them. But while i know how to make use of such space and can cope with cars whizzing by at 60kph, I totally understand those who can’t.

    Anyway, my point really is that here we have two ‘considerers’, and we have a roadway with plenty of space: how would we possibly get any of this reallocated? It isn’t the central city (and I totally get the focus that’s going into that area, and am not questioning that, specially since i use places like lightpath every day), but there are at least three schools that kids could be riding to, a shopping centre/train station that’s in easy reach by bike from many parts of the suburb, and a population that’s only going to grow with recent Unitary Plan changes.

    I’m guessing there’s lots of places in Auckland like this. And I’m no engineer, and don’t know what the best cheap solutions are that could be advocated for, or how one would go about that – because i’m pretty sure (given the general indifference to anything but cars out there – the pedestrian environment is pretty shocking too) the ‘burbs are pretty low on the list of priorities. But without change out in these areas, i just don’t see how you turn the considerers into occasionals who then might turn into regulars (especially kids as they grow up). Even painted lanes with flexiposts would be good, with parking limited to one side of the road (and the bike lane would be parking protected on that side). Is it about rallying community support, including the schools and businesses? Thoughts?

      1. What I see from blogs in the UK where similar 20mph (30kph) limits have been installed is that police are reluctant to enforce these speed limits. They argue that creating compliance is the road engineers’ job, making an environment for driving that forces reduced speed and polices itself. Tight radius turns, narrow lanes, chicanes and most importantly, eliminating through traffic by cutting off rat runs. Its especially relevant here because we don’t have dedicated traffic police. New speed limit signs aren’t a magic bullet.

        1. To coin a phrase that is popular these days, there is no one silver bullet. We have to work on everything all at once, everywhere! Which is clearly impossible but I’m optimistic that if we have just one parent standing up at a school meeting pointing out that the community has to change its behaviours of driving so many kids to school. If one person stands up and says that they want a better balance between community and commuter needs. If we can provide AT with the support it needs to consider change and a different set of values around designs and priorities. Then we will and are making progress. We are slowly moving the dial.
          As a community if we leave advocacy to grumpy old people that just want to preserve the status quo then that’s what we’ll get. The sad part about Local Body elections is the criticism and pressure on Council and AT for underperformance, wasting money etc etc which is often simply not true. We have to support candidates with foresight and the guts to drive change and then back them, AC and AT to do it.

          1. Thanks to those who provided some ideas and response to my post above – obviously there’s a few questions to be asked prior to elections, and then a bit of contact to be made once a new local board/council is in place.

            I also didn’t quite mean to be so negative, in a post that was really about the joy of being on a bike. I guess I just wish it was easier to share the love!

          2. All good, Ed – you’re asking important questions, on behalf of important people, with a view to getting answers – and if that’s not love we don’t know what is. Thank you for kicking off a lively discussion that will definitely keep going.

        2. No, a lower speed limit is not a magic bullet and our roads definitely need designing for the appropriate speed which includes a range of traffic calming measures but lowering speed limits can be rolled out citywide as a first step while we wait for the physical changes to follow.

    1. This is where the Local Board and the Bike Burbs groups can help. The Local Board has discretion for some spending, and getting them on board to make it easier near the station, schools and shop would make a massive difference for the details that big Council can’t see. And your local Bike Burbs group can help by building up momentum among locals to convince the local board to do all that.

    2. Voting in the Local Government elections starts on 16 September (postal voting until election day on 8 October).
      This is the opportunity to ask your candidates if they support investing in the local cycle network. Only vote for candidates who clearly support cycling.
      The first task of Local Boards after the election is to produce a new Local Board plan setting out priorities for the next 3 years. You need to ensure your local plan includes a strong commitment to active transport- this will only happen if cycle friendly representatives are elected.

    3. Ed, have a crack at your local board and council member. I think you’ve done a brilliant job telling your story and why this built environment we’ve created is pretty crap at a human level. Just tell your story, this is perfect. Don’t worry that your not a traffic engineer, AT employs lots of them, what they don’t have is enough people who are tuned in to how people want to live at a granular level. If you can get yourself involved on a Community Liason Group CLG with a local project then you can have vital input and influence into priorities and design. How they actually engineer it, leave it to them. The engineers have engineering standards etc coming out their ears. They don’t always get it perfect but then there is a helpful community of enlightened engineering types around Bike Auckland who can help.

  2. I think “barriers” is a useful way of thinking about bicycling.

    Some examples of barriers:
    – the difficulty finding a route which is not ridiculously unpleasant (AT is particularly poor at making maps for cyclists).
    – poor and dangerous infrastructure, like bike lanes which stop at pinch points where a single 5m lane becomes 2 narrow 2.5m lanes for cars.
    – no network: almost all journeys have stretches without any reasonable way for cyclists to get through.
    – big intersections: especially the ones with slip lanes (which usually don’t have formal crossings).
    – no way to cross arterials away from those big intersections.
    – Crossing motorways: On the Shore, Northcote Road, Wairau Road and Tristram Avenue are all quite hostile to cyclists. These are the only crossings on a 4km stretch of SH1.
    – no right-of-way on shared paths (like Onewa Rd and Esmonde Rd), requiring a stop and 360° spider-sense at every intersection.
    – the expectation that you swerve around parked cars (and that you give
    way to cars every time when doing so). Which is dangerous and eliminates even more right-of-way .
    – the extreme lack of courtesy on the streets, for instance cars overtaking cyclists even in situations where that’s completely pointless, and drivers who accelerate towards people walking across the street and even cut them off.

    And if you look at actual physical barriers, it doesn’t matter if there’s just one barrier or a dozen of them, in either case you cannot get through.

    The barriers above will of course not stop all cyclists, but every one of them will stop some percentage of them. Solving one of these will have almost no effect. Even solving half of them will have little effect in absolute terms, because the remaining half will still stop the majority of people cycling. It is only after *most* barriers fall that a lot of people can switch to cycling.

    1. Totally agree it’s the same out south if not worse. Also even on the very rare places there is a shared or separate OFF road cycle way it often has cars parked on them and no one does a thing about it. Both council and Police ignore the issue entirely!

      1. When I’m in areas like Penrose I feel the same, and that’s not on a bicycle, but in a small car! Try waiting for that pesky red arrow when turning left. TOOT TOOOT! I don’t know why, but I even notice a difference on SH1 once I cross Mt Wellington Highway.

  3. Next minute! This trend could take a hit if they introduce rules limiting e-bike speeds and where and what they can be used for. Also how will this impact on other cyclist especially where speed is concerned as our Lycra clad speedster friends are currently still faster on the flat at least than any (legal) e-bike.They too could face limits if this proposal goes ahead. Imagine the tour de France with all bikes limited to 27 kph what a spectacle that would be lol !
    If cycling numbers take a hit due to too much over the top red tape will that reduce the amount both local and central governments are prepared to spend on cycle ways? I think it would so we need to protect all cyclists and their machines.

  4. I love the shed the monster video!

    As we head into another school holiday break I remember again how empty the roads are at holiday time, and how AT is missing the link between traffic and schools. If parents didn’t feel they had to drive kids to school then Auckland’s traffic problems would disappear. So AT, educate and enforce better driving, and provide safe (off road) cycle paths to all schools. Not too hard is it?

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