Whenever Metro’s editor at large Simon Wilson writes a love letter to Auckland, we kind of want to write one back. Because he gets it. And this month’s billet-doux is a doozy: eight pages of tribute to Auckland’s charms and challenges, in the guise of a speech the incoming mayor could make.
‘Hey, all you people who want to be mayor!’ writes Simon, on behalf of the magazine and its readers. ‘Use this speech and we’ll endorse you.’
The speech covers the housing crisis, transport, representation, local knowledge and local pride, urban design and creativity, budget, rates, greenery, water, festivals, culture, technology… it’s honest, aspirational, and strong.
And it’s aimed not just at mayoral candidates, but at everyone standing for election right now, in this city of a thousand lovers, ‘the city with 800 more cars every week; nearly 45,000 new people a year.’
Here’s the bit that immediately caught our eye:
A cycling city. Wouldn’t that be something? Everywhere you go, so many people riding bicycles. Clustered at the lights, streaming down Nelson St and along all the other bike lanes. Busy around every school.
Yes, yes and yes! (Also: this sounds… familiar! A cycling city is a Bikeable Auckland, yep?)
Tell us more!
Kids, commuters, shoppers, recreational riders. Doing it for personal health, for cost benefits, to reduce pollution, to lower greenhouse gas emissions. And just doing it for fun.
Precisely. Like so?
And here’s the thing: when Auckland is a cycling city, the beneficiaries won’t be just cyclists. Car drivers will benefit, too. You will have more room on the roads.
Exactly. Making roads safer for cycling is one of the cheapest congestion-busters there is.
We’re inching towards this, but we need to get the rush on. The cycling city needs a tipping point, that moment when cycling becomes the thing you do.
Bingo. People are flocking to the connected bike paths, and the numbers are heading up… but it’s time for a push. Our incoming leaders need the confidence to fund more cycleways, to empower local boards to bridge the gaps, and to treat our streets in ways that make clear they belong to all Aucklanders, young and old.
It’s a coalition of the forward-thinking, and we invite you to be a part of it.
Want some more visionary thinking? Here’s Simon conjuring up (in the voice of the new mayor) a summer of biking, and a school travel revolution:
The key is kids. Right now, only three per cent of teenagers ride a bike to school and it’s much the same at primary and intermediate level.
We’ll have a citywide scheme to get kids on bikes. It will involve bike lanes, the permanent ones and a whole lot more temporary ones. We’ll help schools help kids and their parents get with the programme. We’ll get bike retailers deeply engaged, and we’ll make it a community-driven project.
We’ll start on this straight away. Heading into summer, everyone will know that the 2017 school year will be bike time.
Imagine our incoming mayor staking a first term on a vision like this. Happily, three candidates made a very bike-friendly case when the NZ Herald asked them last week about Auckland’s transport woes. One of them – Chloë Swarbrick – has signed on to our vision of a truly bikeable Auckland, and we warmly welcome others.
We need cycleways, especially to allow kids to once again be able to ride to school. Parents driving their children to schools add 10 per cent more congestion in morning peak hours. (Phil Goff)
Auckland’s kids need to get to school by walking, cycling and taking public transport. Much of Auckland’s traffic congestion is caused by parents and young people driving to and from schools. That’s also a burden on household budgets and parents’ time.I will extend and improve Auckland’s network of cycleways and footpaths, with a focus on providing for the needs of students and young people, getting to and from schools and tertiary institutions, quickly and safely. (David Hay)
I will focus on increasing safety for cyclists with bordered lanes, and creating Auckland’s premiere cycle sharing network. Focusing on greater density in Auckland’s metro centres, and along the arterial routes, will also increase opportunities and likelihood of walking. (Chloë Swarbrick)
On that last note, close readers of our three-part plan for a more bikeable city will note it’s not just about people on bikes. Walking & Cycling go together, not just in Auckland Transport’s budget, but also as active ways to get where we’re going. Metro‘s Simon Wilson is on the ball with that, too:
And let’s not forget, for those who can, walking to work is the best way of all. Transport planning needs to prioritise the pleasure to be gained from walkways – not just boardwalks on the waterfront, splendid as they are, but city pavement, safe routes through parks, decent suburban footpaths.
Yes indeed. There’s currently a massive waiting list for footpath improvements. And we know cycleways need a sustained effort, in order to build a vital network.
That’s why we’re asking for the walking and cycling share of the city’s budget to be boosted to at least 5% – and kept there until the job is done.
We also know that Local Boards are poised to create great connections within and between communities, more local links and routes.
That’s why we’re encouraging Local Boards to prioritise strategic connections, helped by an Auckland Cycleway Fund for kickstarting local projects.
And we know that making our neighbourhood streets safer is key to those quick trips, walking to the shops, biking to school, easing the rat-run pressure on the streets where we live.
That’s why we’re calling for calm traffic around our schools, in our town centres and on residential streets.
A more bikeable (and walkable!) city is ours if we want it. Our three simple propositions offer a straightforward path towards it. Have you signed on yet? How about your workplace? Have you asked your local candidates if they’re on board? Join the chorus – add your voice!