I recently had a discussion with one of our CAA associates about “big picture vs small wins“. He felt that we shouldn’t let small stuff like this distract us from the big issues that exist for cycling in Auckland. I agreed in general – and noted that CAA is very much on the ball with the big stuff. From achieving several million of extra Council funding for cycling in the last Long Term Plan, to pushing for building of “big ticket items” like the Waterview, Grafton Gully and Waterfront Cycleways, to organising events like the Cycle Summit to get better cooperation between agencies – we have our eyes on the prize.
But does that mean we should not spend a good chunk of our time on smaller things, even if that takes up time and energy which could be spent advocating for the big changes? Like Steve in his recent blog on pinch points, I tend to be unable to just “let a problem go” when I notice it – and it is true that follow-ups can be stressful and time-consuming. So, is it worth the bother?
In short, I think the answer is “yes” – I believe that CAA and cyclists in general need to chase up every significant issue with Auckland Transport. Why? Because big wins don’t come along every day. Because in the interim, we need to take heart whenever we achieve a small win, so we have the energy to keep fighting for the big ones. And because we don’t ride in the big picture – we ride “down there” and small stuff is part of what ensures whether our ride is safe and comfortable.
Lastly, there is also a factor that I call “training”. It is an open secret to people cycling in Auckland that the design and work on our roads often still shows a simple lack of knowledge about how and where people cycle. Not an anti-cycling attitude – no, simply the fact that many decisions are made by people who lack the knowledge that comes from being cyclists themselves. Until we get Auckland as a whole cycling a lot more, these small items give us a chance to reduce the risk that mistakes are made several times. A contractor who has to go back to the worksite and relocate a freshly built lighting pole (at significant cost to himself or Council, depending on who was responsible for the mistake) will be much more likely to remember next time when he is about to place one in the middle of a shared path, instead of on the edge…
On these positive notes in favour of “sweating the small stuff”, here’s a few items that I am aware that have been done recently. On their own, they wouldn’t be worth a whole blog post, but together, they are a good list of positives:
- Remarking of cycle symbols on Carrington Road and advanced stop box greening on Ian McKinnon Drive – it took a while, and needed some advocacy from CAA on the importance of maintenance, but the symbols on the cycle lane on Carrington Road have been refreshed (possibly the first time since the lanes where put down?) and some cycle boxes on Ian McKinnon Drive are now finally greened (we also received a response on some of the more substantial aspects left over from the walking and cycling works on Ian McKinnon Drive, which we will discuss in a separate post).
- Unitec hedges have been trimmed – some weeks ago, we noted to the Waterview Connection project team that the hedges on the Unitec section of the Northwestern Cycleway were creating a safety hazard, as they came too close to the path. Having personally experienced that a serious crash can result when a pedestrian from a side path suddenly steps out in front of you, we are very happy to report that Unitec (who allow the cycleway to go across their private land here) were very cooperative, and had the hedges trimmed significantly in no time. Thanks!
- Various lights fixed on Northwestern Cycleway – it’s always a bit tricky finding out who is responsible for what on our motorway cycleways, but eventually, we managed to get a wide variety of broken streetlights fixed on this path, so riding at night can be safer.
- “Landing pad” on eastern side of Grafton Gully confirmed – we recently got the decision on Plan Change 58 in Grafton Gully, where NZTA is rezoning motorway land, to sell off so private businesses can build offices on. CAA’s request to keep enough space for a walking and cycling overbridge at Grafton Road / Wellesley Street East found the approval of the hearing comissioners, and a 10m wide strip has been set aside for the bridge / access path to touch down on the eastern side.