Auckland looks set to lead the world – and flood the streets with bikes – thanks to a revolutionary funding idea that would see every citizen given a free bicycle or the equivalent.
Documents have been obtained today by Bike Auckland that outline a policy to reallocate the funding set aside for building cycling infrastructure.
Under the official name 2020 Vision, the policy would redeploy the $900m originally earmarked for Walking, Cycling, and Local Board Priorities over the coming decade under the ATAP agreement.
This amounts to about $500 per city resident, which coincidentally is the price of a decent average bicycle.
Apparently inspired by the tireless work of local charities and neighbourhood bike groups in refurbishing bikes to give back to the community, the official scheme would grant every Auckland resident a $500 subsidy towards a new bicycle.
Electric bikes are included in the scheme, with the option of a car buy-back to help cover the higher cost. Families would also be able to pool their allowances to upgrade to a cargo bike.
The scheme won’t just cover bicycles: the elderly and those with mobility issues can apply the subsidy to suitable mobility aids. And, recognising the wide range of urban micro-mobility options and needs, the grant would also apply to scooters (including e-scooters), skateboards, roller skates, hoverboards, and good walking shoes.
Neither Auckland Transport nor Auckland Council would confirm or deny the existence of the policy. However, a source confided: ‘Look, it totally makes sense when you think about it. We’ve been operating in good faith with the idea that ‘if you build it, they will come’ – which works if you actually, you know, build it.’
‘It’s just taking sooooo long. And we have a growing climate crisis to address. Hence the logic of doing it the other way around. As operators like Lime and OnzO have demonstrated, if you give people the gear, they’ll ride.’
‘And then you can build it if you need to.’
The policy is believed to be timed to launch in 2020 to coincide with the Americas’ Cup, when the eyes of the world will be on our sparkling city – and its transport system, which famously includes a single harbour crossing that still cannot be accessed by people walking, biking, or scooting.
Asked about the likely side-effects of unleashing a million and a half new bikes and other small efficient people-powered vehicles onto Auckland’s streets, the source said they were pretty confident that, for example, parking issues would work themselves out.
‘Technically, you only have to pay for a parking space if you’re parking a car. Once people realise it’s free to ride a bike and free to park it, we’ll see all those park-and-rides, parking buildings, and on-street parking spaces really come into their own.’
On the question of safety, the source was sanguine. ‘Sure, it’s absolutely safer to have separated infrastructure so vulnerable road users aren’t mixed in with fast and angry traffic, plus safer speeds, especially where there isn’t protected space.’
‘But as soon as there’s a critical mass of people walking, biking, and scooting on our streets, we’ll likely see a ‘safety in numbers’ effect. And until that kicks in, will it really be any worse out there than it currently is?’
The source would not confirm whether the policy has been internally nicknamed ‘Let Them Eat Bike’, but did emit a sad kind of snort-laugh. The Mayor’s office could not be reached for comment, and the Transport Ministers were mysteriously away from their phones.