In early March, Bike Auckland Chair Tony Mitchell, Deputy Chair Duncan Laidlaw and Legal Engagement Officer Gabriel Gati met (via Zoom) with Michael Wood, the Minister of Transport. The purpose of the meeting was for Bike Auckland’s new Chair to meet the Minister and to follow up on our ongoing agenda items. As you know, Michael Wood is a supporter for people on bikes and shares many of Bike Auckland’s frustrations over improving the safety and infrastructure.
The main topics of discussion for the meeting were increasing mode shift across Auckland, potential law changes and the Harbour Bridge Crossing.
Bike Auckland engaged the Minister in candid discussion around what plans are in place and what additional levers could be used to raise the pace of change for mode shift across Auckland. This included the current work being undertaken as part of the Innovating Streets for People programme 2021-2024, the Safe Speeds programme, investigation for potential congestion charges, and the Accessible Streets programme. It was also widely agreed that the local government needed to help to do more. There was a concern raised by the Minister that due to Covid-19’s impact on project costs (protocols and cost of goods), this would have a flow on effect to transportation projects and place some budgets under pressure.
Regarding potential law changes, Bike Auckland raised the need to include in the next round that motor vehicles should carry the onus of fault in a crash with a person on a bike, unless this can be proven otherwise. It was agreed that Bike Auckland would work on a submission for the next round of potential changes.
Of course, no meeting would be complete without the topic of a Harbour Bridge Crossing being included. It should be no surprise that Bike Auckland and the Minister are aligned on conducting a trial on the harbour bridge, for this option to be fully assessed for capacity and safety. It is however very clear in recent publications from Waka Kotahi, that using a lane on the bridge for active mobility has been ruled out in the short and medium term due to safety and capacity concerns. In addition to this the likely preferred solution will be a Ferry crossing. This places Bike Auckland in a challenging situation, where we must continue to advocate for a trial, and for a permanent lane as our preferred solution, but at the same time we must consider the benefits to our members and Aucklanders from having a Ferry Crossing solution in the short to medium term. The Minister understands our position, but on balance, encourages us to consider supporting a Ferry Crossing if that option is presented.
Overall, Bike Auckland have a good relationship with the Minister and are able to talk openly and bluntly on matters. Having this type of relationship and discussion is of significant importance for the effectiveness of our advocacy and lobbying activities.