Two years ago I left Vancouver to start a new life in Auckland and somehow became a cycling advocate. I’m not quite sure how that happened.
My husband sold me on Auckland’s North Shore by pointing out the Lake Road bike lane and telling me how “bike friendly” it was. When I rode to Devonport one afternoon I could not find any bike parking. Politely I greeted the lady at the isite with my customary Canadian hello “Sorry…” and “my husband told me this was a great place to cycle but I can’t find a place to lock my bike. Do I have to go to the ferry building?”
The very kind woman chuckled and a glimmer came to her eye “Oh, dear, don’t you read the Flagstaff, we don’t like cyclists here.” She was very sweet and helpful but her inside joke was a glimpse of truth. After three weeks of complaining I think everyone was tired of me putting home higher and higher on the pedestal. Then one day my husband and I were in a local bike shop and the owner said “well they have this group… Cycle Action Auckland.” And here I am, returning to Vancouver a “cycling advocate.”
I loved living in Vancouver, and in particular the 5 years I spent adjacent to 10th Avenue. Tenth Avenue is a key arterial cycling route and thousands of cyclists ride it daily. After years of renting a bike in every country I traveled to I made the connection that cycling was something I could also do at home. It started with renting a bike to ride Stanley Park. I progressed from a $50 granny bike to a gorgeous Dahon Glide. Trips for ice-cream, became dinner downtown with friends, then trips to the market or garden shop. It took another four years to realize I rode each weekend by the train that stopped a block from the studio where I worked – *light bulb* I could ride to work and take the skytrain.
Like me, Vancouver’s love affair with bikes didn’t happen over night. But suddenly there it was and you could not imagine one without the other. When I get frustrated with Auckland’s movement I try to remember how long that transition took. I remind myself that my first granny bike was only used 3 times and had to be replaced because I moved apartments and forgot it was downstairs in the bike room!
I’m home this month to attend the Velo-city global bike conference. Tomorrow I’m presenting an abstract with Glen Koorey, CAN/Canterbury University, on CAN & BikeNZ’s Safer Cycling Programme. I’ve spent the last 15 months working on the development of Road User Workshops and investigating new approaches to Share the Road.
I’ll be reporting back all this week on the conference, initiatives from around the world, and my Velo-city, Vancouver.