Bikes and kids go together like, well, kids and bikes. Every kid who rides knows the feeling of mastery it gives you; and every adult knows that part of the fun of riding a bike is that it makes you feel like a kid again. And what we all share is a sense of joyful simplicity. At its best, riding a bike is as close as you can get to the way you fly in dreams.
So we were overjoyed to be contacted by 12 year old Vita with a video she’d put together about exactly that (with a little help from her dad). Watch for a moment and savour the elemental magic of Vita’s view of the world…
Now watch it again on full screen! Did you spot the subtitles at the bottom? They’re effectively a poem, an ode to the joy of cycling:
I often ride my bike around my community.
It’s the best way to get around the neighbourhood.
Am I wrong in thinking that more people need to do this?
Riding is fab.
Riding is free.
Overall, riding is awesome.
The video is a visual poem, too. Traveling through the busy city, rolling down quiet streets, weaving along a secret boardwalk through a park in the shelter of shimmering trees (watch out for that cheeky dog!), to the soundtrack of ‘Ride’ by Twenty One Pilots… the world seen through the eyes of a child on a bike is a sheer delight.
“One time, biking on Great North Road, I had a vision of a camera where my eyes were…”
No surprise that the creative spark for the film arrived on a bike ride! Vita’s dad helped her rig up a GoPro on her helmet, and the rest is history. She completed the video as a school project, as part of her involvement with the Eco Warriors group, a bunch of young ambassadors who look after the worm bins and beehives and promote green choices.
Vita bikes to school sometimes, as do many of her schoolmates: “The bike rack is filled every day.” They mostly ride on the footpath because it feels safer than the road. She says she’d love to bike more independently so she doesn’t have to ask her parents to take her everywhere.
Her family goes on bike adventures in the weekends, and weather is no problem: “One time on K Road, it just started pouring. It was just really fun. Dad had his raincoat, but I didn’t take mine so I got drenched. The place we were going to wasn’t open, so we just came back home and had hot cocoas. It was great!”
Her favourite places to ride? “Downhill!” She loves the pink path, too. She’s a natural advocate, because everything she says just makes sense.
“More people should ride. I have a bunch of friends that have bikes but hardly ever ride. And more cars are being made every hour, every minute. Most of the people you see on the road are in cars by themselves. A people-mover is good for a big family, but a big car with one person in it…” She shakes her head.
She’s made a couple of submissions on cycleway consultations, because kids count too. In Vita’s dream world, “There’d be bike paths on every main road, and 50% more bikes than cars, and everyone that’s able to would ride a bike when they want to.”
Now watch the video once more with the eyes of an advocate, young or old.
Spot the barriers our city presents to kids and adults on bikes. The roads without cycleways or even bike lanes, leading to a jostle for space on footpaths with pedestrians and other people on bikes.
Notice the speed of passing traffic, and the side streets, scary to cross and extra wide so cars can corner faster. The vehicles parked in driveways, obstructing passage and visibility. The zebra crossing where you have to trust traffic to slow down, the uneven path surfaces…
Vita rides anyway.
The good news: many of the paths Vita travels in her video are being improved. The Grey Lynn cycleways are under construction (one of which will join the dots between Vita’s street and her best friend’s house). There’ll be raised crossings on side streets, which is safer for pedestrians as well as people on bikes. The Grey Lynn Greenway takes you to the park and the awesome new pump track, as well as providing a safer crossing to Cox’s Bay Reserve; and Great North Road is getting a proper separated cycleway in 2018.
Meanwhile, on the wider level, the law is moving towards formally allowing kids 12 and under (and accompanying adults) to ride on the footpath as needed; and the public conversation is inching towards safer vehicle speeds on city streets. All of this will help make it easier and safer for more kids like Vita and her friends to bike around the neighbourhood.
Of course, this is just a start: it’s one small corner of Auckland, and one bite of the bike budget. Kids all over Auckland are eager to ride more. What’ll it take to make the whole city bikeable for them? And what’ll it take for us to get there while they’re still kids?
Over the coming years, we’re going to need consistent political will, a much more balanced approach to transport investment, and a persistent push from the people.
Vita has a vision. Let’s share it.
Bike Auckland’s AGM is Thursday 28 September 2017 at Ellen Melville Hall, in Freyberg Place. Business begins at 6.45pm sharp. Come along and find out what we’ve been up to, what’s next – and how you can be a part of it!