Memo to AT, Auckland Council and Waiheke Local Board
Bicycles in Auckland are the domain of local children and very fit riders, which is why there have never been many of them.
E-bikes: Starting in about 2012, this changed with the introduction of a new form of transport that looks like a bicycle, but in fact is very different... the ebike.
The ebike flattens the hills, calms the wind, lowers the cost, extends the range, shortens the time and allows riders to arrive warm but not sweating.
Ebikes are ridden by older, less fit riders, by parents with kids on board, by delivery people, by downtown office workers commuting in street clothes.
Ebikes are a new form of transport, and they are evolving at a technology, not motor vehicle, pace. By 2025 sales worldwide are projected to reach US$24.3 Billion
Priority in Planning: In the priority of AT planning, ebikes in conjunction with ferries and trains should have the highest planning priority... on par with pedestrians. They are small, light, efficient, and in traffic terms liquid meaning they can flow around obstacles and gridlock rather than add to the problem. Most importantly, every new driver on an ebike is one less car on the road. Almost all ebike owners are also car owners. They choose to take the ebike because it is efficient, or they enjoy being "in" the city, rather than in the car, isolated from the air, the views and the experience. They can park anywhere without causing obstruction. At present (and it is important to keep it this way), there is no Rego, no WOF, no need for regulations other than defining the limits such as how powerful the motor, or how fast one may ride under power.
Bikes and ebikes do need their own engineering to be compatible with cars, buses, trucks as well as pedestrians. Bikes and ebikes work on momentum... better to keep them moving than the stop and go of cars. On the Planners page, the European road design patterns are discussed.
Our great climate: The Norwegian retort to weather complaints "There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothes" is relevant for Auckland, because compared to Europe, we don't know what bad weather is.
Have a look at the bicycle lanes in Berlin (and throughout Germany) and then have a look at the average temperature for the two cities. Berlin has a five good bike riding months where the temperature is above 10 degrees. Auckland has 12 good months for bike riding. So why is it that Berlin is so far ahead of Auckland?
What Auckland calls winter, the Irish call summer! The Auckland region probably has one of the finest bicycle climates in the world. Never too hot to be unpleasant to ride, no monsoon seasons or long winters with snow and freezing temperatures.
When people say there is too much rain, we note that Portland Oregon USA has become one of the top bicycle cities in the world. Have a look at its rainfall patterns compared to Auckland. If Portland is number one in the USA, and number six in the world, why is Auckland not even on the bike-friendly list?
In Europe, cycling got the wake-up call in the 1970s when the first oil shortage hit. By the turn of the century, Europe discovered that by investing in bike-friendly travel, they had created a whole new visitor attraction. Bikes re-scale both the city and the countryside. Touring a city like Auckland by car is not easy, because of the traffic, because of the challenge finding parking, but mostly because everything goes by too fast. This latter element holds true especially with gems like Auckland's Waiheke Island. When people arrive on the car ferry, they are greeted with a sign that says "Slow Down, You're Here". Trouble is that even at 50 kph, the island goes by too fast.
So how should Auckland respond to the cycle opportunity? There are two choices... the German way and the Portland way. In Germany, they did it with central planning, a clear engineering understanding of what best integrates cycling with other forms of transport. Where possible, for example, they build bike routes that are not near roads... no smelling the toxic fumes from trucks and cars. In Portland, they did it on a smaller budget, with lots of incremental details, linking up routes, eliminating hazards and obstacles, aligning bicycle needs with the rest of the transport system.
The most effective thing that Auckland could do would be to purchase excellent steel-frame city bikes and then equip them with motors, and then provide these to the elected officials on the local boards, the Transport Auckland planners who plan new roads and major upgrades as well as the repair crews who fix the roads. The motors are essential because of the region's hills. Good bike frames are essential to make the experience a pleasurable one. Then encourage these officials to ride as often as they can... and not only to work, but to whenever they are travelling Auckland's roads.
Then establish a public feedback system that not only allows citizens and officials to record where the routes need attention, but have these feedback system accept the choice of road planning or road repair. If there is a pothole or a wheel-eating grate, this should be something the road repair people should look at next time they are working on that road, so they know to fix it. If there is a traffic calming pinch point that forces bikes into the main road because the blocking part has only an opening for rain, rather than a 1 metre opening that would allow the bicycle to pass through, then the planners can get the feedback that this was not a bike-friendly plan.
Another area where Auckland needs to lift its game is in road repairs. The road is cut because some property owner needs access to underground utilities. The patch is a mess that makes driving a bit bumpy, but cycling very hazardous. Some cyclists pull out into traffic to avoid the hazard. Car drivers get mad, and the one looking at their cell phone strikes the cyclist - injury or death resulting. Better if the hazard is photographed by GPS and the council road workers view it. Odds are they will get the adverse feedback during the period when they still can demand the road repair crew go back and do it right.
Modern technology makes this sort of feedback much easier. All that is needed is to use free software like Google maps and put the word out to cyclists. Why hire consultants when the constituent population will provide all the information for free?