The bulk of cycle lanes are ideological disasters.

Here I am, back again, another week and another reaction piece.

I can’t unsee this and now neither can you. Sorry. Source: RNZ

This time we receive new elevation of the “counter-protest” where drivers plan to block the cycle lane downtown this weekend, platforming their ringleader on One News. I am not going to mention their name or link to the protest. I believe that the only tactic we have to save us from small groups of instigators and trolls is to de-platform and minimise their efforts, rather than to react.

There was also an update from Mike’s Minute, the daily hellscape of Mike Hosking’s innermost thoughts and feelings. It was only a matter of time to receive a predictable Hosking reaction — as someone who once said he had no issue with cyclists as long as they drove their car to the trails to ride far away from anybody else (has anybody ever considered how wonderful it would be if cars were exclusively driven around racetracks and not in public?). Today he proclaims “The bulk of cycle lanes are ideological disasters!”.

He’s not wrong about that statement, but he’s wrong about the reasons why. It’s not because they are an emblem of failed Green optimism. It’s because the infrastructure-builders can’t reconcile their two conflicting ideologies — the commitment to halve carbon emissions by 2035, versus the way they continue to pander to a bolshy minority of car drivers. People who think that having private transport accommodated is a right, rather than a privilege.

Some of these cycleways are ideological failures, because trying to reconcile these two irreconcilable ideas is impossible. It leads to strange cut-throughs that mean car doors, bus passengers and and pedestrians get tangled up with cycle commuting. And unambitious targets that lead to under-delivered cycle lanes that lead nowhere and don’t connect.

This is all caused by persistent media punters and lobby groups, who either:

  • Believe that the only answer to improving the economy is roads and carparks (Hosking, a large proportion of the National party)
  • Are mad that they can’t skip traffic queues, jump red lights and break the road rules (the counter-protest group)
  • Are concerned that a move towards active transport will somehow harm their way of life

Out of these three, the third group is the one we could do something about. We can accept that the first two may be lost causes, while the last group are just susceptible to misinformation.

Take for example, the “cyclists must be registered” petition. Scrolling through the reasons for signing, many punters have commented that they are motorcyclists, and that they have had enough with cyclists free-loading off the high ACC costs paid by motorcyclists and scooters. It does suck to pay high ACC, but that cycling has anything at all to do with that is completely wrong. If anything, given cars are frequently the responsible party in a crash involving a motorcycle, it’s car drivers that are the ones free-loading off of the ACC cost.

So here are a few tips to help fight the tide of the misinformed.

Don’t stoop to the level of the antagonists

As cathartic as it is to tell a group of people who say you deserve to be run over, punished, or that you’re a middle-aged white guy from Herne Bay (oh the humanity!) that they’re a bag of dicks, that only serves to prove their point. It’s best not to engage, especially online, but if necessary try to provide facts, not opinions, and respond peacefully.

Share your story with people you know

Chances are, unless they live under a rock, every person knows a cyclist. I’m fairly sure that some of my work colleagues are less anti-cycling than they could have been because I share the epic rides and strange altercations I end up in on a regular basis. Every cyclist is a person, with a story, and a family or friends. To combat dehumanisation, make yourself be seen as a human.

Submit on all the things

Lobby groups will use misinformation to get as many people as possible to help oppose something they’re against. The best way to counter this is to submit in favour. Regional land transport plans, budgets, any plan consultation offered at the local, regional or national level is a great opportunity to have your voice heard.

If you’re based in Auckland, this Have your say page from Auckland Transport is a great start. Also, subscribe to updates from organisations like Bike Auckland and Generation Zero who will elevate high priority consultations to participate in.

Be kind

People do things for a reason, and that reason is usually because it aligns to something they believe is beneficial for themselves, their family, their organisation, or their community. Being told that you’re wrong can be conflated to the idea that ‘your lifestyle is wrong’ or ‘your identity is wrong’. Instead, let people know that their concerns are valid yet misplaced. For example:

  • “The traffic really is bad in the city. If we made more roads, don’t you think that more people would just drive to work and then we would be back in the same position again?”
  • “I understand that cyclists running red lights can be frustrating, but would you prefer that they wait and then have all the traffic back up behind them? Don’t you think they might just be doing it to get out of the way?”
  • “I don’t really like road cyclists either, and don’t you feel the same way about people who drive Audi’s and BMW’s? Imagine if we treated all drivers like they drove like those guys?”
  • “Cycle lanes sure are ridiculously expensive, but did you know that the NZ Transport Agency modelled that every dollar we spend on cycling results in $2–4 returned in benefits for society? That means that with that 700 million dollar investment, we get at least 1.4 billion dollars back.”

And that’s all I have to say for today. To be honest, reading all the beat-ups about how me and my ilk deserve to die is incredibly draining, and it’s about time to go relax and fix my bike.

An older infographic from 2017, with cost/benefit projections made by AT and Waka Kotahi. This may be useful. Source.

Cyclist; maker; non-binary pal. Runs on VB fumes and pizza.

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