Back Biking: keep cyclists safe

We ought to do more to make cycling safer, easier and more enjoyable in Wellington. There are many motorists who take a 'them and us' attitude to cyclists, regarding as Lycra loonies who clog up intersections and delay them getting to their destinations. This is a wrongheaded approach.

I don't intend to go cycling myself any time soon, but that is not the point. Cyclists are citizens and riding is healthy, fun and is the chosen means of transport for many.

I was at the City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee on Thursday morning. The committee was hearing oral submissions about lowering the speed limit to 30kms along the Golden Mile.

A number of cyclists spoke, including Isabella Cawthorn from Frocks on Bikes, a women's cycling group whose members like riding for the social contact, and for the health and community benefits. They ride looking feminine and pretty. She said very elegantly that "riding a bike in Wellington should not be an extreme sport." She's right.

Patrick Morgan from the Cycling Advocates Network told the committee that the council's policies were getting up to world standards. They need to change, if we are to make it safer and easier for people who ride and for those who drive past them.  Measures such as more bikes stands, letting cyclists use bus lanes and more driver education would make it more pleasant to ride in the city.

Whether we ourselves ride or not is a matter of choice, but enabling citizens to choose how to get around is an important thing for a city council to do well.

Mr Morgan makes the point that urban design is also important. Developing suburbs where motor vehicles are the only way to get around is a foolish approach and makes it more expensive for the people who live there.

We know from the experience in Auckland that as suburbs get pushed further and further away from places of work and from shopping and community centres and schools, the costs of transport increase. It's more expensive to run buses, and more expensive to provide services like water and sewerage. 

Wellington doesn't face those issues to anywhere near the extent that Auckland does, and the council has done a lot to encourage infill construction and urban living.

However we can do more to back choice; cars, buses, trains, bikes, walking are all important.  Good cities foster choice in transport and make it easier for residents and visitors to get around.