Spokes Canterbury are your local cycling advocacy organisation and it’s that time of the year when they hold their Annual General..
Cycling in the News
There have been a flurry of cycling-related articles in the local news lately; looking at the online versions, they have also attracted a fair amount of discussion (and rant, vitriol, …):
- Christchurch City councillor Aaron Keown waded into the helmet debate by saying that it was “ugly helmets” that were deterring people from cycling in Christchurch; not surprisingly he is calling for a review of NZ’s helmet law. Anyone who has looked at the issue long and hard and all the accompanying policy and research evidence will know that there are a lot of question-marks and red-herrings about mandatory helmet law policies (note this is quite a different question to the benefits of helmets themselves), but the average punter in NZ can’t get past the initial “no-brainer” thinking behind this law, not to mention the “I was saved by my helmet” research-by-anecdote approach of many. Unfortunately, by choosing the “vanity” argument, Cr Keown has made it easier for people to label those concerned about the current law as being only self-interested… Interestingly when I was in Vancouver a few weeks ago, British Columbia has a mandatory all-ages helmet law, but I’d say it was ignored by about half of the population (and the local constabulary too it seemed) and they were grappling with the vexing question of how to introduce a viable public bike rental system if every visitor had to get a helmet too.
- Meanwhile The Press has also been looking at what it’s like to cycle in post-quake Christchurch and have focused on the “dangers” of potholes and traffic. Sigh… I do wish that The Press would stop always focusing on cycle safety (count how many times they say “despite the dangers…”). I know, “if it bleeds, it leads” but, by overhyping the relatively small risk, they give everyone the impression that it’s a suicidal deathwish out there riding, when it’s not. Yep, the potholes and other maintenance should be fixed up better, and better cycling facilities would help, but it could be a lot worse. I was interviewed for this article and one thing I said (which wasn’t mentioned) was that, actually, I find Christchurch drivers in the main a pretty good lot (compared with say, Auckland). This is not surprising because, with ~7% cycle commuters out there and a lot of cycle facilities, people driving are quite used to seeing and interacting with people cycling here. I guess the “good news story” isn’t quite as dramatic…
- Finally, the City Council has finally released its draft Chch Transport Plan for consultation, with a stated emphasis on a more cycle-friendly Christchurch. This comes after the initial draft plan was delayed by Councillors who felt that it wasn’t “sexy enough” and needed even more emphasis on cycling. The actual draft Plan can be found on the City Council website – have your say by August 23rd. It’s very encouraging when the City Councillors are taking heed of the massive support for cycling from last year’s Share an Idea programme and publicly saying this could be the key defining point of this strategy. The devil will of course be in the detail, such as battling with traffic/parking trade-offs and getting funding support from the Govt, and already the online commenters are wading in with their gripes – watch this space…