Simon Wilson: Cycling the Auckland Harbour Bridge is a climate issue


Bike Auckland has called for a lane on the Auckland Harbour Bridge to be converted for cycling, in a three-month trial over summer. It’s a core climate-change issue.

In Auckland, we know 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are from transport. The city will fail abjectly to meet its climate targets if transport emissions are not addressed.

Paul Winton of the 1.5 Project, who has done more number crunching on this than most, suggests we have very little time. To meet our Paris targets, he says, we will need to “largely decarbonise road transportation” by 2030.

As we work out what this means, there are lots of values we’ll want to hold to. Business productivity, efficient and flexible use of time. Better public health, stronger communities, greater happiness. And more.

But as we identify those values, the climate crisis asks us to do it on the basis of a new reality. Lowering emissions isn’t just one value to be weighed against the others. It’s the foundation on which everything else has to be built.

The transport agency Waka Kotahi has sent the Herald arguments about why converting a lane on the bridge for bikes won’t work. Bike advocates have rebutted them. The debate threatens to become trapped in engineering and transport planning purgatory.

Waka Kotahi’s argument boils down to twin fears: That cyclists will be unsafe, and that traffic will be unduly disrupted. But a dedicated lane will make cyclists on the bridge safer than on many ordinary roads right now.

And the disruption argument is flawed too: Evidence overseas suggests that if good alternatives exist, many drivers will use them. Managed well, reducing the supply of roading will reduce demand too.

Among the alternatives: Working from home or from workplaces closer to home, improved public transport, more flexible work and school hours. And bikes, especially e-bikes, the fast-growing demand for which has retailers really struggling to keep up.

Electric cars (EVs) will also be important. But the transition is likely to be slow, they won’t fix the issue on their own and they certainly won’t help with the related issue of congestion.

Waka Kotahi is still doing this wrong. Will it disrupt the cars? That’s the wrong question. Instead, the agency should be planning all the ways it can help us reduce emissions, and on that basis working out how to overcome the disruption.

This is why trialling a bike lane on the bridge is so important. It will help reduce emissions and it might work well for everyone.

And it won’t cost much to build. Why are we even still arguing about it? We should be trialling it. That’s how you make progress.

To promote the cause, Bike Auckland has called a rally at the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Sunday May 30. The slogan: Liberate a Lane!

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