Occupy Garnet Road Group supporter’s meeting

Last month Martin Leach and I attended the Occupy Garnet Road Supporters Group meeting at the St Columba Church in Grey Lynn.

The protagonists railed against lack of consultation, a ‘corporate takeover’ of Auckland, the money being spent on cycleways ($200m 2015-2018, with another $635m proposed for 2018-2028).

One of their main arguments was that businesses adjacent to cycle lanes are losing car parks near their businesses, forcing locals to go to malls. Lisa Prager has a mantra: no parking, no stopping, no shopping.

Auckland Transport accepts that the makeover for the West Lynn shopping area was flawed, and they will remediate the problems - at extra cost to ratepayers of course!

New reference groups comprising stakeholders have been set up.

As a home owner in Richmond Road, I saw no AT flyer explaining the reference groups, and so was excluded when I would have liked to have been part of this group.

West Lynn is a mess, not just because of cycleways but the footpaths, the crossings, the drains which don’t drain, are poorly planned and badly executed.

I have no doubt AT will fix this mess. I sincerely hope it has taught them more about real consultation. They should not be imposing from above, telling locals what they need, what they will have, rather than asking locals what they want.

No amount of consultation will necessarily get everyone on the same page, but it will be an important step along the way. Outlyers, who shout from the rooftops but have little local support, will be forced to back off. In the end the majority will reach a consensus, and AT’s job will be that much easier. The question of how much money should be spent on cycleways, and where they should be built is a huge issue.

The $635m figure loomed large on a whiteboard in the face of all at last night’s meeting.

What has to be remembered is that that figure is regionwide, and projected to be spent over 10 years. It is also only a proposal, and time will tell if AT’s born again attitude to genuine consultation will hold up during the time the proposal is put out for public consultation. Let’s hope new Auckland Transport CEO Shane Ellison is on to it. The $635m is for another 150km of cycleways.

AT says that the benefits of the $635m spend will be $1.9 to $4.6 for every dollar invested and would “deliver 150km of new cycleways linking to key activity centres and maximising access to public transport.”

It went on, “We would see an increase in modal share of trips to work for cycling from 1% to 4% across the Auckland Region."

By 2026 AT tells us “4500 people a day will cycle to the city centre, equivalent to four lanes of traffic on the arterial road networks during peak periods.”

Those who want clarification or who want to question those figures should attend consultation sessions and make their views known. I will be one of those people.

Finally, AT lists health and environmental benefits of between $468m and $760m from the $635m spend.

They agree with those of us who say ask us first, saying there must be “more comprehensive external consultation.”

And now a personal confession. I have been trialling e-bikes and may buy one soon. They do what protagonists told me - they 'flatten' Auckland and they allow cyclists to use the motor as much or as little as they need. It is easy to see where lots of money has been well spent - lovely cycleways, crossings, lights, traffic warnings.

So, the fitter you become, the less you will need the peddle assisted motor, or the hand throttle.

But here’s the rub. I loved the dedicated cycle lanes, but was terrified on the major city streets, competing with cars, trucks and buses. One guy I know calls cyclists “speed bumps”. There is still a lot of education to do, but I also support better cycleway linkages, so I could avoid main roads.

$635 million - I’m not sure, but we can’t leave the job half done. Let’s embrace it and avoid being called “dinosaurs, living in the past.” (JOHN ELLIOTT)