Let car common sense prevail over cycling

Cycling in Dunedin, with our challenging terrain and climate, will become more and more fraught, writes Jack Crawford.


Scene 1: Imagine if you can, the bustling city of Dunedin, circa 2014, in a parallel universe. Henry Ford was born only 20 years ago, and flats in Hyde St. The motorcar has not been invented and the citizens flail sweatily about the streets on a motley collection of bicycles. Some ride horses, and the streets are sticky with sludgy dung.

Scene 2: Dunedin Hospital: New wards were opened only last month, in a facility that now spreads across five city blocks. The winter has not yet set in but already there are record numbers of cycling-related admissions to the wards - with broken bones, split heads, pleurisy and pneumonia. The District Health Board has been rendered penniless. Furthermore, the death toll in the hill suburbs has reached intolerable highs. Lycra-clad boy racers on their multigeared racing bikes are mowing down Maori Hill grannies at unprecedented rates. The streets are littered with old ladies' genteel bicycles, their shopping baskets lying forlornly in the gutters.

Scene 3: A dank garage in High St. Henry is having a session with his friends, a group of true intellectuals - ''blue sky'' thinkers.

Henry: ''This madness must stop. I have an idea. Look at this - a bicycle with a roof and a windscreen! But also, a battery to heat the seat and the handlebars! And look at these doors to protect you from roving malcontents!''

Friend: ''Brilliant. But it looks top heavy. Won't it fall over when you stop?''

Henry:'' Hmmmm. Good thinking! What if it had four wheels, spaced one at each corner?''

Friend: ''Well, yes, but won't it then be twice as heavy? Surely difficult to pedal up Pitt St?''

Henry: ''Hmmmm. I've thought of that too. I have a device that will supplement leg power. I call it an engine.''

Astute readers of the ODT can see where this is going.

The invention of the motorcar, as a means of propelling an individual from point A to point B, was logical and inevitable, and represents common-sense human evolution.

Mixing cyclists and vehicular traffic on the busy roads of central Dunedin is the antithesis of common sense; proponents of this idea are trying to bash a very square peg into a very round hole; their proposals reek of danger.

It seems incongruous to me that the NZTA is party to this madness.

On the one hand it urges us to buy cars with an NCAP safety rating of five stars.

On the other, it actively promotes commuting by bicycle, which, in urban traffic, travel at least as fast as cars - often faster!

And what is the NCAP rating of a bicycle, one might well ask?

The problem has NOT been defined, even slightly.

Perhaps it's an orchestrated commercial imperative to retail more bikes?

Any climate change attributable to Dunedin motorists is inconsequential.

Globally, agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than does mankind's consumption of fossil fuels.

And with projected world population growth and adoption of richer diets in developing nations, we will need double the amount of crops to be grown by 2050 (National Geographic, May 2014).

Given that fact, climate change is upon us, and unstoppable.

We should be spending our meagre resources preparing for the consequences.

Cycling in Dunedin, with our challenging undulating terrain and our volatile subantarctic climate, will become more and more fraught.

Adoption of cycling as a means to commute is unlikely to gain many converts at all.

It is just plain dangerous - unless cycling ''lanes'' can be separated from vehicular traffic by more than just white lines and a few plastic pedestals.

Perhaps, Cr Hilary Calvert (ODT,, 16.7.14) the unstated ''problem'' is just that of congestion?

If that is indeed the case, why not incentivise drivers out of their obscene and bloated SUVs and in to smaller ''city cars''.

This has been done successfully elsewhere.

It is not in the nature of mankind to regress - to take backward steps, or to ''disinvent'' technological advances.

Let common sense prevail, and may Cr Calvert keep asking questions.

Dunedin resident Jack Crawford is a former chairman of the Otago District Council of the AA.

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