Are Auckland bike paths really accessible for all ages?

March 20, 2018

Are Auckland bike paths really accessible for all ages?

Selwyn Village resident Marie Darragh and her niece Mary Darragh take a trishaw for a spin with local pilot Niko Elsen. Photo: Zoe Madden-Smith

Many elderly people are afraid to cycle in Auckland, despite Auckland Transport's claims that bike lanes make cycling accessible to all ages.

Jena Western, Auckland Transport’s walking and cycling coordinator, says AT is building a connective network that makes cycling accessible for all ages, whether you are riding to work or school or for leisure.

AT has begun implementing this mission by awarding Cycling Without Age (CWA) one of the first community bike funds. AT bike funds range between $300 and $5,000 and are awarded to community-focused projects that encourage cycling as transport and improve bike safety.

CWA is an international campaign encouraging elderly people to cycle around their community in trishaws, specialised electric bikes that seat two people in front while a volunteer ‘pilot’ pedals from behind.

Greer Juul Rasmussen, Generation Zero’s cycling spokesperson and an Auckland ambassador of CWA, says despite AT’s efforts, cycling in Auckland is still not seen as something everyone can do.

Ms Rasmussen says shifting this perspective starts with “inclusive infrastructure” that caters to all types of cyclists. “What we are seeing now is a lot of compromised cycle lane solutions that don’t accommodate nice big bikes like what we have today.”

Trishaw bikes have a width of 100cm to 110cm, significantly wider than bicycles. This means they cannot fit on most cycle lanes in Auckland.

Jaye Holt, 74, is hesitant to ride a trishaw because she feels unsafe in traffic. “Drivers in Auckland don’t have patience. They aren’t looking out for me so I wouldn’t go on the road, maybe on the footpath," she says.
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This narrow Greenlane cycleway, installed 10-years ago, fails to make cycling safe for vulnerable road users. Photo: Zoe Madden-Smith

Kathryn King, AT’s walking, cycling and road safety manager, says AT is aware of the issue and cycling design standards are being looked at.

“It’s only our older infrastructure that suffers from that narrowness problem,” says Ms King.

Since 2013 AT standards ensure new kerbside cycle lanes are at least 150 centimetres wide. But lanes installed earlier do not always meet this standard.

Greenlane West cycleway was installed 10 years ago and measures just 46 centimetres in some areas.

However, despite narrow bike lanes being dangerous and not accommodating all cyclists, AT’s funding priority is to build new cycle lanes rather than upgrade existing ones.

Research by AT shows 60 per cent of Aucklanders would cycle if safely separated lanes were provided. But the single greatest barrier to cycling is the perceived danger of roads.

Ms King says road users’ attitudes are a result of the environment. “If we continue to design roads that don’t have a lot of priority for vulnerable road users and make it easy for people to drive quickly, we will continue to get aggressive behaviour.”

Hear more of Zoe Madden-Smith's interviews about Auckland's cycle lanes:

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