The vicious cycle of consultation

June 17, 2017

The vicious cycle of consultation

Dr Lester Levy talks about the challenges of creating a bike-friendly city. Photo: Supplied

Dr Lester Levy is driving home from a hard day at the office. If you know what Auckland’s rush hour is like, then you will understand it’s not a swift ride.

From the comfort of his vehicle, the Auckland Transport chairman offers a solution to these regular motorway jams: replace four wheels with two.

Dr Levy is talking about one of his pet topics – his uphill battle over bicycles.

“It’s no longer a question of ‘should we have a cycle lane’. That’s a given. It is much more a question of how, and more importantly, when.”

As he drove through the dark traffic-light lit streets, he said it all came down to the “preliminary consultation process”.

“This is the general problem faced by transport authorities, particularly in societies such as ours. We have a legislated consultation process so you can’t just arrive and paint in a cycle lane.”

Fragmented cycleways are a deterrent to cyclists, says Dr Lester Levy. Photo: Perry Wilton

Personally, he doesn’t think that’s a good thing. “I think we need alternative means of transport people can choose to use.

“The quicker we put them in place the better.”

Dr Levy said the flip side is that consultation is, of course, “a critical cornerstone of our democratic process”.

“People shouldn’t simply have something imposed in the area without having a say about what might happen.”

If you are a business owner, let’s say of a dairy, and a new cycleway is going to cause you to lose some parking directly outside  your premises, it is unlikely, no matter how engaging the consultation process is, you’ll be lending your support to the process.

“As a result, these consultation processes are often an understandable and important reality,” said Dr Levy. “It’s a process which unfortunately takes time.”

With the car indicator ticking in the background, it was obvious there was no clear right turn as far as the decision-making process went.

“There are polarised views about cycle-ways. There is a component of the public who believe we shouldn’t spend any money on cycleways and that they take away space from cars.”

When you go to consult, Dr Levy said, it can be a very complex process.

“We try to keep as many parties happy as possible. The delays just happen to be matter of great personal frustration.”

However: “I personally believe cycling is a sleeper in the whole transport programme for Auckland,” Dr Levy said confidently.

“Cycleways aren’t alone in this domain. We have the same delays when we want to create a protected bus lane, or light rail.”

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