Record numbers of Aucklanders are getting out on their bikes, but the public perception of cycling as a dangerous activity is still holding people back.
Auckland Transport statistics show a 6.83 per cent increase in cycle movements over the past year, with a total of 802,398 trips recorded.
Chair of Cycle Action Auckland Barbara Cuthbert says the New Zealand media is responsible for making cycling seem like a dangerous activity.
“The paper keeps printing little panels talking about the danger of cycling.
“It’s amazing how subliminally that keeps prompting the view that cycling is unsafe.”
She says ACC statistics show cycling is about as dangerous as playing cricket in terms of its costs per person per year.
“Yet each time you see a cricketer in the paper you don’t see a little panel beside it saying the dangers of playing cricket.”
She says the Aucklanders who are cycling are doing so because it has become trendy overseas.
“The concept of riding bikes is integral to everything you see that is cool. If you look at international media, anything that is being represented as cool is using bikes.
“Bikes are now being used as a medium to say ‘this is a fantastic experience’.”
Cycling enthusiast Chris Dempsey says cycling events such as T. White’s Tweed Run illustrate that bike-riding can be for anyone.
The Tweed Run involves cyclists cycling around the city in tweed to show you don’t need to wear special clothes to cycle.
“We weren’t wearing Lycra, we were on ordinary bikes, we were just having a good time. Who wouldn’t want to join in on that?”
Dempsey says the increasing number of cyclists on the roads will encourage others to start cycling as well.
“There are more cyclists around so people feel confident about cycling themselves. They know that they can go out with the support of other cyclists.”
Auckland Council Transport committee chair Mike Lee says rising petrol prices and congestion are reasons why people are using their bicycles.
“A lot of people are cycling because they think it has personal benefits and benefits to society –and good on them for that.”
Lee says although Auckland has been slow to react to the upsurge in cycling, there are a number of projects in place to cope with the numbers.
“Perhaps the most important one is the linking the North Western cycle way with Tamaki drive, and that work is underway.”
Dempsey, who teaches town planning at the University of Auckland, says Auckland still has a long way to go.
“Auckland Transport could be putting in more bike parking, putting in more cycle lanes, putting more investment in the Auckland cycle network.
“In a very real sense it requires a good hefty dose of funding.
“That would mean a change of priorities away from building new roads to cycling infrastructure.”