On Your Bike In Auckland

This article was originally published for paying subscribers for The BFD INSIGHT: Politics and is reproduced here for all Right Minds readers on a delayed basis.

Dieuwe de Boer

I've been biking, using a pedal-assist e-bike, around Auckland since early February 2021. While I was born in the biking Mecca known as Holland, I had always been sceptical of biking here and claimed it would never work.

When I was around eight years old in the early 2000s, I would bike to soccer practice and to music lessons, roughly between Manurewa and Papatoetoe. When I finished high school, I got a new bike and used it to get to the Manukau Institute of Technology campus in Otara. I did get hit by a car on my first day and the bike was stolen in my second semester of that year. Having your bike stolen as a child or teen ensures you will remain right-wing for life, so I'm not too bitter.

For the next seven years or so I did no biking on footpaths or roads, but stuck to mountain trails. I took the train or drove into the city for work. Driving was very expensive and came with hours of unproductive time in traffic. The trains were unreliable, but at least the time could be used productively for reading, writing, watching classic sci-fi, or playing games.

It was the mask mandates on public transport in late 2020 that made me vow them off forever, and the overbearing commissars who would harass you about it. By this time the service had deteriorated drastically and I don't think I had turned up to work by 9am a single time in three years.

We had been to The Netherlands for a family holiday in late 2019 and it was there I had discovered ebikes. I did some shopping around and found a good bike with a Bosch motor that would assist at speeds up to 45kph. Perfect for driving in a city like Auckland with speed limits of 50kph. When cars had to pass you, the speed differential would be lower and they would be less annoyed at you.

On the train and with a massive amount of good luck, I could do the door-to-door commute in 70 minutes. With no traffic and a bit of luck I could do the run on my bike in 45 minutes. All with fresh air and free exercise. The first few weeks were very painful as my muscles adjusted back to regular biking (and close to 2 hours of it per day), but since then I have had no troubles. I can wear my normal clothes and adjust the assist power for a no-sweat ride (except on really hot days where you sweat for simply being outside).

At the moment to get from south to central Auckland, you have 2 routes that both go through industrial zones. Yes, east to central and west to central both have decent connections now. Uptake will only improve because it is genuinely enjoyable and healthy for the majority of the population.

I see massive potential to reduce traffic at peak times by building bike infrastructure to school and fixing up the massive gaps in the bike network that connects different parts of the city. The health benefits for kids would be amazing and the reduction in congestion would be great for adults.

The ebike revolution has removed most of the objections. Is the city too hilly and spread out? Pedal-assist makes everything seem flat and distances are covered twice as fast compared to an old fashioned bike.

The weather doesn't matter much, but it's quite exhilarating to ride through a mild storm as well. I've been surprised how little rain is actually encountered in practice since it rarely rains all day in Auckland. There's an old saying where I come from "you're not made of sugar." (Perhaps "stop being a snowflake" is a good modern equivalent.) Rain gear works very well for me too, clad head-to-toe in plastic makes it so I can get anywhere completely dry.

Cycling's biggest drawback is that it is basically only pushed for by climate change nutcases, which makes it a hard sell. Do I bike because I care about the environment? No, I care about my time, money, and health. It's more efficient than public transport or even the car if the roads are gridlocked (almost always). It helps me stay in shape and happy. I've convinced a few more of my family and friends to take up biking and they're always grateful. However the city has few options that women and children feel safe to use. You still need a strong sense of advantage and have very high assertiveness. You need to be scoring top marks on the "cyclist insufferability" test. For the most part, drivers need to hate you, else it means they don't see you—and that's where the greatest risk to people on bikes always lies.

The real problem is that the bureaucracy makes it impossible to build fast and cheap separated bike lanes that are actually practical. Most of them seem to be designed by someone who has never ridden a bike. One day Auckland could become a bike Mecca too, and with the prices of petrol only going up it might be inevitable. I can see the potential everywhere I go and the number of people on bikes has steadily increased since I started.

Two and a half years ago I could go a whole commute without seeing anyone else on a bike, now that never happens.

About the author

Dieuwe de Boer

Editor of Right Minds NZ, columnist at The BFD, and Secretary General for the New Conservatives. Follow me on Telegram and Twitter. In addition to writing about conservative politics and reactionary thought, I like books, gardening, biking, tech, reformed theology, beauty, and tradition.

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