Island Life by David Slack

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Island Life: The Prime Minister will see you now

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  • Peter Ashby,

    Re the cycleway. When I was a student I had a steady holiday job in a large cycle shop in Auckland. We would get young American or European persons in sometimes literally straight from the airport. They would buy a bike, carrier, panniers, handlebar bag, gel seat covers, lights, protective gear etc, etc. then head South. This was a constant earner. We even got people come in with knocked down bikes in boxes asking us to put them together, which I did, for a fee.

    While they cycle they buy food from places big and small, and souvenirs, postcards, stamps, blister creams etc, etc. I wager that tourists like that, who spend weeks cycling around, spend more than those on organised, prepaid, bus tours.

    There are websites catering to people like that these days and a countrywide cycle route will be noticed and it will be a drawcard. Those for eg who want to come but are not confident of cycling along the side of our single lane each way inter city highways. To a European they are primitive. Here in the UK there is an increasingly dense, well signposted national cycleway. My cousin in Cambridge can and does cycle up to see his parents in Inverness on those cycle routes. All the way up the A9 between Perth and Inverness if you look you will see the cycleway. At times it veers off and towards the top it takes of along defunct rail lines into the Spey valley rather than going over Drumochter pass, but it is there.

    I take advantage of the ones around here to roam far when I run. I can do runs I could not otherwise do because the roads are unsafe. They upgraded the road to Arbroath to a dual carriageway and there is a cycle path all along it now and many of the roads that lead up to it have them too. Don't knock them.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Peter: I'm sure a cycleway to the standard you describe would be a real drawcard, but I don't have much confidence that the actual end result will be anything other than a patchwork like our current cycle 'networks', with a few showpiece stretches. I really am desperate to be proven wrong on this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    every industry almost certainly wants the PMs ear/oversight I'm sure.

    We had the last Prime Minister as the Minister of the Arts for 9 years. it was great in that you felt like she cared (she does have a passion for the arts). However we often felt that she didn't dedicate the time to it that she could have. Fair dues, she was running the country!
    Tourism is more important to the country (don't tell anyone else that I said that) so I'd hate that same thing to happen to the current PM and his portfolio

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Tourism is more important to the country (don't tell anyone else that I said that)

    And well you may think that along with many others. My main concern however is for the people that are already here, never mind those that may wish to visit. If this truly is a recession of the biblical proportions that some would suggest, I don't feel a cycleway is a solution to respect.Shelter, food, employment,can help anyone through a storm, why not make sure those are in place first?.Then, let's do a cycleway. Just sayin'

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    It's not a happy time to pick up a newspaper. Rod Oram was developing similar themes in his Four Horsemen articles.

    The New Scientist recently outlined what a world warmed by four degrees might look like, noting that:

    A 4 °C rise could easily occur. The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose conclusions are generally accepted as conservative, predicted a rise of anywhere between 2 °C and 6.4 °C this century. And in August 2008, Bob Watson, former chair of the IPCC, warned that the world should work on mitigation and adaptation strategies to "prepare for 4 °C of warming".

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Being a recently converted cyclist myself, I can only see the cycleway as a good thing. As I see it, hardcore cyclists, the really serious enthusiasts, are not actually the best people to consider how to bring cycling to the masses. That's like taking your town planning advice from Michael Schumacher. He may be an amazing expert on how to push the uttermost boundaries of driving, but he's coming from an extreme perspective.

    When I hear the dedicated evangelists of cycling speak, you'd get the impression that no development is needed or even wanted. They have already got over the main barriers that stand in front of masses of people using this beautifully simple form of travel and exercise. They are:
    1. Physically trained. To them hills are an exciting challenge rather than something to pathologically avoid
    2. Not at all impartial on the matter of safety. Being trained, they are much safer than most people already. They have better road sense, better gear, better knowledge of safe routes, tougher bodies, and possibly more blase attitudes in the first place towards the idea of getting hurt.
    3. Coming at it mostly from the point of exercise rather than transport. To them, it seems that transport is a side-effect. To me, exercise is a side-effect.
    4. Prepared to wear silly looking clothes. When I cycle, particularly for transport, I want to wear normal clothes.
    5. Prepared to shell out big time for equipment. Having invested so much time and energy into cycling, they will not mind having the very best bikes, which are well out of the price bracket most people have for something that they might only do a dozen kilometers a week on, or less.

    My conversion to cycling happened in Amsterdam, not NZ. It was there that I first realized that it could be a form of mass-transport, rather than just a sport, and a very excellent one too. It was the most liberating experience I've ever had of a foreign city, being able to move vast distances every day, with little effort, and no cost. I was able to stay in accommodation that was both nice and cheap because it was somewhat out of town, rather than the really scungy digs of the center, the cheapest being right in the heart of the knocking shop district. Every day I was able to meander to my chosen points of interest, passing and stopping at things I would never have seen from public transport. I felt unconstrained by time, space, and money. I did spend a lot of money, but it was all on things I wanted, because I was not getting ripped on transport costs, nor constrained by the difficulties of shopping around.

    It did amuse me when one coffee shop owner told me that I was probably the only foreigner she'd met who most likely was going to leave Amsterdam in better shape than they arrived in.

    It doesn't take a genius to see that a large part of this was because Amsterdam (and Holland generally), have fantastic cycling infrastructure. It was convenient and safe, rather than scary and difficult, the way a lot of cycling in Auckland can be.

    To that end, I'm all in favor of more cycleways, and would not be disappointed if they started as a 'patchwork', the way Sam laments that they might. It would be better than no patchwork. Sometimes that's the only way to get a massive public work going.

    I'm divided on the true benefit of an intercity cycleway over better cycleways within the cities. I don't see it as an either/or. We should have both. The intercity seems like to mostly appeal to foreigners, but who knows, maybe it would lead to a lot more locals enjoying it too?

    On the tourist angle, NZ is very different to Europe, and people are looking for a different experience if they come here. Most that I speak to seem to want to get out of the cities as quickly as possible, finding them depressingly small and provincial. But that may well be because our cities are not very foreigner friendly, and not having well developed cycling infrastructure could be part of that.

    As to the 'solve the recession' angle, it's hard to know. Sofie speaks of shelter, food and employment as primary concerns. But this is not the 1930s. We're not going to have a problem with food and shelter this time. Employment is a more likely concern, and large infrastructure projects can stimulate that. But personally I doubt that the cycleway is that large an infrastructure project after all. It's nowhere near on the magnitude of adding another lane to SH1 all the way to Welly. The levels of planning, consents, and just the basic cost of construction are waaaay lower. A cyclepath does not need to be able to support millions of tons of trucks passing over it every year, nor does it particularly need to factor in huge earth movements to make it straighter and safer. It can meander, because cycle touring is already a meandery kind of sport. The gaps between the pieces of patchwork can be filled in by the cheaper expedient of lines painted on existing roads. It could avoid the main line of the highway altogether, for that matter. I'd expect the trail to the Waikato to be more likely to follow the old Great South Rd, which was built with vehicles far more limited in power in mind, horse drawn carriages etc. It could become a historical tour as well as a pragmatic route.

    </rant I've been looking forward to for weeks>

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    New Zealanders hate bicycles. Most of my friend tell me they secretly go out their way to see just how close they can get to cyclists without actually hitting them when they are out driving. They report it is quite good fun and cheap, which is handy in these times of austerity. Mind you, I live in Auckland where the antagonism between bikelists and the motorists simmers away with all the energetic enthusiasm of Shia vs. Sunni in Baghdad.

    But anyway. New Zealand isn't suited to bikes. It is windy. And rainy. And hilly. For the self-scourging aesetics of the bicycle movement the physical realities are of no moment since they seek their reward on a higher plain.

    But for the rest of us, asking us to pay for cycleways? Why not just subsidise the building of a Gothic Cathedral in Putararu?

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    But for the rest of us, asking us to pay for cycleways? Why not just subsidise the building of a Gothic Cathedral in Putararu?

    Is that an option? OK, so long as it has gargoyles of all the local body politicians adorning it.

    But seriously, there's an argument going on over at Satan's blog about the regional petrol tax - whether motorists should pay for rail. SOmeone pointed out that motorists will benefit if more people (admittedly plebs) use public transport, similarly motorists will benefit if more people use bikes.

    But a gothic cathedral would be cool.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Cathedrals take hundreds of years to build. In function if not form it would perform the same role as a cycle way. Being a Cathedral town brings eaxctly the same sort of people as you find on a cycleway - religious zealots, pilgrims, students of monumental follies and the religious bureaucracy. There are lots of unemployed wood working types in the Waikato - they could carve the Gargoyles. A Cathedral keeps out the weather. You can do useful things in it, like knight all the new knights we are going to have. Bob McCroskie approves, which is important. And last, but by not means least, all those flying buttresses are completely unsafe in earthquakes, so no sooner would we finish it than that once in two hundred years earthquake would knock it down again, which means we have to start all over...

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    I'm going to point out a couple of things, in reverse order:

    But for the rest of us, asking us to pay for cycleways? Why not just subsidise the building of a Gothic Cathedral in Putararu?

    In a 2005 survey, 64% of accomodation providers operating before the Otago Rail Trail was created reported a substantial increase in turnover due to the trail. In businesses opened after the trail was opened, it's 80%. 82.5% of the survey respondents said that the Otago Rail Trail had a positive economic impact, with nearly half (43%) saying it was a major economic impact. (source)I'd guess that John Key just wants to spread some of that love around the country as a whole. You got to spend money to make money, dude.

    But anyway. New Zealand isn't suited to bikes. It is windy. And rainy. And hilly.

    No more so than England, say. Or France. Or Germany. Or...

    And can I just say, I know a shedload of cyclists, and only two of them are self-scourging ascetics. Seriously, have you tried cycling recently? It's really, really fun.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    No I don't like cycling. To repeat, I live in Auckland. If I wanted a hobby that involved transportation I would take up something safer, like being a Kamikaze pilot.

    I am pretty sure that a survey of Waikato stonemasons and carvers (mental note: many unemployed in cow bell country are Maori. Maori can all carve, I went to Marae once and saw it with mine own eyes. I'll drop Pita an email today. It will give him something to do while he is routinely ignored by the government) would see a rise in economic activity in relation to the great Cathedral rising majestically, if slowly, over the fields of Putararu. not only that, but I am pretty sure the skills of Gothic stonemasonry and carving exceed those required of the builders of a cycleway. So it would upskill the workforce. And provide intergenerational employment. Unlike a cycleway, which I imagine will bear an uncanny resemblance to a derelict Roman Road within a generation.

    Putararu could be a New Zealand Lichfield, which would keep all those with a colonial cringe and a yearning for the green and pleasant fields of Home (AKA "England") from getting to homesick.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    SOmeone pointed out that motorists will benefit if more people (admittedly plebs) use public transport, similarly motorists will benefit if more people use bikes.

    Yup, it's such a simple point too. The moment I realized it was the moment I stopped hating buses and cyclists. Just because most of the time I'm not in a bus or on a bicycle doesn't mean that all the people who are in one aren't actually helping me by not being a car instead, something far more likely to get in the way of both getting around, and parking. I still hate taxis though.

    Tom, I'm getting the feeling you're kidding a little. Or you don't understand the demographic of cyclists. For starters, a huge proportion of them are children. But the majority are just average people, who own a bike, and also a car or two, and cycle mostly for pleasure. Then there's the hardcore minority that you seem to be talking about, who have made a major lifestyle choice out of the thing. Certainly these are the people who do the most kilometers. They are also the people most likely to get in your way, having worked out that the roads are unfortunately the safest place to cycle most of the time. That problem can be solved. In solving it you also get the bigger part of the demographic on their bikes a lot more often, a colossal good in so many ways, and you have made a healthy form of transport for children (and everyone else) considerably safer.

    Yes it is a public work that only some people will use. Like every public work. I'm not sure what your objection to cathedrals is, perhaps religious? The modern cathedrals are things like parks, museums, public theaters, stadiums, etc.

    You are totally wrong that NZ is inappropriate for cycling. It just has challenges that need to be overcome. One that I recently realized is as simple as the fact that you can solve the problem of hills by just making your bike's gearing ratios wider (a very cheap task). Then even the steepest hills are no problem and no sweat (unless you want to sweat). You just have to go slower over the hills, but you do get the pleasant reward of a free and fast ride down the other side. Rain can be solved with a raincoat. Wind is not the problem that many think it is, because most trips are there and back. In one direction you actually get lovely free energy. But some problems can't be solved by the rider - like the fact that roads are still dangerous. That's where collective effort is the only way forward.

    I live in Auckland too. And personally, I'm pretty sick of naysayers against public works here. It's one of the things keeping this town a pissly little village of petty minded tight-arses.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    You are getting the feeling I am kidding?


    :|

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • jon_knox,

    The thing that annoys me most is that the cyclepath idea is the flagship in terms of infrastructure spending. It doesn't really pitch NZ forward in terms of creating a platform that growth can be subsequently built upon.

    So after we all finishing opening services to cater to cyclists, perhaps we'll return to real estate funded growth as the primary means of creating economic growth, whilst we wait for the riches generated from cycle tourism to fall from the sky like West Coast rain.

    Where is the consideration that maybe a bit more funding infrastructure for the knowledge economy and exporting our skills via the platform that the rest of the world is laying massive networks to support? Sure there is a significant dependence on imports to provide many of the physical products required for this, but perhaps if a strategic investment had been made earlier the local engineering & manufacturing sectors, we'd be in a better position to supply the gear that's needed now....rather than pinning our hopes of an feat of economic magic on a project disguised as a cycleway because of it's low import dependence.

    Belgium • Since Nov 2006 • 464 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    The thing that annoys me most is that the cyclepath idea is the flagship in terms of infrastructure spending. It doesn't really pitch NZ forward in terms of creating a platform that growth can be subsequently built upon.

    Well, we are also getting the information superhighway too. And I don't know where you live, but over my way there's already been plenty heaps of infrastructure spending on the roads and trains. Alternatives should be getting some of the pie. Personally I don't need trains at all. I have never even once caught the train in Auckland, despite living close to a station. But I'm not bitter on them spending all that money on double-tracking. It's a public good.

    I don't think anyone is pinning their hopes on the cycleway to cure the international credit crisis that is driving the recession. But it might help NZ and it would be a good thing to have too. It's not an either/or. This kind of binary construction is a lazy refutation of a good idea.

    You are getting the feeling I am kidding?

    Well, your analogy is so ridiculous that it's farcical. The reasons not to build a publicly funded cathedral in Putaruru are so legion they don't even weigh into this debate. I'm assuming you're an intelligent person and this is just satire rather than a serious argument.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    But this is not the 1930s. We're not going to have a problem with food and shelter this time.

    I suspect a few agencies involved in the relief of poverty are reporting the opposite to your theory at present.

    It might not get as bad, because we have a much better welfare state now. But we better believe that food banks are going to be seeing a big upturn in business.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    To be honest I think a great deal of the objections from the left against the cycleway are simply bitterness that it's National proposing it. Much like the bitterness against the waterfront stadium was because Labour was behind it. I'm personally sick of that kind of partisanship, which IMHO squandered a primo opportunity completely, and made me lose a lot of my pride in NZ as a country. And I don't even go to live sports.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I suspect a few agencies involved in the relief of poverty are reporting the opposite to your theory at present.

    Well dude, shelter is all good, but quite honestly our problem isn't having not enough food. It's having too much. This recession, if it hits the food, will probably actually make the country healthier.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Ben, have you got any basis for your feeling that objections to the cycleway are anti-National? And have any of the objectors to it declared any political partisanship?

    I just don't get your argument on that one.

    Personally, I don't mind the idea of a cycleway, I just don't think it will make any impression on the scale or depth of the economic depression and so is something of a failure to have sprung as the primary plank from the "Doing Something About The Economy" Summit.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Ben, have you got any basis for your feeling that objections to the cycleway are anti-National? And have any of the objectors to it declared any political partisanship?

    No evidence whatsoever. Other than that the objections seem to be flowing from people who, under Labour, I'd have expected to have reveled in the idea.

    I don't think that solving the decession (so sick of the ambiguity of recession vs depression) is the right standard to be holding public works to, right now. It's an impossibly high standard, a rich source of false dichotomies. It might help, is all. Even if it doesn't, it would be a good thing to have anyway.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    seem to be flowing from people who, under Labour, I'd have expected

    Uh-huh.

    Does the cycleway seem to you to be the pinnacle of insight as to how NZ can handle the economic debacle in which we find ourselves? (I am trying to see this not just as a public work but as The Big Idea to have come out of that summit they held.) I can't see any point to knocking it as a piece of infrastructure that NZ may derive some small benefit from.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Cathedrals take hundreds of years to build

    Not if we just convert Mt Eden Prison!

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Does the cycleway seem to you to be the pinnacle of insight as to how NZ can handle the economic debacle in which we find ourselves?

    I thought I made my answer to that clear. No.

    I think the knocking of it because it's not the Big Idea is silly. I'm not holding my breath for the Big Idea, either from National or from the Obama camp. This recession will be solved by a series of small ideas, and just grinning and bearing it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Does the cycleway seem to you to be the pinnacle of insight as to how NZ can handle the economic debacle in which we find ourselves?

    I assumed that was the MSM printing & broadcasting guides to keeping chickens of late.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Chickens - got to keep the noise control officers busy somehow..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

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