Archive for July, 2021
Something strange has happened to the perception of cyclists and cycling in the more than 200 years they’ve been around.
Once a novelty, bike riding has moved from being a critical transport mode to a children’s pastime to now being popularly perceived as an elitist activity.
This was readily apparent after the recent “liberate the lane” protest on Auckland’s harbour bridge. Cyclists who broke a police barrier and rode onto the motorway were variously described as privileged, white, entitled and, yes, elitist.
Ask most people what a cyclist looks like and they’ll more than likely conjure an image of the stereotypical rider – decked out head to toe in lycra, absurd aerodynamic helmet, wraparound sunglasses and, of course, a futuristic bike capable of slicing through the headwinds.
But that image owes much more to marketing than reality. In the 1960s and 1970s, the market was full of cheap and reliable steel ten-speed bikes. These were fantastic commuters with minimal sex appeal. At that time, the stereotypical cyclist was just an average person.
Then the 1980s welcomed the newly invented mountain bike and the cycling world splintered into different camps. Road cyclists split into high-speed racing, triathlon and long-distance sub-tribes. Along the way, marketing and business were eager to sell more and more specialised gear.
But mainstream cyclists have always been there, wearing everyday clothing, obeying the rules of the road and riding modest bicycles. Their averageness has contributed to their invisibility. For this mainstream, however, one thing always remained constant: cycling is cheap.
Low cost and affordable
Cars are costly to own, especially compared to a bicycle. Thanks to the meticulous research of New Zealander John Meekings, we can directly compare those costs. Tracking his expenses from initial purchase for ten years and across 100,000km, he calculated the total cost of owning and operating his bike was about 4 cents/km.
Logically, for cycling to be an elitist transport mode, the cost of car ownership would have to be considerably lower. So, is it? The Automobile Association did the maths using a very moderately priced NZ$26,600 car (we’re in Suzuki Swift territory here).
Taking into account variable and fixed costs, with an average annual driving distance of 14,000km, the cost of ownership was $21 per day. That works out to about 54 cents/km, or more than 13 times the cost of bicycle ownership.
At this difference, there is more than enough money left over for the average cyclist to buy a full lycra suit with all the accoutrements and still spend vastly less than what a typical driver pays.
Better yet, cyclists could extend their mobility with an e-bike, which makes cycling accessible to a large proportion of the population. Even the most expensive e-bike is a fraction of the price of a new car, not counting the unpriced environmental costs of car ownership. A good e-bike costs less than the credit available under the government’s electric vehicle “feebate” scheme.
Equitable and egalitarian
Cycling is far more widespread than we often think. More than 50% of Aucklanders own a bike, and many use that bike quite frequently. Cyclists in Auckland hail from every corner of the city, not just from the wealthiest enclaves.
Bikes are also an accessible and often vital transport mode for minority populations. Contrary to the accusation cycling is predominantly white and middle-class, for example, recent research indicates it’s just as common among Māori as with Pākehā – though Māori may be more reliant on the bicycle.
Rather than being elitist, then, cycling is perhaps one of the most equitable forms of transport.
Certainly, Auckland’s proposed $780 million bicycle and pedestrian bridge does little to reduce the elitist image, but it is also not what cycling activists were demanding.
Contrary to the elitist stereotyping, cyclists aren’t asking for gold-plated cycleways and separate infrastructure. They do want a fair share of the country’s existing road network set aside as a relatively safe place to commute – space for which they have paid through taxes and rates.
Even the most extravagantly lycra-clad cyclist, let alone the humble everyday pedal pusher, spends less on getting around than the most frugal motorist. By any such measure, if riders on cycleways are elitists, then so are pedestrians on footpaths.
The pandemic was a big social experiment that sent asthma attacks plummeting.
Emission Impossible Ltd would like to give a shout-out to Hutt City Council’s new EV waste collection fleet.
Electric recycling trucks Bin Diesel, Truck Norris, Trucky McTruckface and Recyclosaurus Rex are now on the road making collections in Wellington. Bruce Springclean, Trash Gordon and Chitty Chitty Bin Bin are soon to follow.
The electric vehicles are operated by Waste Management as part of a new Hutt City Council kerbside waste and recycling contract which will see the company taking on the region’s waste until 2029.
To promote recycling in the community, Hutt City Council asked the public to submit names for each of the trucks, then put it to a final vote via Facebook where the names were recently announced.
Waste Management’s Wellington EV fleet is now on par with Auckland’s and once the three extra vehicles arrive, the city will have the company’s largest EV fleet in the country.
The new Hutt City contract is described as a “massive undertaking” which involves general waste wheelie bins, mixed recycling wheelie bins, (opt-in) garden waste wheelie bins and glass recycling crates being delivered to around 40,000 households in the region.
[Source: EVs and Beyond]