Monday, May 25, 2009

Storming the Bridge

I guess the civil mischief that was the mass crossing of the Harbour Bridge can be seen in
several ways: Cultural Rebellion, clash of Car Kiwi vs. Sustainable Kiwi, a battle for minority rights perhaps. For me it is one of those Easter Island moments. I have in mind the occasions that must surely have emerged in the past, where two views of the future met and conflicted in a high stakes game of legitimacy. Or: "dude if we keep doing what we have always done it could all end very badly" vs. "but this is what we have always done and it works for most of us,...where's my f*****g axe".

A rather large number of people decided that they viewed the future differently, for whatever reason. What was most telling was the response of NZTA regional director Wayne McDonald: Mr. McDonald says there are plans to provide access for bikes and foot traffic, but it will be 30 years before it is complete (from the NZ Herald online, 24- 05-2009). I strongly suspect that Mr. McDonald and I will be dead by then, either as a consequence of old age or global stupidity. I maintain high hopes that my little bloke will see the day though. I guess a 30-year planning term with a suggestion that this is non-negotiable is one way of saying 'f**k off annoying little people who aren't busy driving somewhere important in a car on a Sunday'.

I don't want to debate whether the protest will get walkways and cycle ways any sooner, according to NZTA it won't. What I want to question is the appropriateness of the response from NZTA. Let's face it, this is a civil servant or a group of civil servants insisting that transport policy and the use of the Auckland Harbour Bridge will not change in my lifetime or theirs: 'F**k democracy and elected office - we run New Zealand roads' would seem to be the case here. You have got to admire the honesty of the response, at least it's not 'oh we'll look into it and send you a report', which I am led to understand has been the response for the last 50 years. I might add this was the line delivered by Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman.

I am worried though, because these people and I'm not just talking about NZTA, but
those who put them to work, appear to me to be the last axe men on Easter Island. I suspect this is one agency that Rodney Hide does support and indulge. The message is simple; there are no plans for change despite compelling reasons to do so and a growing community to support them. One public day on the bridge was all that was requested - for the first time in 50 years. The response rendered was an excuse masquerading as safety. The clip-on's canna handle it captain! Well, assuming that such a density of individuals walking in time across the bridge (unlikely) could cause the clip-on's to sway - why not let people cross in a trickle and keep them moving when the accumulate at the apex. That is of course, instead of deliberately directing them on to the middle lanes to make the problem look intractable and those doing it a menace. Coning one lane of the clip-on's in half and keeping everyone in line would have mitigated most of these (alleged) risks. When nice middle-class folk choose to criminalise themselves, then you have cause to worry about how society is operating. I believe that good laws are those not made to defend the stupidity or pet hates of politicians and civil servants.

Some points of note:
The only endorsed crossing is one you have to pay for as part of the Auckland Marathon/Half Marathon which does make the opportunity a little exclusive. It also proves that it can be done. Cyclists should righteously be p**sed off , they don't even get the opportunities afforded to runners as above. Oh, and try putting a bike on a bus around here. Funnily enough, I do know of some cyclists who used to ride out to the Coromandel and return to the North Shore by the (now withdrawn ?) ferry service. To all those motorists who suffered delay on Sunday: allow me to apologise on behalf of NZTA who it appears preferred a confrontation to a well managed celebration of alternative transport. Message: any delay could have been avoided had NZTA done their jobs properly and facilitated rather than obstructed the actions of well reasoned individuals. To the guy who abused cyclists, walkers, parents and children as they obstructed his Sunday drive: See the above comment, but above all stop and think what message you sent - Because I drive I have the right to swear at everyone. Now tell me who looks menacing and inconsiderate, for you are undoubtedly a one amongst many bigots who abuse Auckland roads and respond to the NZ Herald reader's views section.

For what it is worth I don't think that a cycle/walkway across the harbour would be that well used. But I agree with David Slack that it could be part of a fantastic tourist attraction. Above all it would represent the intention to do things differently and hopefully a little better, the consequences of which might finally precipitate a much needed culture shift. The question remains - How do facilitate rather than exclude those who prefer transport that doesn't involve internal combustion engines. Because constructively institutionalising car use in particular is no longer acceptable. Big ups to the first bunch of cyclists across who I believe got things going. You are the real spirit of forward thinking New Zealand - I will be seeing you shortly ;-) And the storm the bridge award goes to.................(to the sound of 'be careful with that Axe Eugene' by Pink Floyd of course)


Anonymous said...

The cycle and foot paths on the Sydney harbour bridge are well used, including by commuters. I was actually surprised by what a short walk it was across the bridge -- it looks much further from sea level. A keen person could easily go over to Ponsonby for lunch from the 'shore.


81st Column said...

That's good to know. It raises further questions about the reported viability studies performed by various bodies including NZTA that suggests patronage would be poor.

Funnily enough when I first moved to Auckland I formed the ambition to run from my home on the shore to the skytower and back. You can imagine the confusion when I couldn't get on to the bridge.