Trust the Greens, they know what they are doing….

Throughout the cycleway debate we have been confronted with an arrogance from the green political lobby both within the Council and within the NZTA, who promote and partially fund the retro-fit of cycleways into our motorised communities. Last October, Cr Kate Wilson represented our City at a conference in Nelson, The 2WalkandCycle Conference, to receive an award for being the Council that most easily bent over to receive the will of the NZTA as regards implementing cycleways (Officially titled the NZTA Cycle friendly award). The official wording of our Council’s achievement is “The commitment to improved  cycling displayed by the Mayor and Councillors of Dunedin since 2012 is fast making Dunedin the leader for high-quality cycling infrastructure in New Zealand. In particular, their commitment to installing separated lanes on SH1 through central Dunedin has already inspired other cities around New Zealand to seriously consider separated lanes. The City Council recognized local expertise and explicitly directed Council staff and NZTA to include cycle advocacy group SPOKES Dunedin in the SH1 working group.
The Dunedin SH1 separated cycle lanes project is quite possibly the most significant breakthrough for urban cycling in New Zealand history. This marks a turning point where Councils are willing to support high level separated facilities, even at the expense of on-street parking loss.

Cr Kate Wilson proudly returned from the Nelson Conference with her silly little tax-funded trophy and with a giggle of pride presented it to the beaming Mayor at a Council meeting. This naive arrogance must be based on believing that the NZ Transport Agency is the ultimate intellect in deciding the road layouts in and around our cities. The NZTA have an annual budget of $1.7 billion dollars to ensure all the expert staff, well-funded research and access to the best overseas case-studies; so surely they must know best; and if they award Dunedin Council with being the most cooperative Council in implementing their will then that means we must also be right on track with the best thinking that $1.7 billion can buy. Yes?

Roto o rangi road near Cambridge NZ

Roto o rangi road near Cambridge NZ

So, how about this little project that NZTA Cycling division recently implemented near Cambridge? Lots of people love cycling in Waipa; pleasant terrain, pleasant climate. So attached is what the finest transport minds in the country came up with.

Yes you are seeing it as NZTA cycling manager, Dougal List, conceived and implemented it. A standard two lane road with centre line was divided into three lanes, two of them for cyclists and the centre lane, just 3 paces wide, to be shared by motorists traveling in opposite directions. It is a rural road; so in order to make this new layout ‘safe’ for truck drivers and motorists travelling in opposite directions along this centre single car lane, Dougal reduced the speed limit to 60kmh. Two cars or trucks, or combination of both, travelling towards each other along this single lane at 60kmh each is supposed to be safe? Is this really the intellectual outcome of a $1.7 billion budget?

Dutch cycleway with single car lane

Dutch cycleway,  Fiesstrook, with single car lane

What was he thinking? Dougal said the road layout gave additional priority to cyclists and encouraged drivers to share. Apparently it was based on seeing this Dutch cycle lane. Why is it that our cycleway enthusiasts automatically think that if it is done in Holland, then it must be right? The Netherlands is the planet’s poster country for cycling. A total of 16,500,000 bikes represents an impressive 98% of population; almost one bike for every person in the Netherlands. And yet on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index ranking for average exposure to PM2.5 (dangerous fine particles in the air) the Netherlands ranked 152nd worst out of the 178 countries in the year 2014. If I was the transport planner in the Netherlands I would not be thinking cycling through that airborne mist of respiratory-destructive particles was to be encouraged. And if I was looking at the attached photo from a NZ perspective I most certainly would not be thinking ‘that looks a great idea for safe traffic management, we must set those up throughout NZ.’

Roto rangi road everted back to normal.

Roto o rangi road reverted back to normal.

Outrage by locals when they saw the single lane for two-way motorist traffic resulted in the new lines, which were painted on Thursday 23 July 2015, being repainted on the following Saturday. Roto-o-rangi road was reverted to a two-lane road. It was extremely lucky there was not a collision in the short time the lanes were changed. Presumably all road users, including cyclists, just pretended the new lanes were not there and reverted to common sense road rules. So NZTA did an embarrassing back flip, but how did it ever get to the point that it got approved in the first place? Dougal and the cycle advocates apparently just got their way and the local Waipa Council had also been aware, in advance, of the trial. I wonder if they were wanting to get NZTA’s award for most gullible council at this year’s conference. But now Dougal is saying: “We’ve seen that there has been strong public reaction to it and that the layout isn’t right for that location and we’ve reacted quickly to that feedback.” He is the well-paid expert on this subject, why did it take common sense feedback before he could see what a stupid idea it was. And what does he mean that this is the wrong location for a layout with a single 2-way car-lane with two separated cycle lanes on either side? Where in New Zealand does he still think might be the right location? Probably Dunedin, he has got a pretty docile Council here and if he saw our Portsmouth Rd ‘trial’ in Dunedin and saw that DCC got away with that, he can surely get away with this lunacy in Dunedin.

It is not that I do not get the environmental cause. I am very concerned about the pollution of our waterways and landfills. I am concerned that in less than a 1,000 years humans in Aotearoa/ New Zealand have been responsible for the extinction of so much million+ year old flora and fauna, including the extinction of the planet’s largest bird, the Moa, through destruction of habitat and unsustainable hunting. Intensive dairy-farming today is causing me concern for the quality of our vital waterways. And beyond New Zealand, the same happened with other mega fauna in Australia when the Aboriginals arrived and wherever Homo sapiens migrated throughout Europe, Asia and America. I am concerned about our growing reliance on genetically modified crops when we have allowed so many natural crops to become extinct.

I get it all, but the “Greenpeace” and its “Green Party” organisation owns this political landscape and that organisation is, regrettably, dominated by people who say and do totally illogical things. Like the cycling decisions above. Like trying to persuade us that more and more wind farms, with the accompanying pollution crisis from mining Neodymium, are the green future for energy to replace oil. Anyone serious about finding environmental solutions to our challenges have to disassociate themselves from the Greens and that is the worst impact of the Greens. By being so illogical in their fanatically advocated ‘solutions’, they are actually counter-productive to solving the pollution and species extinction crises.

Homo Sapiens has been the most destructive species on the planet over the last fifty thousand years. The destruction took a quantum leap with the introduction of farming about 10,000 bc. whereby more and more intensive farming allowed for exponential population growth. And that, my fellow Sapiens is the genie we cannot put back in the bottle, unless we make a universal decision to revert back to a hunter gatherer culture and 90% of us volunteer for euthanasia for the sake of the deserving 10%, the health of the planet and its other species.

Either that or we use our gifted problem-solving intelligence to find some better solution. What we need is for the mainstream political parties to all incorporate policies that fund the scientific research and tap into the surplus employee resource to create a cutting-edge ecological sustainability industry, developed and fine-tuned in our own environment and then exported to the world. But placing two cycleway lanes one either side of a single size car-lane for two-way car traffic is not part of the solution, my silly little green friends.

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