Sunday, 26 June 2016

Safe cycleways--build them and they’ll come.

Some motorists see cyclists as a nuisance. Thirty years ago, I was one of them. I was irritated if I had to slow down behind cyclists when they moved slowly on the hills, or when they ‘claimed the lane’ on a narrow road. But I didn’t ever have to feel the real death-threat posed by a ton or more of steel and plastic which protected me, but greatly threatened them, as I hurtled close-by. My ignorance made me intolerant.
But then a friend encouraged me to bike. What fun. It brought back childhood pleasures when my bike was my favourite toy. Later, as my aged joints deteriorated, I could feel the joy of regular bike-riding as well as knowing that I was benefitting my health with non-impact, joint-friendly and pain-free exercise. Soon I was persuading my patients after their  operations of the benefits to their joints and general health as they rehabilitated. And a common response to my advice? “I’d love to do more cycling, doctor, particularly to and fro work, but it’s too dangerous out there on the roads”.
We now know that an epidemic of modern diseases are associated with a lack of exercise. Also, recent research shows the major financial cost-benefit of creating cycling infrastructure compared with more road-building. And of overwhelming importance, we now know that we have to stop burning fossil carbon to counter our deteriorating climate and to reduce urban pollution from exhaust fumes.
As I’ve learnt more about the benefits of cycling, I now strongly reject my own previous attitude So, this week, when I saw a letter to the DomPost describing cyclists as ‘a minority holding the rest of the population to ransom', I needed to respond. I want to encourage more Wellingtonians to commute by bike. The advent of electric bikes makes the impact of hills and wind much less while exercising. It will be a game-changer for some in our compact city. Distances are small in our CBD:  this makes cycling a potential winner in Wellington. But we've got to persuade our car-obsessedgovernment and their road authorities( NZTA)
to stop their urban motorway plans and spend generously on public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure

Here is my letter published on 23 June under the heading “The benefits of cycling” --

Dear Editor,

Ellie Quigley ( letters 21 June) says that “the rest of the population is being held to ransom by a minority” ( ie cyclists). She correctly identifies health as a major benefit of cycling—it does this by encouraging more exercise thus saving public health dollars. Commuting to work by bike saves people time otherwise put aside for exercise. Cyclists take cars off the road reducing congestion for all.  Also, global population health benefits from emission-free and less polluting transport.. Is all this “holding the population to ransom”?
Yes, cyclists are a minority: this explains the thrust by modern urban planners to create separate cycleways to correct the imbalance with car numbers. Surveys show many more people would cycle given the improved safety that they provide. 

Build them and they will come.

Yours sincerely, 
 Russell Tregonning.

The picture ( thanks to hospital photographer Louise Goossens) is of me cycling on Riddiford St., outside my previous work place ( Wellington Hospital). There is no safe cycleway there despite recent upgrades to the road layout. I am not smiling. That's a grimace. I'm hoping I won't end up on the wrong side of the operating table.


  1. Cities all over the world are giving peiople more transport choices rather than forcing them into cars. Let's invest in better public transport, cycling and walking. We'll all be better off.

  2. Great post Russell! You bring a really important healthy perspective to transport. We need Russell4Regional at the council table to integrate transport & health planning. You've seen the taxpayer & ratepayer waste as you operated on our region's damaged knees & hips. And you cycle - not just sitting talking about cycleway options.

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  4. Yes, Patrick & Liz. We need safer cycling options. Today I had a near-death/injury experience in the city when a 4WD driver cut across me as I was travelling down Featherson st on the 'sharrow' lane--he suddenly swung across my bows making me brake suddenly to avoid a nasty prang. He was threatened not at all. 'Sharrows' are not good enough. We need protected lanes in our CBD streets to encourage more cycling. I encourage our road engineers to get out on their bikes in our city streets to see & feel the problems.