An open letter to Gerry Brownlee

We will be leaving the UK at the end of this month and so I have started to think about what my life will be like back in Auckland. The biggest change will be the shift from a commuter-cycling lifestyle here over to a car-dependent one in Auckland. But does it have to be this way? Auckland is a very dangerous place for cycling but this doesn’t mean I cannot cycle everywhere if I really want to. So today I have decided that I’m not going to dispense with the lifestyle I have so enjoyed in York but I’m going to start cycling in Auckland as well and should I be hit and killed by a car/bus/truck, then this letter is for Gerry Brownlee (NZ Minister for Transport), who I will hold responsible for my death, should such an event occur.

Dear Gerry Brownlee,

My family will be returning to Auckland after a 6-month sabbatical in York, UK. We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here in large part because we have been able to live car-free and ride our bicycles everywhere. I have never felt so fit and healthy in all my life.

I am disappointed by Auckland’s lack of concern for the safety of cyclists. I have written letters to both you and John Key in the past, and even to the local newspaper, lobbying for the development of good cycling infrastructure but it has been to no avail.

There is a very strong economic case for investing in cycling infrastructure. A study conducted by the city of Sydney found that for every $1 spent, $3.88 gets returned to the community.

Investment in ‘cycling specific’ infrastructure has consistently had positive results, generally because the value of health benefits can be substantial and dwarfs the initial construction costs. For example, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority reported a ratio of 1.3:1 when calculating the cost-benefit ratio of building missing links in its cycle network, using conservative assumptions [22], and a specifically focused analysis of the Inner Sydney Regional Bicycle Network found the cost-benefit ratio was 3.88:1 [23].

Despite Auckland’s lack of concern for the safety of cyclists, I have decided I am going to continue the lifestyle I have enjoyed so much in York on my return to Auckland. In other words, I am going to make trips by bicycle rather than by car. I know that cycling in Auckland, particularly on main roads, is fraught with danger and not for the faint-hearted. But I am determined to do it anyway and this letter is not so much a request for change in the transport policies of the New Zealand government – I have given up on this now – but to lay blame where blame is due should I be killed while cycling. Should such an event occur, and it is not totally unfeasible, then I specifically hold you responsible. But since I will be dead and unable to let you know, I am telling you now. Your policy decisions which continue to favour cars over bicycles will be responsible for the death of a mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister and friend.

Yours sincerely,
Rachel Martin