Cyclists are, at all times, at danger of getting hurt, maimed and killed by clashes with motored vehicles unless they are in completely separated bicycle lanes. You might think therefore, that given the chance, any sane resident in Wellington would leap at the chance of a network of cycle routes being planned through Wellington.
A safe, high quality, carefully thought out and well implemented bike network would enable residents to safely ride from the outskirts of the city into the centre, free from any chance of being killed or maimed by vehicular traffic.
Instead we have a situation where a group of self-centered people in a small suburb are actively protesting against a bicycle lane for all, because of a falsely perceived loss of parking for those very vehicles of death and destruction. A loss of about 35 car parks along a street where nearly every house already has extensive off-street parking.
What is at the root of this problem? Why is this happening in Wellington, home to the most well-educated, most liberal, most intelligent community of New Zealanders in the country? How is it that in the very city with the best, the most extensive, and the most widely patronized public transport system, a city that has more mountain bikes per person than any other capital city on the planet, a city that embraces the outdoors and the access to the wilderness that so embodies this marvelous tiny capital of ours, that this process was in danger of going off its perfectly formed 26 inch rims?
In Europe, several hundred million people live, sometimes even in harmony with each other, in a continent criss-crossed with rail lines and local trams. Nationwide and citywide cycle trails are apparent, as are intercontinental motorways for their extensive system of trucking freight from one country to another. Huge juggernauts of commerce thunder along their designated routes of asphalt, while cyclists remain completely separate on their own cycle path, or in their own segregated cycle lane.
Even in heavily cycled parts of Europe, like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, cyclists happily cycle along at a leisurely pace, no helmets necessary, and none ever worn, secure in the knowledge that they will suffer no harm, as they will not come into contact with a car or truck, or bus, ever. Mothers, fathers, children and grandparents can all safely cycle along, sharing road space with just other cyclists, or sometimes with pedestrians, not dressed in stretchy Lycra, not wearing fluorescent or reflective clothing, not wearing pointless pieces of polystyrene balanced atop their heads, because they know that they are in a safe place. A place where they cannot get hit by a car, a truck, or a bus.
They wear ordinary work clothes, ride ordinary bicycles, and lead ordinary lives safe in the knowledge that their lives are not in danger from being ended suddenly and savagely by the imposition of several tonnes of speeding metal into their physical beings.
There is only one way for cyclists to be safe, and that is for them not to be sharing the same piece of asphalt as the cars, buses, and trucks on the road.