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Open Streets Auckland: What went wrong?

April 14, 2015
Open Streets Gateway

More cars than bikes? Not a good sign.

I try to keep things positive on the BFNS blog but I walked away from last Sunday’s Open Streets bitterly disappointed.

Along with other members of the bike-community I’d been asked by Auckland Transport to get involved and ended-up designing the logo and accompanying icons. I’m no organiser, but I can draw, and it was cool being able to contribute to a community event with the one skill I do possess.

I cajoled my 14-year-old to hang with dad for a few hours and after parking-up at Point Erin pools we rode into town popping wheelies and jumping curbs on our mountainbikes. Having a ball we cruised through Wynyard Quarter with big smiles on our faces and entered Quay St full of hope & promise.

Smoothie by Bike

Pedal-powered smoothies. Pretty cool.

Twenty seconds into Quay St those smiles were quickly extinguished as a feral young lady hurled obscenities at us for riding (very slowly) through a queue waiting to shoot hoops. “What the f**k are you doing?” she screamed like a mad woman, while wildly gesticulating for us to ride on the footpath. That was our welcome to Open Streets and as far as bike-riding goes it didn’t get much better.

The event was popular, there were large crowds, but because most activities used all of the available road there was simply nowhere left to ride. Pedestrians and cyclists were forced onto a very congested footpath causing conflict. Meanwhile, cars and trucks roared past on the opposite half of the road killing the vibe and removing any connection to downtown Auckland.

By only closing half the street the organisers had only half committed to the event, it was never going to work well.

I saw lots of frustrated faces and felt very sorry for mums and dads with young children. It was a nightmare herding littlies on trikes and bikes through that throng of people.

Open Streets BMX

Look at all the space over the other side of that fence!

Have a search on YouTube for Open Streets or Ciclovia and you’ll see what these things are supposed to look like. It’s all about movement through your city or community and with the whole road available you can stop to interact with activities and local businesses at your leisure.

Hunter and I still had a good time, but it was nothing like I expected and I apologise for putting any of you crook. I rode away feeling quite dejected and a little guilty for promoting it on this site.

Downtown Bullitt

Pleased to see so many cargo-bikes at Open Streets.

I can only hope the large numbers attending will convince the council to commit fully next time (if there is a next time) and open-up more of the city to it’s population. They do it for triathletes and runners, why not ordinary citizens and families?

The smallest Bike Gang in Auckland scored some bells & blinkies  for our efforts.

The smallest Bike Gang in Auckland scored some bells & blinkies for our efforts.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2015 1:31 pm

    Yeah, closing only one side of the road was pretty half-assed. But if it’s any consolation, I was helping out on the Tumeke Cycle Space booth – and we did some good networking, as well as helping a bunch of people out. Admittedly a surprising number of those people had prams not bikes (Tumeke Pram Space coming soon!)…

    • April 15, 2015 2:05 pm

      I’d like to stop by Tumeke at some stage and check it out. You guys should run a wheel-building course!
      As a public “event” I guess it was a success, people had fun and got active to some extent.
      This post is kind of negative because as a cycling/walking/running/triking/scootering/skating and I would think wheelchairing event it was dismal.
      Nothing that can’t be fixed next time with plenty of feedback, planning and red tape cutting :^)

      • April 18, 2015 10:39 am

        Well, yes by all means come and visit. I’m thinking of starting a Sunday afternoon ride, at 3pm when we close up. So maybe you could join in with that. Regarding wheel building, they have run one before, but it might be a good idea to go through it again, in conjunction with a chat about dynamo hubs and lighting perhaps?

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