I have been the media spokesperson for Cycle Action Auckland since October 2009, when I became Chair of Cycle Action Auckland. I frequently marvel at the major shift in media attitudes to cycling during the time I have been doing this job. It’s most evident in media interest and response to new cycling initiatives and road crashes involving cyclists.
Looking back, I was brave to take on the role, as I was still feeling bruised from Metro magazine’s scathing representation of cyclists in March 2008 in its article on the Lake Road cycle lane project. Admittedly the issue had been ramped up by a local pressure group representing car drivers. The image to the right was one of a number similar representations which showed cyclists to be slathering, ranting fiends. Cycle Action was working closely with the NZTA at the time on possible options for adding a cycle lane to the Harbour Bridge – I recall a number of their staff reported in the month after the publication of the Metro article that their daily commute had become noticeably more difficult due to gratuitous rude behaviour from motorists.
Compare this ‘cycling fiend’ image with photo in a recent Herald on Sunday story, which has the headline – ‘Cyclists plead for space from abusive motorists‘. The article is sympathetic to the aggro experienced by the cyclists, who are conveyed as reasonable road users asking for more tolerance from others sharing the road. You’ll notice the Herald on Sunday is seeking comment on the article. I hope you’ll take this chance to make a comment if you can add to the article.
I am often contacted by reporters for radio, print and TV within an hour of an Auckland cycle crash causing major injury or death. I am frequently impressed by their awareness of the issues and the balanced approach behind their questions. This is a welcome change from the 2008 Metro article. Do you think it reflects a younger demographic of people working in media? Or is it that they also reflect a middle class trend for more people to cycle for transport and fitness. What do you reckon?
Whatever the cause – I’m raising a glass to toast all those journalists who are helping bring about more informed and reasoned debate on cycling and transport issues!