Encountering Bikelash: Experiences and Lessons from New Zealand Communities

The construction of bike lanes in communities is widely seen as an enabler of cycling, which in turn supports positive outcomes for population health, transport systems and the environment. Yet despite the evidence for their benefits, proposals to change roads to include space for cyclists frequently encounter ‘bikelash’, the organized opposition to bike lanes. This has had the effect of delaying, preventing and in some cases removing bike lanes in cities. Using case studies in three New Zealand cities, the authors explore the motivations for, experiences of, responses to, and learning from bikelash. The research is drawn from the narratives of protagonists in local bike lane controversies including community supporters and opponents, and council and transport agency planners. The research supports earlier findings of the role of retailer concerns and conservative dissent, and also highlights the importance of design and engagement in the process. More fundamentally however, bike lanes have a community-wide impact, and challenge existing modal hierarchies and patterns of movement. Their implementation reflects the underlying challenges of a socio-technical transition from automobile dominance towards other forms of transportation. Collectively, these issues make bike lanes vulnerable to community opposition and antipathy, and explain why these relatively minor environmental changes may be substantially more difficult to implement than other more routine road treatments. Countering bikelash requires an understanding of the roles of actors and coalitions at macro (national policy and regulation), meso (city and industry) and micro (community) scales in fostering bike lane development and countering opposition. For city planners, the challenge of bikelash requires committed leadership, design, planning, capacity-building and engagement that moves beyond business as usual processes, builds local coalitions, and aligns with community needs and aspirations for place-making.


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  • Accession Number: 01687199
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 23 2018 3:03PM