Commentator David Slack has kindly granted us permission to re-post this Sunday column, written especially for subscribers to his popular daily Substack newsletter More Than a Feilding). We’re glad, as it’s too good not to share!


A Proposal of Preposterous Audacity that is Totally Worth It and Not By Any Means Too Much

By David Slack, originally published 3 July 2021 on More Than a Feilding

A beautiful thing happened last weekend in Auckland, on a beautiful winter day.

Free rides for everybody! All day long! Free rides on trains! Free rides on buses! Free rides on the ferries, just as long as you didn’t want to go to Devonport or Waiheke!

I’m not complaining at all, it’s as certain as the sun coming up that Fullers will let you down and won’t come to the party.

Wynyard Quarter full of bikes, Saturday 3 July 2021. (Image: Russell Brown)

But I come today not to denounce the world’s worst ferry company but to praise free public transport. You should have seen the crowds. So many mums and dads and kids piled onto the trains and the buses and the ferries and crossed the city and thronged the CBD.

People and wheels in Te Komititanga on Fare Free Day. (Image: Jolisa Gracewood)

The people of Auckland made it abundantly clear that they will gladly use the trains and the buses and the ferries in huge numbers if the price is somewhere between not very much and nothing.

How much can you change things by making certain stuff free? A hell of a lot, that’s how much. Like: the difference between the streets of Amsterdam and the streets of Avondale, that’s how much.

Just imagine for a moment what that might look like if every single person in the country had an e-bike and they all started biking.

Imagine, if you will, streets so full of e-bikes you’d think you were in Amsterdam. Only you’re not on a bike by a canal now, Dr Ropata, you’re in Palmerston North or Hamilton or Ashburton.

What I see is a country full of e-bikes. I’m not saying imagine a few more, I’m saying imagine if every single person had one.

My modest proposal is a free e-bike for every single person who wants one. Just like free public transport in Auckland: you do it, you stand back, and you see what happens.

Look at the happy faces of everyone getting about this way because the roads are full of people on bikes! Look how happy they are to be gliding about with no exertion! See the joy they take in popping down to the supermarket on the bike, or gliding to town to shop, or rolling to work in twenty minutes, or rolling over to their friends because it’s as easy as popping over in the car. Easier, in fact, because there’s no drama trying to find a damn car park.

Beautiful, eh. Except there is the cost of buying all those e-bikes.

Come with me now as I set out a Proposal of Preposterous Audacity That Is Totally Worth It And Not By Any Means Too Much.

How many e-bikes, do we reckon we’ll need?

A moment, please, while I wait for my glamorous assistant Steven Joyce to find me a pen and the back of an envelope.

What’s the number, leaving out the too-young, the too-old and the get-your-dirty-hands-off-my-Ute-you-filthy-hippy refuseniks?

Let’s write down 3 million. Let’s say $2,000 a bike.

That’s 6 billion, I think. Have I got that right, Steven? Oh, don’t start pouting again.

Now. Doubters and haters will say FFS you can’t get an e-bike for $2,000. Maybe not if you are only buying one, two or twelve, but maybe you can if you’re looking for three million of them. And if you can’t, I have a further plan of further audacity.

Hold that thought for a minute, of all of us gliding around like we’re in Amsterdam. I want to make a side trip to a factory.

Let me quote from something I wrote last year:

There is a notion held by some New Zealanders, perhaps many of them, that “we can’t do manufacturing.” That’s possibly an echo of the received wisdom of the economic reforms of the 1980s: that we could never match the efficiency of factories in Asia, and that the lengths we’d gone to to protect local industry and local jobs – like assembly lines putting back together cars that had been taken apart in Japan – was all a bit comical.

But that would be a misgiven opinion. Local manufacturers can be exceptionally good at short run manufacturing and exceptionally good at taking a request for any kind of product and turning it into a physical reality. It’s true to say they would struggle to match the delivery speed and price of Chinese factories operating on a huge scale. But when priorities change, the calculation changes too. This pandemic has surely shown us that certain goods and services matter too much to ever be unobtainable.

Where am I going with this?

Where I am going with this is: why don’t we make the three million e-bikes here? Buy the batteries if we have to, but let’s see if we can’t make everything here and see if we can’t get them made for $2000 each.

Imagine our gutsy little big factory turning out millions of bikes and, if they are competitive, or premium-worthy, exporting them. And if they’re not, no worries, the government is there to pay for every one of those bikes.

Hold that thought for a minute, of all of us gliding around like we’re in Amsterdam, and bike factories. I want to make a side trip to the climate crisis.

How much would we be willing to pay to get on top of our emissions problem and contribute to not cooking the atmosphere, do we reckon?

Consider the huge value you would get from moving not just a tiny fraction of people but the great majority of people out of cars and onto bikes for many of their short trips. The contribution to our emission profile would be immense.

An annotated version of trip lengths during the morning peak in Auckland. (Image: Congestion Question report, ed. by Greater AKL)

What would you be willing to pay to see that happen? Can you put a price on that? What’s the number?  I would propose the number is: whatever it costs to build a few million e-bikes.

We can’t lose. Whatever it ends up costing us, we call it our fee for doing what’s required to finally get our emissions down and not just making simpering noises about it.

You think this sounds reckless with money? Hold that thought about Amsterdam, hold that thought about factories and the climate crisis, I want to make a side trip to the eye-watering sums of money we spend on roads.

Waka Kotahi is spending – what? – 4 or 6 or 8 billion or so on new projects just in the next few years. $37 billion is going to be spent on Auckland Transport’s Regional Land Transport Plan over the next ten.

Let us see this 6 billion for what it is: not a dollar too much when you consider the good it will be doing.

A free e-bike for every single person! Dare to dream, Aotearoa!

What I’m proposing is a grand Michael J Savage vision on a bike. The state steps in! Just as it once did for homes! It promises the bikes! It finds a Fletcher Construction to make them! Or it sets up its own factory! No worries!

Michael Joseph Savage putting his best foot forward, at the footy in 1937 (Image: Wikipedia)

Too much for this cautious government? No worries! You don’t make the bikes free, you make them extremely affordable, maybe you charge a modest weekly rental fee. Maybe you sell them for $500, or $1,000.

And maybe the bikes cost you more than $2,000 to make and you still give them away and it costs you billions more. But let’s go back to the earlier premise: if we could actually get vast numbers of people out of cars and onto bikes and put a huge dent in our carbon emissions, how many billions is that worth? All of them, mate is the correct answer, all of them.

Yes, of course, an e-bike is not for everybody and not for all trips. But the joyful revelation when you get someone onto an e-bike is their realisation that there are so many trips they make by car that are just as doable and often more enjoyable on this magic bike machine.

E-bike to the beach, if you fancy. (Image: SmartMotion ed. Isabella Cawthorn)

Some dullard columniser was banging on this week about this government and its car-hating ways and he pronounced with a debating club smirk that you can’t fit a sofa on the handlebars of a bike. Give me strength, you insufferable ponderous fuckwit. No one is saying there’s not a place for vehicles. But there are many many instances where a bike can take the place of the car. And you know what? The more that happens, the easier it becomes for the truck to carry the sofa over to your place so you can sink your smug lazy arse into it.

But never mind the doubters and the haters and the ferry companies that won’t come to the party. They are yesterday’s people.

Who wants to become the Fletchers of e-bikes?


Text by David Slack, header image by Russell Brown. 

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86 comments

  1. I like the idea of an E bike for every single person. The married ones can afford
    to buy their own.

    1. That’s a very generalist statement, just because you are married doesn’t mean you are flush with money. Anyway, that’s my two cents worth I’m not going to comment after this one as I don’t want to distract the conversation.

      1. There is a concept known as a “joke”. Sometimes these sail above the heads of other people. Perhaps you would like to research this concept…

      2. It’s a joke! it’s like the dad who said he would take his kids to the dairy to buy an ice cream, but they were still disappointed, because they wanted one each

    1. A German friend of mine has just posted this to fb:
      “We just finished our first E-bike tour from Austria to Switzerland , Italy and back to Austria . Had the most amazing time with some little adventures on the road , great food, some pretty towns, even more nature and mostly stable good weather. A total of 429 km/ 266 miles in 6 days.”

      She’s in her 50s. “Reached Norbertshöhe/ Switzerland 1,410 metres/ 4625 feet after 10 hairpins.”

  2. Thank you David for generously allowing your column to be shared!

    Big bold gutsy move – reckon we’ll get somewhere with that!

  3. “he pronounced with a debating club smirk that you can’t fit a sofa on the handlebars of a bike. Give me strength, you insufferable ponderous fuckwit.” Nice quote. Actually, you probably can. Last week I saw someone delivering a cargo bike – on a cargo bike – down Taranaki St, one of the busiest streets in Wellington. Happened so fast i didn’t have time to grab a photo – but the delivery rider seemed completely relaxed as he cycled down the centre lane with the new bike laid amidships across his cargo hold. Surrounding cars all behaving very well. Sign o the times?

    1. Yes and the other week my partner saw someone on a standard bike towing a shopping trailer carrying a spa bath here in West Auckland. Sadly she didnt get a picture but shows people are ingenious and adaptable.

    2. There are containerised last-mile electric bike delivery companies in Europe – They’re able to achieve better delivery times because parking and traffic aren’t problems when you have a small vehicle and can use cycle lanes. The imagination of the average nothing-can-ever-get-better New Zealand columnist is severely limited.

      e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrcC-_hRtYo

      1. “There are containerised last-mile electric bike delivery companies in Europe”

        Try to keep up. PBT’s courier division are already doing this in the CBD.

  4. Great idea. In our local volunteer conservation projects many of those attending ride e-bikes when in the past they would have used their cars. And while we don’t cart sofas about we have a bike trailer to cart around spades and seedling trees. Perhaps those many secondary schools who now provide free parking for students could charge for these and put the money into this e-bike fund.

  5. Awesome something else to underwrite for people who have the lifestyle/flexibility to use it while the basics of infrastructure like bus lanes or even the bloody cycle lanes to use these things in stagnate in a quagmire of bureaucracy.

    Maybe those who can make a bike work for them wouldn’t need a huge loss-leading subsidy for e-bikes if we were prepared to hold our central and local governments to account over the stuff they already tax us to build, but feel they can shirk with little fear of consequences.

    But I guess ‘basic governance’ isn’t as sexy as ‘money from heaven for e-bikes’.

    I wonder if we can build electric Trekkas in the same factory…

    1. They could easily spend $6 billion on “the basics of infrastructure like bus lanes or even the bloody cycle lanes” and make very little difference: maybe improve a handful of suburbs in Auckland. This $6 billion would radically transform the entire country. All of a sudden taking road space and using it for bikes would be popular.
      Don’t you live in the area with the best cycleway in the Auckland?

      1. Before I answer, do you mind telling me where you live, and then telling me what that has to do with the point I’m making? Because if you get to nonsensically undermine my point based on where I live, then surely it’s only fair I get to do the same.

        But to actually respond in a credible way: in a country with a government and local infrastructure that is incapable of delivering infrastructure or holding decision makers accountable for it, spending $6b to win an argument that you have no way of following through on isn’t the best use of time or money – given we’re literally already paying people to be responsible delivering the infrastructure in the first place.

        But sure, because the motorway I live near has a cycle path next to it, I can’t articulate an opinion on this.

      2. The best cycleway in the Auckland. Perhaps. It is telling that even so, very few are using it.

        (yes — 800 per day counts as very few for a cycleway like that)

        Anyway, even assuming the infrastructure stays as is, it can go two ways. Maybe cycling is enough of a taboo that still nobody will use those bikes. Maybe it is not, and you’ll get a lot of people riding on the road, and because of sheer numbers most roads will de facto become cycling streets and it will be car drivers who wish there were bike lanes.

        1. The biggest change will come from the local trips, not long ones. And that’s where the supporting infrastructure needs to go first.

    2. You take a position that tax take is precious and any change to how it is used must be justified not just on its own merits but on the ability of the system to change sufficiently to implement it well.

      I take the position that tax take is precious and anything that it is currently used for must be justified on its own merits.

      What we are 100% certain of is that how tax is currently spent on transport is causing climate change, pollution, low access, traffic trauma and general social ill.

      So while your position looks reasonable, when compared with the status quo, it is not. It simply stacks up as an aversion to change. You’re simply refusing to see that getting a government to take this audacious proposal seriously and agree to it would require so much lateral thinking and leadership that a paradigm shift would have to have occurred. A paradigm shift that would indeed resolve the concerns you have about implementation.

      1. Heidi: I challenge you that it would have that effect. Look at all the game-changing stuff Auckland has on the back-burner like Light Rail – it too would revolutionise Auckland. That isn’t helping us get a light rail network built any quicker.

        But if you’re determined to spend hundreds of millions on something like this regardless of whether it would result in a more usable environment, then I’d rather see e-bikes given away from schools and then the areas around them completely devoid of parking for vehicles. Then you’re at least adding a space-changing dimension to it.

        But just splashing around billions and hoping our currently stuffed government bodies are going to develop competency they’re so far reluctant to display is a problem. They shouldn’t been billions of free e-bikes to do the job they already get paid to do.

        If they do, then sack them now.

        1. BW, I think that you are absolutely right to question what is the best use of our tax dollar.
          I am enormously skeptical that people attach much value to something that is free. Look at the recent Auckland examples. Remember that AT decided to provide free weekend public transport for kids. I was always unsure what issue they were trying to address ((aside of course that it was a great vote catcher ahead of the last local body elections.) If it was to greatly change mode share it has been an abject failure. Before that it was free pool use for under 15s. Are our pools flooded with kids after school and on the weekends? There is no evidence of this at our local pool.
          There seems to be a lot better home for $6billion. I have a bike sitting in my garage that is now free to me. Despite being a confident cyclist I won’t use it until the roads are safer. I$6B also buys a tremendous number of annual PT passes that would enable movement all across the city.

  6. Its time for shopping centres to start thinking about minimum secure bike and eScooter parking. No one wants to go into a shop to only come out and your ride is gone. I’d totally use my scooter to go to the supermarket but it wouldn’t be there to take home though.

      1. Cordless angle-grinder.

        For $1000+ bikes you need more than a lock, you need a look-out.

        Or a beater bike, thieves are snobs.

        1. you just need a better lock than the next guy. And given most people in NZ use a flimsy cable lock that you could cut with a good pair a pliers, it’s not hard to have a better one

        2. Beater bike you say – I’ve had 2 stolen in the last 3 years. Very much beater spec unmaintained bikes with questionable working brakes … I was left wondering why they’d be targeted by a thief, but oh well …
          I eventually invested the in a D shackle type lock, fingers crossed that works.

      2. It’s not easy to lock a scooter security, they almost need a locker they have/used to have at smales farm for bikes.

    1. With ebikes you need multiple locks, unfortunately they are thief magnets, it’s their biggest drawback.

      1. I imagine if there were 3 million of them then theft wouldn’t be so popular and the chance of them choosing your one out of hundreds would be a lot less.

  7. Just noticed on this day in 2018 the new Auckland bus network started and I went on a trip to the waterfront etc via sylvia park bus 298 to Onehunga, 66 to city etc first 298 live service.

  8. The warehouse used to sell an e-bike for $1299. https://themarket.com/nz/p/milazo-electric-bike-27.5in-mtb-bike-in-a-box-600/2-R2609750. Not sure if it is any good but the specs looked alright. Take out GST and their profit and it must cost less than $1k to buy from China, and even less if you buy 3 million I’m sure.
    I agree it would be the most transformative transport project that the government could do. Even extreme right wing lycra haters (like my dad) love an e-bike when they try one, but they often can’t justify the price. And I imagine that spending on cycle infrastructure would be a lot more popular.
    If it is too outrageous, a big subsidy would be a good option too. Maybe sell a NZ govt adult ebike for say $500 and kids for $200.

    1. Actually I am a hypocrite to suggest a subsidised price as that would be a subsidy for the rich (which is my normal rant against congestion charges).

    2. I got a perfectly good ebike for $1.7K.

      David Slack is clearly talking to the kind of people who would only buy SHINY e-bikes from flash stores. The ones who won’t splash out on anything but the two-wheeled version of KITT.

  9. To the first point. Isn’t free PT the City and Metro Centre’s equivalent of the Mall’s free parking?

    To the second. Aren’t also safe bike routes and secure and handy parking?

  10. If we are going to build a third way network maybe it needs a new name as cycleways have gained negative connotations. Cargo bikes or a bikes with trailer are both quite a significant sized vehicles. Then there’s scooter and mobility scooters. Mobility scooters use lead acid batteries not a bad thing as there is an established recycling system. Does anyone know if there are subsidies available to purchase mobility scooters. The one thing that puts me off buying an e bike is security but that’s just me I hate dealing with insurance companies. Should E bikes purchases be subsidised maybe the app based hire companies should be regulated and subsidised. Only thing is I am not keen on giving these companies my credit card number and it would become a subsidy for people with a credit card and a mobile phone. Maintenance would be another problem for free bikes would they just end up broken down and abandoned. Any way my free idea for the day relabel cycleways “Third Way Network”. Unless some one can come up with something better.

    1. “Freeways”, if it weren’t already taken! Free choice, free access, congestion-free, free-flowing any time of day, free-range kids, free of air pollution, free gym membership, fuel-free (or near enough to it), free-association time as you roll along, break free of traffic…

      Free your mind and the rest will follow, etc.

  11. There should be a “trade in a dunger ” (car) for an e bike. Removes a polluter off the road, Removes a barrier to cycling (cost)
    Of course the greatest barrier to increased cycling is the refusal of civic leaders, both local and national to champion roadway changes to allow safe cycling.
    They are afraid of the “take my road, lose my vote ” lobby, it reminds me of the American gun lobby. As an aside,it is reported that over 200 Americans were fatally shot over the 4th July weekend, so that is working really well for them.
    We ,as New Zealanders are equally fatalistic,we just shrug our shoulders at road deaths,and poor health outcomes from our transport choices,when there is an easy fix, not preposterous audacious at all

  12. For me personally, if a free ebike was on offer I would take one. I would then take it for a couple of rides to test it out and then go back to my normal bike that I use pretty much for recreation only.

    It would certainly result in more people cycling, however it seems a very expensive option.

  13. This idea assumes that someone doing that knows everything. I think such a big intervention will have unpredictable effect on economy and life. I can imagine bike shops bankrupting, all the rest of choice of bicycles and scooters disappearing from the market, just because they can’t compete with free bikes, but who knows what else could happen. Also these bicycles are just most likely to get piled in garages to rust. In poorer neighbourhood people will find out that they can sell copper from engines, precious metals from electronics and aluminium from frames.

    On the other side the country is full of cars, every adult has a car in New Zealand, and nobody was giving them for free, not at all. This means if thing is good and convenient, anyone will just go and get it finding an option affordable to them.

    In terms of giving something for free I think the best thing is an Universal basic income (UBI), which is cheaper to administer and can’t essentially fail with helping social problems.

    1. You think bike shops would go under?
      If thousands more people are using these free bikes, wouldn’t that put huge demand for bike servicing? Tyres would still need replacing / puncture’s repaired etc etc. Sure E bike sales may drop, but would that affect road/race/mountain bike sales? I’m not so sure …

      1. Let me imagine again that this post is not just a joke, but a real suggestion. Thoughts about bankrupted bike shops are just my guesses. Nobody would be able to predict all possible things to happen if government will decide to buy a bicycle to anyone who wants it.

        Also I really doubt that everyone is not cycling because of the cost. Of course all these people driving their Ford Rangers, Q8 and other tractors do that because they have no money to by ordinary $100 bicycle in kMart.

        I own $100 kMart bike, $1000 electric scooter, and $1000 petrol car. So far electric scooter is most convenient for everyday use and surely it’s a lot cheaper to maintain than any sort of car.

      2. Further, I would prefer these money to be invested in cycling infrastructure, rather than buying bicycles for everyone.

        1. I have been told that cycling infrastructure in Mangere is not well used for lack of bikes, where I live out west it is the infrastructure that is lacking, there are plenty of bikes. But my neighbour has just purchased a new e bike and he has hardly caught the train since. Translate this to those who drive cars. There is no doubt that bicycles are the greatest transport invention of all time, and electrification a minor, but important improvement.

    2. Don’t disagree on the merits of a UBI, but we need to intervene specifically in transport, because our transport system is creating multiple problems. Our high car ownership rates are not entirely due to cars being “good and convenient” but to the building of the roads, parking and amenities they need being subsidised by society, their negative effects being imposed on others without recompense, and their undermining the safety of other modes, thus removing choice for many people.

      You might like to read https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629620300633

      1. I do not question the fact that car use has consequences which must be addressed, particularly in the areas with high density where existence of public infrastructure is possible. Another thing is that not anyone can legally drive a car, nor anyone can afford a car.

        Nevertheless, I don’t think it makes sense to question that cars are convenient, they would not conquer the world if they were not.

        Thanks for the reading.

      2. Stills reading the article. I think they badly exaggerate the influence of private cars on the shape of streets. Clean elevated pedestrian paths on sides and a river of manure for horses in between typical for pre-car times city was looking quite similar to what we have now.

        Also paved roads are not just for private cars, but also for other non private motorised vehicles: Buses, Supply chain vehicles, Emergency vehicles, Construction vehicles and so on, and so on, all these vehicles are needed by cities and can’t conceivably be replaced with trams.

        Another interesting point: private car ownership in Soviet Union was close to zero, however the road infrastructure they built and traffic rules they used were practically indistinguishable from capitalist countries. Looking at the Far East where car ownership exceeds 500 per 1000 this existing infrastructure built for public use easily accommodated all these vehicles without significant redevelopment or changes in road construction standards. This is another thing to consider: soviet cities were built scientifically with some apartment density, mixed use and only with public transport in mind. But once people were allowed to buy cars, to import them almost every family rushed to buy one if they had money to do so. In places without infrastructure cars prevail even more, in towns where there’s no infrastructure as such, just dirt with wheel rut in it not maintained for decades – it is lot easier to wade through this chaos by car, rather than by walking. Writing this not to protect further automobilisation, but to point that it is even more complex than it seems.

      3. “Clean elevated pedestrian paths on sides and a river of manure for horses in between typical for pre-car times city was looking quite similar to what we have now.”

        🙂 I can see the similarity. Because most people walked and cycled back then, though, the use of the road space was very different.

        “paved roads are not just for private cars, but also for other non private motorised vehicles”

        So each need and purpose needs planning for. Currently for many needs, the only options have been with ICE vehicles; for the 26% of NZers without a drivers’ license, this means dependence on others. For businesses, it means dependence on ICE vehicles when many would prefer a sustainable transport model.

        “once people were allowed to buy cars, to import them almost every family rushed to buy one if they had money to do so”

        Yes, the paper touches on the culture of car consumption.

        Cars only work when there are relatively few of them. Ideally, determined more by specific need than by income levels. Once they become a mode that a lot of people use, their space inefficiency mean the benefits disappear for everyone.

        1. What I meant this is not a once in a century battle, but a continuous process: any change in circumstances or policies and cars will rapidly conquer streets back.

          And yes, there are consequences: Vladivostok, for example has torn away 9 of 10 tram routes by 2010. I remember I decided to visit Vladivostok in 2009 and spent 7 hours in a traffic jam to go from city boundary to the destination point.

    1. And gives kids a cool (and lucrative) career path as e-bike mechanics. Following in the fine flying-wheeled-machine footsteps of Richard Pearce, too!

  14. Sometimes a giveaway can backfire, like this one used to meet an efficiency obligation:

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1240025/Not-bright-idea-Flawed-government-scheme-leaves-homes-swamped-180-million-unwanted-energy-saving-light-bulbs.html

    Another scheme early in the low energy bulb game left fluoro and LED bulbs as the mark of a poor household, making big burners a status symbol.

    At the other end of the scale, you have this rubbish:

    https://www.nzta.govt.nz/walking-cycling-and-public-transport/cycling/workplace-cycling-guide/resources/employer-e-bike-purchase-support-schemes/

    Which is so hard to access, you wonder why they bothered. I don’t want to have to shift my entire workplace’s viewpoint to get a bike FFS.

    Perhaps a better way would be a tax credit or FBT rort like you get for the double cab ute. You still have to pay, but you see the money back in your tax rebate or some such.

    Ideally you want to get the e-bike that suits you in a cost neutral way, rather than the ebike equivalent of an East German Trabant being dropped in your lap.

    The rest of the billions can simultaneously do the cycleways and secure parking.

  15. The remark about free rides to Devonport and Waiheke and counting on Fullers not to come to the party is rubbish . The free rides only applied to subsidised services of which Devonport and Waiheke are not . Why should Fullers provide it free the fuel bill alone would be horrendous.

  16. Who wants to become the Fletchers of e-bikes?
    And that would be a more efficient (and cheaper) way of reducing carbon emissions, than subsidising e-cars with their high embodied carbon footprint!

  17. When working for a rather large development company, focusing on sustainability. I remember proposing that to outfit one townhouse / apartment block with one e-cargo bike per dwelling (and a space inside to store it), and not provide any car parking in return. Just to see what people ‘did’, would there be any interest in this way of living? I costed the bikes at $4000.00 each. Noting that a car park is costed at approx. 40k per piece.
    https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2014/05/15/what-do-carparks-cost-to-build/
    So lets say we have 12 homes in this fantasy block, that’s
    12 x 4,000 = 48,000
    But what about 12 x 40,000 = 480,000
    Even if the car parks cost half of that, its still a savings of 1/4 Million to give away 12 free bikes.
    Firstly I was asked
    What is a cargo bike? And now, I work for another company. In the mean time, I hear that Modal’s ‘carless apartments’ in Mt Albert are reasonably popular.
    So that’s how that’s going.

    TL;DR I think David is on to something with the free bike scheme.

  18. Free PT within zone and across one zone boundary is probably enough.
    More cyclists will mean congestion and more accidents. Arguably e-bike accidents are more severe than push bike, because of higher speed and inexperience.
    I’d prefer if everyone buying an e-bike first spent a few years commuting on a push bike.
    Either way, the cost to the health system would be significant, in addition to the cost of bikes.

    1. What a load of bollocks. More congestion? From what, small bikes which are taking large vehicles off the road.

      More health costs, huh? What about people’s health improving through cycling and fewer vehicles on the road pumping out pollution.

      And do all the people driving spend a few years on a go kart practising before they get to drive a tonne of metal at 100km/h?

  19. I don’t think our market size would support the costs of tooling up a factory to do anything but assemble the major components, and there’s not really much money to be gained in that as most of the cost is in the componentry. I would support a heavily subsidised version of Europe’s Swapfiets program, which gets a lot of bikes out there at a low marginal cost for the users without the bikeshare drawbacks of poor availability and reliability, solves a lot of the ancillary problems like bike theft and maintenance, and provides lots of local employment for bike wranglers and mechanics.

  20. This is a fantastic idea, but as with all fantastic ideas, this is its downfall. What will we do with our roads? What will the poor petrol companies do? How will people who have already purchased an e-bike feel (offer them a rebate?)? What if we don’t want to be healthy? This proposal just makes to much sense, those in charge could never make sense of it!

  21. This seems to me to be ideal for a trial to demonstrate benefits, in the same way – for example – that Citizen Incomes have been trialled. At the moment we are dealing with abstract claims – both in terms of benefits and problems.

    For me, the beauty of this idea is that it could be trialled in a couple of places – for some reason Timaru and Palmerston North spring to mind – and the response recorded. We’d then know how behaviour, attitudes and emissions might change, and how road space might be reallocated. Local authorities might well be more open to changes to road space allocation if their town was part of trial – maybe towns could even bid for the opportunity in a fun way?

    Just playing with how to breathe some life into this idea 🙂

    1. Agree. Smaller cities and towns offer the opportunity to try different approaches in different places and see what the most successful was. And the smaller scale means proper investment can be offered so that it’s appealing.

      1. Mode competition in congested larger cities is missing in small towns. Unless there is pressure to give up cars for active or public transit options there will be few transferable lessons from any trial.

  22. Truth be told it’s not even that audacious if it’s well designed. You make it a voucher. Say $1-2k per taxpayer on average, maybe progressive so those on higher incomes get less and beneficiaries and students and the like who would gain the most from free electrified transport get closer to the $2k mark. The voucher could be used for bikes, scooters or towards the cost of an electric vehicle. Potentially even transferred into Hop Card credit – that’s essentially turning it into cash but only for people who get out of their cars and use PT.
    It feels very achievable, governments routinely give away benefits equivalent to $1k-2k per taxpayer in election years. Labour’s original KiwiSaver subsidies were worth that much every year and National’s tax cuts were greater than that amount.
    It just needs some kind of catchy name or acronym for the scheme. Transport Electrification Subsidy Scheme (TESS vouchers) or something like that, just please not “KiwiBike”.

  23. “Free rides for everybody! All day long! Free rides on trains! Free rides on buses! Free rides on the ferries, just as long as you didn’t want to go to Devonport or Waiheke!’

    Waiheke is over rated. It is full of self centred and self important people, who think that they deserve special treatment.

    1. We don’t need this attitude, BusDriver. Waiheke has many lovely people. And there are plenty of suburbs where people who seem to be making self centred transport decisions.

      We need to work through the problems we face, and create, without generalisations of this kind.

  24. A cheaper alternative

    Subsidize e-soocter/bike sharing provider like beam/neutron/lime/uber.

    Make the first 15 minutes free everyday. It will have great impact.

    Those company will have a high demand and they will purchase more e-scooters and bikes for hire.

    It will achieve the same thing quickly and efficiently without bureaucracy. May ends up cheaper as well.

  25. When I could no longer ride my old 28″ roadster I bought a$35 mountain bike off Trademe (when I was 68). I rode it till it was written off in a car versus bike. It’s replacement was another Trademe bike for $12. It was good until i was having difficulty with hills on my shopping trips so I bought an Electric assisted bike at for my 80th birthday and have now done close to 5000km and am very happy with it.
    My point is that electric is nice to have but a mountain bike can be very good too. Cycling is good for you to keep moving but the leaning forward stance became hard to keep up as I got older.
    So really electric is not really necessary although it is nice. The more people who get out on their bikes the safer it will become.

  26. Free eBikes – i’ll take 7 please.
    Totally onto it idea mr Slack. your accountant mr Joyce got it wrong – we dont need 3 million ebikes. We need enough. Just like rideshare, and scooters – one at hand, charged that you can leave at your destination is all we need – not 3 million.
    Clever people could figure out how to saturate our from-and-to locations.
    What NZ really wants is more utes – and the cybertruck is going to tick many boxes – except it wont fit in our 3 million garages. We’ll try. Im trying to figure out if i want to send $60K of my NZ capital gains free house money to USA’s mr Musk. EV subsidies are making it easier to send crazy money out of NZ for greenish reasons.
    David Slack – go refigure the maths on a free eBike share scheme – and any army of relocator’s – and even funds for folks who un-congest the bikes. Im sure its even less than $6B. Please also fix the pukekohe people who hate road changes and bikes and are now complaining about carjam.

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