Bridging the Gap

Last May around 5,000 people on foot, roller blades, skateboards, unicycles and bicycles, streamed past a police roadblock onto the iconic Harbour Bridge in Auckland, New Zealand. They were celebrating the 50th birthday of a structure upon which many people had never before set foot. Since its opening in 1959, the bridge has been off-limits to pedestrians, apart from an annual marathon. Those living on the opposite side to their work are forced to drive the short distance in congested lanes or take often inadequate public transport. Getacross, a network of walking and cycling advocacy groups, has been lobbying for several years to remedy this. They garnered support from local and regional councils to enter the bridge, but the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) that operates the bridge opposed the idea on the grounds that it was unsafe and too expensive. But the group wanting more immediate change took to their bicycles one morning in May to cross the bridge, zooming past cars and gathering ecstatic cheers from nearby crowds. At the highest point on the bridge, someone chalked on the words “Our Bridge!” Although traffic was brought to a standstill, the event turned into more of a celebration than a protest, with thousands of people enjoying the friendly atmosphere and spectacular harbour views. The actions of the cyclists brought plenty of media attention to the fight for the liberation of the bridge.

Sally McAra,

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