Q'town commuter challenge: can we drop the car?

by Amanda Robinson - Sep 26, 2021

Reader Commentary.

Amanda Robinson chairs the Lightfoot Initiative, a local group advocating for us to migrate to Active Transport - and leave our cars at home. We are all being asked to do this not only because of climate change but to make some growth possible in the district without bringing our road network to a standstill. The rate of change is a key issue - and a controversial issue. Is the shift practical?

Follow this week's Test the Network project on Crux. Seven volunteers get on their bikes, and the bus, in the real world. Will their experience support a move away from cars - or add weight to the group that says vehicles are the only practical way to get around?

Here's Amanda's introduction and Lightfoot's video that introduces the seven volunteers.

"This week, seven Whakatipans are taking a few steps towards being car-free. For seven days they’re opting for active travel to Test the Network.

The network test was designed to provide evidence of car-free practicality. Colleagues and friends who are curious about active travel frequently delight in pointing out what they see as the major challenges. The groceries? Early starts? Unexpected play dates? Queenstown’s climate. The need to be somewhere exactly on time… These are just a few of the usual rebuttals Lightfooters hear on a regular basis when we talk about reducing car use.

Ken works a teacher - so can he make commuting without a car work?

We know it’s a big step to make – reducing car use can feel terrifying and we all have many good reasons why it’s not possible on any given day. So, we’re seeking an answer to the question: what IS possible with the existing transport network? We’ve found seven different people, representing different roles in our community, and we’re challenging them to live car-free lives for a week. Supported by ORBus, Chargeabout and Better by Bike, they can hoon about on the bus, an e-bike or choose to car-pool if someone’s heading the same way. Walking is an old-fashioned method of travel, but that’s an option too. We’re not providing scooters, but if a Challenger rustled one of them up, it’d be OK as well.

Can we drop the car? Seven local Queenstown residents are going to test alternate forms of transport this week.

Active travel is the process of not just jumping in your car because it’s there. Will, one of our Challengers representing Essential Workers, sees clear benefits “It’s simply taking one car off the road,” he says. That definition resonated with me because it’s a way of reframing the issue.  It made me think about the power of removing just one car at one time – not permanently, but just for that moment. We’re not into elimination, that would make us hypocrites.  I’ve invested too much money in my car to ditch it permanently. But, like you, I’m kinda sick of sitting in traffic.

The Challengers have some pretty big distances to cover as they live all over the Basin, including Arrowtown. Some need to travel across town to get to work and four have kids that often need transport. We have shift work, and the need to carry cricket and skiing gear. But if it were easy, it wouldn’t be interesting.  How they’re going to manage some of the tricky bits of this challenge will be one of the most enlightening and informative aspects to reflect on. Perhaps there will be some upsides too. Perhaps car-free will become care-free as they revert to traveling teenager style.

Get on board and follow their journeys on Facebook @lightfootinitiative and Instagram #TesttheNetwork. And if you see someone with their thumb out this week, it might be worthwhile picking that hitchhiker up. Especially if it’s raining!"



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