New Zealand makes cycling for transport investment a priority

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New Zealand’s Transport Agency has outlined a vision to increase cycling trips to ten million per annun by 2019.

The Urban Cycleways Programme, combined with allocation for cycling in the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), plus local share funding, means up to $300 million is available for urban cycling initiatives over the next four years.

Following the announcement of $100 million in additional funding for the Urban Cycleways Programme in 2014, the Wellington City Council is just one pushing forwards with changes that will promote cycling for transport and is set to benefit from $36.91 million in funding allocated for cycleway construction between the city and Hutt Valley.

This proposal follows a March to June 2014 survey in which 22 percent more people would like to cycle to work in Wellington, on top of the 9 percent that already do.

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Auckland too has just publicised its ambitions, worth $40 million and proposing links connecting the region’s North-West through South-East by 2018. This is to be delivered in the four phases (shown right). It has already received $10m of funding through the Government’s Urban Cycleways Programme and is being jointly delivered by the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport. Two of these links are now out for public consultation.

Auckland Transport’s Cycling and Walking manager Kathryn King said of the project: “This is a significant project that will make cycling and walking throughout this part of Auckland easier and safer. To make it even better, we are currently working on connections with residential areas along the route.

“When completed, people will be cycling, walking or running through the eastern suburbs and into the city centre via Tamaki Drive to work, study and for recreation,” says King.

The goal for Auckland is an ambitious 30 percent increase in journeys by 2019, which given the proposed inviting four metre wide cyclepaths, should be achievable. Furthermore, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority estimates that 43 percent of peak time morning trips are sub 5km, though 67 percent of those are take place in private cars. This inactivity in transport is an area that the World Health Organisation has recently recommended Governments worldwide press for progress.

In New Zealand as a whole, physical inactivity contributes to around eight percent of all deaths, according tot he National Health Committee, while one in three adults are overweight. In children’s health, one in five are considered overweight.

Citing a British Heart Foundation study, the report stresses that cycling 32km per week can halve the risk of heart disease compared to those who rarely exercise.

Sixty percent of Aucklanders say they would cycle if separated cycle facilities were installed (and almost one in four own a bike already). nz

The aforementioned investment, among others, is justified in a new report from the Transport Agency in which the benefits of prioritising active travel are outlined. These include, but are not limited to:

• more livable towns and cities
• improved conditions for travelling within towns and cities
• stronger local economies
• reduced costs for councils
• less impact on the environment
• healthier and more productive people.

Already boasting participation of 24.8 percent of its adults, cycling is said to be the New Zealand’s third most popular recreational activity.

Growing that number, especially when it comes to transport, is central to the ambition. Within the 2013 census it was found that cycle to work levels have grown 16 percent since 2006, with growth of up to 40 and 22 percent in Wellington and Auckland, respectively.

Correlating with this UK study that shows cycling infrastructure does indeed grow numbers, New Plymouth meanwhile has already built a cycling network and seen a 35 percent increase between 2006 and 2013. The majority of this increase stemmed from use of shared use cyclepaths, many of which saw a 50%+ rise in commuting cyclists.

A business case for cycling

A further report, also stemming from the NZ Transport Agency, is dedicated entirely to the economic case for investment in cycling.

Despite the report’s admission that the territory has underachieved on some investments in cycling, one example of success comes from the New Zealand Cycle Trails programme, which over the past five years MTB winterhas leveraged $30 million in spend to date.

“An evaluation of the New Zealand Cycle Trails project found that across 439 local businesses surveyed in the case study regions, about 50 full-time positions had been created as a result of local trails opening. One trail had an estimated 100,000 users in a four-month period. Early reports from Hastings indicated a healthy 20 percent or greater increase in cycle numbers per annum, visitors being attracted to the area because of its cycling opportunities, and local businesses associated with cycling reporting significant business growth,” offers the case study.

The case for investing touches on familiar ground when it comes to road safety, detailing how cycling is currently perceived as unsafe by many road users. Three percent of on the road deaths include someone on a bicycle. Therefore, the report suggests that improving safety is both crucial to lowering that figure, but also to realising a wider than often stated range of benefits – including transport efficiency, as well as societal and individual health and social benefits, among others.

This is supported by work in Hastings, one of New Zealand’s two cycling and walking model communities and one that has demonstrated that cycling can be made safer. Cycle crash rates there have fallen to about one-third of what they were in only two years, despite early indications from year two cycle counts showing a healthy 20 percent increase in cycle numbers. Elsewhere in New Zealand, cycling leads to about double the rate of on-road deaths and five times the rate of serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes for total time traveled than its proportionate use of the network.

In its analysis of fatality rates the study looks toward Europe’s examples of building in safety.

“With 28.2 cyclists killed per billion kilometres travelled, New Zealand’s cyclist fatality rate is nearly three times that of the Netherlands and nearly doubles that of Denmark and Germany,” says this segment’s conclusion. “The social costs of these crashes have been estimated at $870 million over the last five years. There is a risk that deaths and serious injuries, and the related social costs, will significantly increase if steps are not taken to make cycling safer.”

On to environmental benefits and the report estimates that shifting 5 percent of car trips to bicycle could reduce emission impacts by up to 8 percent, as well as offering noise reduction.alead

On this note, the Queensland Department for Transport and Main Roads states: “The combined environmental benefits of reducing noise and greenhouse gas emissions, and improving air quality, equates to around 5.9 cents per kilometre walked or cycled”

A strong recommendation for Christchurch is to re-channel parking infrastructure for cycle use. Here, 70,000 extra car journeys a day are anticipated by 2041 unless a modal shift is achieved. The expense of catering for that traffic is considered wasteful and the alternative, proposes the city, is to achieve a threefold increase in walking, cycling and public transport use. In 2013 the city had a cycle modal share of 4.9 percent.

Reverting quickly back to the Benefits of Investing in Cycling in New Zealand Communities report, research from the Mt Cook suburb of Wellington suggests that an individual can save $472.24 a year by opting to cycle instead of travel by car in the city (based on three trips per week into the city centre).

As has been found elsewhere, retailer concerns of replacing car parking with active travel infrastructure are reportedly unfounded.

You can read the Business Case for Cycling report here.

The Benefits of Investing in Cycling in New Zealand Communities report is found here.

This article will now be added to our series on cities where investment in cycling has paid off, which you can read in full here.