NZTA commits to urban cycling

NZTA has recently released its 2015-2019 Statement of Intent, setting out the Agency’s priorities for the next four years. In the previous Statement of Intent (2014-2018) cycling wasn’t a specific priority despite the obligatory cyclist images scattered through the document.

The good news is that in the latest document, priority #6 is “Make urban cycling a safer and more attractive transport choice”. The emphasis is on the main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, aiming to progress the cycleway networks in these centres, with help from the Urban Cycleways Programme funding.

NZTA’s aim is to increase urban cycling trips in those centres from 32 million to 42 million by 2019, an increase of about 8% per year. The aim is to achieve this with a lower rate of crashes involving cyclists.

Another priority is to make urban journey times predictable. Although it’s not mentioned, cycling is one of the most predictable form of transport – you are less likely to be held up by congestion and you can park at your destination. Let’s hope NZTA joins the dots here. There’s also a commitment to safer speeds which is one of the most effective ways of making travel by bike safe and enjoyable.

Of concern is the priority to increase freight productivity by the use of larger “high productivity vehicles”. I recently stood at the intersection of SH1 and SH3 in Bulls, as convoys of HPV’s negotiated the corner. HPV configurations limit the vision of drivers,and cyclists in their vicinity need to take care, particularly during turning maneuvers.  Cycling Advocates Network has done some good work on educating truck drivers and cyclists about the problems here. Although in theory HPVs reduce the number of vehicles on the road, it would be better for our environment if more of this freight went by rail. Better for cycle touring as well.

So are we seeing a new cycle friendly NZTA? The Agency is still enthusiastically pushing for a 1960’s style flyover (admittedly with a cycleway clipon) at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, and is capable of designing the SH2/ SH58 intersection without provision for cycling (though responding to cyclists concerns once these were raised). But making urban cycling an explicit priority certainly gives us grounds for hope.