Time to move forward on cycling

Cycling is an essential part of modern, successful cities. The government and councils are responding to strong public demand, and are investing in safe and attractive cycling all over New Zealand. The discussion has moved on from “why”, to “where and how”.

The Stuff film reviewer is entitled to his opinion on how best to provide for cycling, but that’s no basis to make decisions that affect the whole community. In our democratic system we elect councillors to weigh up expert advice, council policy, best-practice guidance and community views before making decisions.

For a decade Wellington people have been consistent in voting for mayors and councillors who are committed to improving cycling. It’s time to move forward.

AAA streets

Who is the council designing cycleways for? It has always been clear that it’s not only to cater better to existing cyclists, but to make cycling an easy and attractive option for the many people who would like to ride.

Cycling Action Network agrees that cities need to build streets for all ages and abilities. We call this AAA cycling. The evidence is clear that when cities build convenient, connected and comfortable cycleways, people love them.

A network effect multiplies the benefits once routes are connected up. Since protected cycleways were built in Auckland three years ago there’s been a 62 per cent increase in cycle trips in the city centre. Likewise, cycling grew by an impressive 600 percent in Toronto when a cycling network was completed.

Build it, and they will come.

Better streets

Perhaps the biggest misconception about cycleways is that they are just for people who ride bikes. The benefits are much broader, however you choose to get around. Drivers and people on buses face less congestion. Parents can ditch the school run. Parking is easier. Pedestrians don’t have to compete for space on paths. Local businesses have more customers.

A British study of 250,000 people called cycling a miracle pill for its benefits in reducing heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Everyone wins when people are healthier and our air is cleaner. That’s why successive Governments have invested in cycling. Life is better when more people ride bikes, more often.

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Improving Island Bay

Regarding the Island Bay cycleway, there’s never been a project subject to such extensive community engagement. Everyone who wants to has had a say. The important thing is that valid concerns are addressed and we get on with it.

In Island Bay that means building kerbs to make parking easier, extending buffer zones to reduce risk from parked vehicles, and continuing the cycleway through the shopping area. The road surface would benefit from a reseal to erase ghost markings. The temporary construction period will result in a street we can all be proud of.

Connecting eastern suburbs

Much of Miramar, Strathmore, Rongotai and Kilbirnie are flat: perfect terrain for easy cycling. It makes sense to build high-quality cycleways to connect these suburbs. This reduces our reliance on cars, expands the reach of public transport, and enables people of all ages and abilities to get around.

Overcoming barriers

Hills or wind? Not a problem, thanks to gears, muscle and e-bikes. Rain? Wear a coat. Groceries? Use a bag and carrier. No bike? Borrow or rent one.

Sooner or later the sceptics will run out of excuses, and embrace cycling.

Bike to the Future

With cycleway construction now underway on Cobham Drive, along Hutt Road and much more to come, I predict the future is bike.

Patrick Morgan is a project manager at Cycling Action Network.

This article originally appeared on Stuff

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Is New Zealand ready for Vision Zero?

vision-zero

There are 300 avoidable deaths and 12 thousand injuries per year on our roads. Why do we tolerate that? Is it time for a better way? Is it time for Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is a radical road safety approach which aims to achieve a road transport system with no fatalities or serious injuries.

It started in Sweden and was approved by their parliament in 1997.

A core principle of Vision Zero is that ‘Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits’ rather than the more conventional comparison between costs and benefits, where a monetary value is placed on life and health, and then that value is used to decide how much money to spend on a road network towards the benefit of decreasing how much risk.

Vision Zero is based on four principles:

  • Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system

  • Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;

  • Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and

  • Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.

Is Vision Zero realistic?

Let’s not confuse the vision with objectives. Vision is where we want to be. Objectives are the milestones we pass on the journey.

Doesn’t New Zealand’s current approach, Safer Systems, aim to reduce deaths and injuries?

It lacks ambition and vison. Safer Systems appears to be ‘business as usual’ as the fear is safer (lower) speed limits will curtail economic productivity. This approach violates the first principle of Vision Zero road safety: “Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system”. Furthermore, it overstates the ability of the posted speed limit to generate a high throughput of motor vehicles; which is typically more influenced by the intersections, traffic lights, traffic congestion, road works, crashes, slow moving vehicles, etc.

The narrow objectives of NZTA’s draft Speed Management Framework (ie: ‘balancing’ safety with economic productivity) fail to recognise the wider significant benefits of lower traffic speeds, such as:

  • attracting people to walk & cycle; as specifically sought by the Cycling Safety Panel’s recommendations

  • place making and liveability

  • reducing transport emissions (eg: CO2, noise, particulate matter and toxins)

  • enhancing network efficiency and providing more reliable travel times for motor vehicles users.

Road deaths per capita in NZ are twice that in UK, Sweden and Norway. We can do much better.

What do you think? And what would success look like?