Government needs to step up to the plate on cycle infrastructure funding

13 02 2013

Recent news stories, these last few days, in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch all show that there is a significant push in each city to improve cycle infrastructure.

In Wellington and Christchurch this will be from rates and in Auckland, embarassingly, but fitting the sad ideological zeitgeist, it will be a private public partnership funded by tolls. Cars will be able to drive over the Harbour Bridge for nothing, but cyclists and pedestrians will be paying tolls. Imagine stinging tourists $5.00 for the pleasure of walking over the bridge and back. They’ll be telling their friends when they get home that New Zealand ripped them off.

The reality is that at the moment government funding for cycle infrastructure is miniscule. The summary of the NZTA’s National Land Transport Planning for 2012-2015 doesn’t even mention bicycles. It is budgeted to have $53m of funding for the years from 2012-2015 for all footpaths and cycle funding. That is less than $18m a year, or about $4 per person per year. That $53m out of a total budgeted $4,449m budgeted on roads. That is 1% of funding going to active transport, ie walking and cycling. Currently more than 1% or people get around on foot and by bicycle

There are about 1.27 million cyclists in NZ – about 31% of the population (by comparison, there are about 3 million people with car licences). There are about 750,000 regular cyclists (cycling at least once a month) in NZ – about 18% of the population. About 144,000 or 3.5% cycle nearly every day. Yet these people get less than 1.2% of the road transport funding.

There’s no other way to interpret it, but presently cyclists and pedestrians are being ripped off by the government.

Government needs to step up to the plate on cycle infrastructure funding. Cities all over the country are crying out for more funding. They are resorting to raising rates, or unbelievably, tolls.  Extra funding needs to be forthcoming.

Investments in cycle infrastructure typically have benefit to cost ratios much greater than road projects. Improving urban transport infrastructure improves cities. It reduces congestion on the roads, and enables people to get around by public transport. Cycling and walking improve air quality by taking cars off the road. It fights the obesity epidemic. This should be a no-brainer. Cycle infrastructure is a common good, benefiting everyone, even the people who don’t use it.

The amount of money available from the NLTF for local councils to implement cycle projects should be increased, even up to an amount of $50m or $100m a year. Cities and towns should still match the funding, maybe not at 50%, but at 20%. Each city should be able to plan and build their networks without fear that it won’t be funded.

Of course the projects should still stack up, but not to the NZTA’s extremely narrow conditions that seem to only want cycle infrastructure if it decongests a highway. Cycle infrastucture projects should be done for their own sake, e.g. for extending the network of safe cycle ways into a useful grid, or for adding extra cycle parking in strategic spots or for other valid reasons.

The demand is there, the pent up demand, waiting for safe cycle infrastructure, is there and the induced demand from people who don’t yet know that they will want to cycle is there too.

A thousand people cycled into Wellington City for a free breakfast this morning for Bike to Work day. They got free bananas and bagels. They didn’t get their fare share of road transport funding.

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2 responses

14 02 2013
Patrick Morgan, Cycling Advocates Network

Well put.
If you are passionate about getting more people on bikes, more often, please join CAN at our national cycling summit in Auckland in April. There’s heaps going on and you’ll come back inspired and with new tools. We need your support. http://can.org.nz/cando2013

14 02 2013
Andy Foster

Thanks Matthew – points very well made. Current Government’s just not in that space at the moment – far too much focus on RONS. Thanks also for your periodic specific suggestions for Wellington.

Warmest regards

Andy

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