Why Create Bike Friendly Cities?
Choosing to invest in cycle infrastructure is about economic rationalism. Stories from London, Canada, Auckland and Portland all told the same tale: a growing population creating huge demand on space and transport.
Philip Darton, Presentation Asia Pacific Cycle Congress 2017
Faced with these problems each city grappled in it’s own way, often via trial and error. And each found that building more roads was not the solution, building public transport infrastructure was a partial solution. But in terms of time and cost effective solutions getting people on bikes won out big time.
This is the first in a series of three blog posts where I will explore the key recurring themes from Asia Pacific Cycle Congress 2017.
October in Christchurch is a lovely time of year. Last year it was made all the more special with Biketober festivities and the Asia Pacific Cycle Congress. The APCC was a great opportunity to learn from a diverse range of experiences, professions and backgrounds from around New Zealand the the world. When I reviewed all the notes I had taken I found that most of what I learned centred around three recurring themes, which I will discuss on this blog.
Auckland’s transport strategy focuses strongly on the need to reduce congestion whilst providing for an expected increase in population of one million over the next 30 years. The economic cost of congestion is high. Cycling, Walking and Public Transport are regarded as a key way of accomodating a growing population and freeing up roads for freight movement.
When Auckland is already bursting at the seams, it takes no stretch of imagination to know that building more roads is not going to solve the problem, especially when that space is needed for housing and business development. So Auckland is on a mission to create a Bike Friendly City and beat the traffic.
The public feedback summarised in the latest report from the ‘Let’s get Wellington Moving’ project shows that Wellingtonians understand what is needed. Of the 9 key themes 5 of them recognise the need to address congestion with alternatives to private vehicle use.
1. SUPPORT FOR BETTER PUBLIC TRANSPORT – NOW AND LONG-TERM
2. UNIVERSAL SUPPORT FOR LESS CONGESTION
3. WIDESPREAD SUPPORT FOR WALKING AND CYCLING IMPROVEMENTS AND PRIORITY
4. OPPOSITION TO NEW INFRASTRUCTURE THAT ENCOURAGES CAR USE
7. FUTURE-PROOFED SOLUTIONS ARE REQUIRED
“Many people predicted that population growth, environmental change and technology-based advancements will impact Wellington’s transport network and they seek future-focused planning, based on tomorrow’s settings, to overcomethese challenges. This is one respondents comment:
‘We need a bold plan for a city that is set to be receiving 50 000 more residents in the next 30 years (according to the WCC itself). We don’t need any cars in the CBD. Catering for cars is like catering for steam trains.”
It is a common theme around the world and around New Zealand. Cities are growing and changing. The people who live in them want to be able to get around easily and safely with predictable journey times. And the businesses that operate there want to be free of congestion which costs their businesses dearly. Drivers stuck in traffic jams outside your business do not make great customers – there is no way they would risk giving up their spot in the queue, let alone the hassle of having to then merge back into a line of stressed out drivers. Bike Friendly Cities are part of the solution.
In a recent NZ Herald article Simon Wilson sums it up nicely:
“Space for urban transport is relatively finite, and private motor vehicles are by far the least efficient way to use it. Auckland has close to 1000 more cars a week, and there is nowhere for them to go. Change is essential and inevitable.”
“The strategy is not to ban cars. It is to keep the carriageways at least moderately functional for the many people who, for all sorts of reasons, really do need to drive. And to make the alternatives a good choice, not a miserable necessity.”
and…. It is what people want:
During consultation understaken by Auckland Council, cycling was the second most mentioned area in need of more transport focus.
In post earthquake Christchurch, the ‘Share an Idea‘ forum repeatedly heard how people wanted spaces for walking, cycling and people.
And in Wellington, consultation at different times has clearly identified that people want a city safe for walking and cycling.
It’s an opportunity:
It is an opportunity for smart businesses to ride the wave of change and benefit from it.
It is an opportunity for reinventing our cities with places and spaces where people want to spend time and interact.
It is an opportunity for leadership and vision and leaving behind a legacy that breathes life into a city rather that suffocating it with fumes.