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Andrew Dickens: Bad cycleways are outweighing the good and destroying the whole idea of them

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Jul 2022, 4:23pm
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Andrew Dickens: Bad cycleways are outweighing the good and destroying the whole idea of them

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Jul 2022, 4:23pm


A topic designed to get you hot under the collar.

Today we hear about a report out of Christchurch reviewing the success of their cycleway programme to find no growth in cyclist numbers over the past two to three years.

That's not what the Council wants to hear because the scheme to build 13 cycleways has a budget of $300 million and it's looking like $300 million that is improving little.

Now there are people who believe that all cycleways are a waste of time and there are others that believe all cycleways are awesome. That's not reality.

There are good cycleways and there are bad cycleways.

Good cycleways are like the former railway line from Nelson City through to Richmond and Stoke. Fast, safe, flat and lined with camellias. If I lived in Stoke I'd use it every fine day rather than battling the Coast Road.

Then there are bad cycleways like Island Bay. Cycleways that make a road more dangerous and weren't needed by cyclists in the first place but dreamt up by some planner because on paper it looked like a good idea. Almost all downhill cycleways are bad. Cyclists hate them. They're more dangerous than the road.

But the bad cycleways are outnumbering the good cycleways and destroying the whole idea in some people's minds.

This past weekend Andrew Barnes of Perpetual Guardian and 4-day week fame wrote a magnificent piece about cycleways in the Herald.

He did a LGOIMA. That's an official information request for Local Government and he asked some questions of AT, the Auckland Transport authority.

Got some juicy stuff.  Turns out the agency charged with increasing cycling and public transport has 150 fleet cars and has no clue how many of their own staff use Public Transport or bike. Staff have access to 3 e-bikes and 6 pedal bikes. Looks like the cycling revolution hasn't hit AT staff.

But the worst admission was on the cost-benefit analysis where he found that half the returns on the planned $1.9 billion expenditure to be spent on cycleways comes from so-called health benefits. Which have been estimated. It's $900 million worth of guesses. And if you had the choice wouldn't you rather spend $900 million on actual doctors rather than cycleways?

His analysis says AT planning starts with a conclusion and then works backwards and that's not good practice.

Christchurch and Auckland Council seem to think all cycleways are awesome. They're not and it's only people who use them who can really tell you what they need.

Councils need to consult. They need to ask cyclists what they want. Engineers who are cyclists need to design them. At the moment we're building too many that are destined to be white elephants.

This article has been updated to revise a statement indicating that had been no growth in the number of cyclists using Christchurch cycleways in the past six years.

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