All road users should actively promote cycling because everyone benefits. That's the key message to come out of the fifth New Zealand Cycling Conference.
Over 170 delegates attended the two-day conference held in Hutt City on October 14 and 15. The unique conference brings together cycling advocates, local and central government representatives, consultants, and analysts, to identify ways to get more people cycling more often.
Keynote speaker, Troels Andersen from Denmark, presented evidence from European cities showing the strong relationship between high national obesity and low cycling rates. This was reinforced by public health economists Des O'Dea and environmental economist Dr Ralph Chapman, who also noted the strong connection between good urban design form, more walking and cycling, and reduced obesity. They showed how a dollar invested in promoting physical activity will save several health dollars further down the track. This is in addition to the well-established benefits of reduced congestion and environmental enhancement.
Also demonstrated was the 'safety-in-numbers-effect', that is, the more people cycle, the lower the rate of accidents per person per kilometre traveled. This was partly due to an attitudinal change: as Mr Andersen notes, most all Danish car and truck drivers are also cyclists, and this results in mutual respect being shown.
'Importantly, the conference also canvassed the innovative and surprisingly large number of exciting cycle-related projects in place around New Zealand,' said conference co-ordinator Stephen Knight, Advocacy Manager for Bike NZ. 'It is also heartening to hear how local government is increasingly stumping up with practical support for cycling initiatives. This is vitally important to help ensure the implementation of the Government's walking and cycling strategy, released earlier this year.'
Organisers are now turning their attention to the sixth NZ Cycling Conference in 2007.