The government's new transport target to increase cycling and walking to 30% of all trips by 2040 is welcome, but needs to happen much sooner, says Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) spokesperson Stephen McKernon.
This week the Minister of Transport Annette King announced the National Transport Strategy’s combined target for walking and cycling is 30% of all trips by 2040, almost double the present figure. To help meet this target, the budget for walking and cycling will more than double to $28 million over the next ten years.
Mr McKernon says the 30% target and increased funding reflect the increasing importance of modes that are healthy, responsible, safe and economical for people within the wider community.
But the proposal also poses significant issues.
‘CAN would like to see the 30% target met in ten years, not 33. We cannot afford to move slowly on this,’ says McKernon. ‘New Zealand’s climate change, health, urban design and transport problems are all urgent reasons to increase support for walking and cycling. CAN suggests three intermediate targets for 2017: that 20% of trips are carried out by cycle, that cycling is positively perceived by most people, and that most cyclists are satisfied with their experiences of cycling.’
‘A more sustainable transport system will require integration of central and local government strategies across all sectors, including health, housing and regional development. It’s not just a case of having a 30% target for 2040, but of making sure the full benefits of walking and cycling are realised in quality of life for the whole community. The national walking and cycling strategy (Getting There – on Foot, by Cycle) should be used to set intermediate targets and to ensure these are realised in actual projects. In particular, the Model Communities initiative provides a framework for learning how to integrate these different strategies,’ says McKernon.
‘But spend on roading and provision for cars has increased rapidly in recent decades, and the result is that everyday cycling has decreased steadily,’ notes McKernon. ‘While numbers of leisure cyclists are increasing, they see peak hour traffic as far too dangerous to ride in. This is unlikely to change as the National Transport Strategy will encourage use of electric cars, and so doubling the spend on cycling will have no effect if support for the motorcar also continues to grow. In reality cycle strategies are under-resourced, including our national walking and cycling strategy, so implementation is slow or non-existent. Funds are not being spent on important cycling projects, including most of Transit’s small cycling budget for last year. Everyday cycling cannot increase from its current base given such inconsistencies.’
‘Commitment to cycling needs to extend well beyond using it to green-wash motorcar-centred transport strategies and plans. If the National Transport Strategy is to achieve its walking and cycling targets, it needs to increase spend on cycling many times more than proposed, to ensure strategies are implemented properly and to integrate traffic reduction measures that actively support walking and cycling. It needs to spend according to the numbers of everyday cyclists required, not present numbers’, says McKernon.
According to the Ministry of Transport’s Household Travel Survey for 2003 – 2006, there are up to 1.3 million cyclists in New Zealand and about 750,000 of these are regular cyclists. But only a small proportion cycle for transport, and for example, only about 2% of commuters cycle to work. Combined funding for cycling and walking currently totals less than 1% of the national transport budget. The proposed walking and cycling budget of $28 million in 10 years will still be less than 1% of the total.