Cyclists Applaud Massive Investment Programme.
Kiwis keen on cycling anticipate a boost tomorrow when Transport Minister Simon Bridges will arrive in Rotorua to announce the biggest single investment in cycling in New Zealand’s history.
The Urban Cycleways Programme, managed by the NZTA, budgets a record $100 million for selected projects nationwide. Councils throughout the country have drawn up detailed bids for urban cycleway projects which they hope will attract UCP funds. Rumours have been swirling as to which projects will get the nod from the NZTA’s UCP Investment Panel.
Groups like Cycle Action Auckland, Cycle Aware Wellington, and Spokes Canterbury have been tracking the UCP process with interest, with the Cycling Advocates’ Network (CAN) quick to commend the Programme as ‘smart investment’.
CAN interim project manager Will Andrews told press, ‘This is awesome. It’s forward-thinking, clever groundwork by the Prime Minister and Minister Bridges and will boost the liveability of every town it touches. Even though we’ve no current national strategy to grow cycling numbers, the health and quality of life of New Zealanders near these projects will improve immensely’.
‘We hope it will be accompanied by rapid training of engineers in cycleway design, and by education of all road users in how to share road space’, Andrews continued. ‘We want people using bikes to be encouraged out of their cars for those short trips and there will still be a lot of routes where cyclists share with motor vehicles, so it’s important to keep improving the environment -especially in CBDs- with low speed limits and good junction design. But this is a tremendous initial step.’
Economists generally agree that investment returns in cycleways are considerably higher than in motor-vehicle infrastructure, especially motorways. Recent research by Christchurch City Council shows that the return is in the order of $8 for every dollar spent. Similarly, cycling’s effect on the wider economy is shown to be better than expected: economists have found that the recent upsurge in cycling across Europe has helped create 650,000 jobs, many in the tourism industry, and that this figure could grow to 1,000,000 if current trends continue. Cycling already accounts for just under 10% of commuting trips in some Wellington suburbs, and tops 8% of commuting trips in other advanced towns and suburbs such as Nelson.
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