Some great news yesterday with the National Party releasing one part of the transport policy which is actually semi decent. They’ve said they will invest an extra $100 million into building urban cycleways over the next four years.
Prime Minister John Key has today announced $100 million in new funding will be made available over the next four years to accelerate cycleways in urban centres.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says an Urban Cycleway Investment Panel will investigate opportunities to invest in urban cycleways that would expand and improve the cycling network.
Mr Brownlee says National recognises that commuting by bike has health benefits and takes pressure off other transport networks, but says cycleways in our largest centres are fragmented and offer varied levels of service.
“This funding builds on significant investments the government is already making, with projects in Hastings and New Plymouth showcasing how cycling can be a safer, more reliable and realistic transport option.
“Many people cite safety concerns and a lack of infrastructure as reasons for not cycling, so we’re going to begin building cycleways to a standard that delivers real incentives for commuters to make a change.
“Building more comprehensive cycling networks will require new infrastructure to connect existing routes and expand the network into wider urban areas.
“And as these connections will be a mix of local roads and State highways, we’ll need a strategic approach and collaboration at central and local government level.
“Some councils are well advanced in planning and constructing local cycleways, and we want to ensure we do what we can to complement them and make them capable of being used by the widest number of people possible.
“This funding package also strongly complements other aspects of the government’s ambitious transport infrastructure programme, which is designed to ensure people and freight can reach their destinations quickly and safely,” Mr Brownlee says.
The Urban Cycleway Investment Panel will include representatives from central government, local government and other organisations. Draft terms of reference for the panel will be presented to Cabinet by 31 October 2014.
I think this is fantastic news and In my view the most important thing about the announcement isn’t so much the amount of money being spent – as the Greens propose to spend more – but that we now seem to have an acknowledgement from all sides of the political spectrum that improving cycling in our cities is a worthwhile thing. Getting that agreement is the key first step and addressing the level of funding can happen separately.
One other aspect I like is the comment that they’re “going to be building cycleways to a standard that delivers real incentives for commuters to make a change“. I can only hope that means building infrastructure to the 8 to 80 rule which basically means designing it so that an 8 year old child or 80 year old adult cycle can feel comfortable to cycle on. It would also be fantastic if this meant requiring the NZTA and local authorities to up their minimum standards for what can be built.
One aspect I do find puzzling is the creation of an Urban Cycleway Investment Panel. I would have thought decisions on which projects should get funding would be best handled through the existing NZTA/local government processes. The only advantage I can see is if this group is intended to be some sort of advisory group for smaller councils who don’t have the experience needed to develop better cycling networks. In our large cities in particular there are already lengthy lists of projects just waiting to be funded.
As a comparison with existing spending, according to the draft 2015 GPS, over the next four years approximately $100 million is expected to be spent. As such this investment represents a doubling of existing spending although it won’t be spread out evenly over that timeframe with this new money estimated to be split out as
2014/15 – $10 million
2015/16 – $35 million
2016/17 – $30 million
2017/18 – $25 million
All up it seems like a fairly decent policy for National and it’s one that hopefully represents one small step towards a more balanced transport policy in the future.
It’s also possible we might hear more transport announcements from the government today with John Key talking at an NZCID conference ominously titled “Mega Projects: From Vision to Reality”.