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National’s Cycling policy

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.

National Party Cycling Policy

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 changeI 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”.

54 comments to National’s Cycling policy

  • Ari

    Great news. For a second there I thought it was spoof advertisment!

  • Simon

    How does this panel relate to that one with mike noon and sarah ulma on it from a year or so ago. Was that advisory to NZTA?

  • George D

    $25m is less than one km of road of national significance. However, despite the low baseline and skewed priorities, this is a doubling of spending.

    What encourages me is that the Government and all major parties (Greens, Labour, NZF) are all recognising the significant benefits of cycling to congestion, health, and social mobility. I think this will have a major impact in towns and cities where the NZTA control large amounts of the most important and most dangerous roads around the city. It’s been hard to get designation for lanes on 4-6 lane highways, despite acres of road. Hopefully this will encourage the NZTA to work with rather than against the councils which have so far been frustrated.

  • Chris O

    After six years, National finally reveals a new non-car based transport initiative! We can always quibble about the scale of the investment, but $100 million goes a long way in cycleways, and it means that whatever government we get after September, cycle funding will increase. So as much as I disagree with most of National’s other transport priorities, I’ll give them credit for this policy. Even if it does follow the “steal ideas from the opposition” trend.

    • George D

      It also shows that cycling is popular – sufficiently popular with a section of the population that they would announce a policy like this a few weeks before the election.

  • Simon

    Chris O – you might be right about the earlier panel looking at cycle safety.

  • Matthew

    A quarter of the $100 million a year that the Greens have said they’d fund (rising to $130m a few years out).

    And they’ve had 6 years to do stuff. A wasted 6 years.

    I won’t be changing my vote. (And Key would resign within 6 months and we’d have PM Judith Collins or PM Steven Joyce -Errrrgh it doesn’t bear thinking about)

    • Tamati

      The Greens can promise the world because they’ll never deliver a budget as a minor coalition partner. When major parties promise things, they have the ability to actually deliver.

      • harrymc

        But they are not “promising the world” are they? Nice strawman there mate.
        Anyway under MMP major parties need to take minor parties with them. How do charter schools fit with your statement by the way?

        • Tamati

          In a coalition government everything has to be negotiated, minor parties have to compromise and compete for government funding. So the Greens promise for $100m cycleways has to compete with NZ 1st’s promise for more police, Internet Mana’s promise for free tertiary education and any other minor party pet projects. Act’s charter schools actually illustrates this quite well, out of all of Act’s promises and policies they only managed to secure 30 million for charter schools, out of a budget of 70 billion.

          My point is, only the major parties can have any certainty in their promises, because only they have the ability to deliver

          • Matthew

            In that specific example even National know the ACT’s policy on charter schools is bat-shit crazy.

          • There is a bit of a difference with transport as the NLTF is funded from hypothocated road user/fuel/license charges to spend only on transport.

            Changing priorities would likely require cabinet approval but the amount amount of funding available wouldn’t change.

        • TheBigWheel

          Tamati, far from promising the world, I read last week that the Greens would plan to spend LESS than National on transport. Whilst spending $ 100 m more on cycling and $ 10 bn on PT. Just by scaling back the over-blown inflation-inducing roading programme.

          I think National’s announcement is good. But where’s their $ 100 m coming from??

      • Matthew

        My prediction is that under the Lab/Green government, a green MP will be transport minister.

        Then it kind of matters.

        • Tamati

          What makes you say that?

          • Matthew

            After 6 years of do nothing politics it’s time for a change, and I think the young ones are going to get off their bums to vote this time. And then in the divvying up of portfolios Transport might fall to the Greens. Especially since Labour mightn’t favour the craziest of the RoNS so they can get them cancelled and let the Greens take the blame a bit more.

  • This is good news. I’m wondering if NZTA will release funds / process for making public bike share work in NZ.
    I believe public bike share is a type of public transport and would be best funded from those budgets…
    It would work well in the cities were we have long train / ferry / bus routes in from distant suburbs. Once you get into the central city [without sweating] you’d have 500 bikes and 50 different rental stations to get to meetings / offices / theaters / restaurants….
    Public bike share actually complements existing large scale public transport…

  • Ari

    I think bike share is great. The only problem is here helmets are mandatory and no one wants to share helmets.

  • Unfortunately it turns out this announcement is not quite as great as it sounds:
    http://caa.org.nz/

    It appears this is actually underspend (that’s right, the current regime in Wellington can’t even find ways to spend the anaemic cycling budget we currently have) from the GPS. CAA is hoping to clarify the reason for this underspend today with NZTA.

    • Sorry, but I don’t get how this $100m is just past underspend, as suggested in the update:
      (1) National has only allocated ~$100m IN TOTAL for walk/cycle over the past six years. Sure, there has been a bit of underspend, but that has usually been of the order of a million or three each year. At that rate you would be talking about decades of underspend – and the walk/cycle activity class is only 11 years old.
      (2) It has been stated by National that this $100m will come out of the Consolidated Fund (i.e. general taxation), not the Nat’l Land Trpt Programme that normal walk/cycle funding is provided from. Money can’t just be shifted from one account to the other.

  • Peter H

    Here is one why of explaining what happened – Cycle funding from Bay of Plenty. Page 65 Q4:

    “A second example is the walking and cycling activity class. In the current GPS, the funding
    range is proportionately larger than the minimum amount of funding that is to be made
    available. The GPS also sent a signal that investment would be targeted on fewer activities
    in ‘model communities’. As a result, local authorities not identified as ‘model communities’
    by the NZTA made cuts to their walking and cycling programmes in the expectation that
    national funding would not be available. However, we are now being informed by the NZTA
    that the walking and cycling activity class is undersubscribed. We do not believe that this an
    example of optimal investment in the land transport system given that local authorities set
    out their local transport programmes three years in advance”
    http://www.boprc.govt.nz/media/321942/regional-transport-committee-meeting-agenda-friday-21-february-2014.pdf

  • Dave B (Wellington)

    Excuse my cynicism, but hearing this from National at this late stage is not good news. Why? Because for National to carry out this election-bribe, they must first win the election and there are 101 other reasons why this would not be good.

    Sure, it is good that all parties seem to be coming on-board regarding cycling, but to in any way encourage a vote for National on the strength of this simply lessens the chances of getting a sane transport policy overall.

    Matt L, I fear your kudos for National over this one issue is misplaced and might encourage some who are vacillating to believe that a vote for National is now validated. Please be careful! Our main goal must be to stop/cutback/reverse the disastrous RoNS policy before the transport die is cast for another generation or three. Nothing in this latest announcement changes that objective. A paltry $100m for cycleways will be a hollow gain if transport policy is to remain 99% car-centric in almost every other respect.

    • As a totally biased partisan hack, let me just say that I’m glad this blog tries to remain impartial. It will get far more done that way. And that means looking at the positives wherever they come from, and not insisting on all-or-nothing before you can say anything positive.

      • Dave B (Wellington)

        @ Steve: “I’m glad this blog tries to remain impartial. It will get far more done that way”.
        All true! But just not at the moment, 4½ weeks out from an election when we are staring down the barrel of a $15bn transport mistake going irreversible (if it is not already).

        I don’t like to be partisan either, but the policies of the National Party at this particular juncture have forced the issue. I care about transport and its role in society too much to see it derailed through the misguided policies of this zealously pro-roading party. Once we’ve got some balance restored, then yes, impartiality is the way to go.

        • mfwic

          I am not impartial. I voted National at the last two elections but this time round I have some firm advice for National that involves sex and travel….

  • What we have is an agreement that the perception of improving cycling is worthwhile — only the superficial brand has caught on. There isn’t a qualified consensus on what it means to actually improve things on the ground. Additional funds are good, but they could easily be frittered on green-washing and tokenism — it depends on the investment strategy, the panel, agencies, contractors, plans, designs, etc., that are all yet to come. I’d hazard that the Greens policy is more specific and robust in this regard (e.g. safe school routes, local delegation, etc).

    I’d be wary of more bike paths by the motorway (or, almost equivalently, rail trails, greenways and recreational loops), instead of grids of on-street paths that enable whole neighbourhoods to ride between their front doors, and especially to integrate as the last mile component of multimodal trips with PT.

    It could all turn out well, of course, but given precedent, I’d be surprised if it does. In fact, it appears this cycling policy might have been intended to coincide with the ribbon-cutting for the Grafton Gully shared path, and that project is a testament to how best to miss the point of city cycling (just count the number of street addresses fronting onto the path).

    • Luke C

      I had expected this announcement to be made at the Grafton Gully ribbon cutting, given it was (and especially Beach Rd) was rushed ahead to be ready on September 1.

      • Indeed, and it appears their candidate for Auckland Central was all lined up to capitalise on the launch. If, as it seems, they brought forward the announcement just to distract from ongoing political inconveniences, then it just goes to show just how lightweight their cycling policy is.

  • lloyd c

    Why would you want to ride without a helmet? I personally wear a full face helmet whilst in the forest even though its hot and sweaty as I have a few mates who have had their lives saved by their helmets.

    • > Why would you want to ride without a helmet?

      Because I’m just riding around the city, not engaging in an extreme sport. I bike without a helmet for the same reason I walk home from the pub without a helmet, and shower without a helmet, and put things in the boot of my car without a helmet. (I know people who’ve injured themselves badly doing all those things).

      If you’re mountain biking, I can see why you’d consider wearing a helmet.

    • As Steve said you are talking about a completely different kind of cycling.

      Rally drivers wear helmets when racing in forests but do you wear one when driving in Auckland? Of course not – same difference.

      Actually not even the same, as people in cars have a worse rate of head injuries than people on bikes.

  • donna

    It’s a bone for a group National perceive as annoying but possibly influential, especially among younger urban voters. And it helps them polish their tarnished green credentials. The money is coming from the consolidated fund so not a single metre of motorway will be sacrificed for this. Yep, as a stand-alone announcement it’s fine but the big picture is we will continue to squander billions on roading projects that – to borrow the government’s own jargon – are patently not ‘value for money’.
    A lot will depend on who is on the so-called investment panel. Membership of other National government panels suggests it will be stacked with infrastructure developers with little interest in what communities want and need.

  • SteveS

    Excuse my cynicism here. The GPS has a minuscule cycling allocation which is under-spent, and National crows the underspend is now going to fund new urban cycleways? That’s political spin to the nth degree. When I see a genuine rewrite of the GPS to focus on active modes, PT and sustainability I’ll be more impressed. But rest assured it won’t come from National.

    • SteveS,

      Precisely. The announcement could well have been titled, “Government announces new $300 million shortfall in cycling investment”.

      Or, if you agree that the cycling strategy being paid for is far from appropriate, even, “Government announces additional $100 million misspend in the name of cycling”.

      • Dan

        What are the claims based on that this is just underspend? Hoe much has been allocated since National has been in office and how much has been spent?

        • Dan,

          My view is that the announced allocation is a future shortfall, not past underspend, when compared with the Greens policy. Also, the misspend I claim is due to NZTA, AT and their contractors being terrible designers of streets and networks that support cycling, as well as due to politicians subsequently being unable to hold them to account for the failure.

          The other claim of a past underspend (ostensibly out of the NLTF) comes via Cycle Action Auckland, which may be disputed: http://caa.org.nz/general-news/government-announces-new-cycling-money-a-step-change-for-cycling-in-new-zealand/

          More broadly, it’s clear on the face of it that for decades we have under-invested or misspent when it comes to cycling, and the current Government has so far done nothing to address it. More a lost opportunity than committed underspend, though.

          Actual underspend is not unlikely either, even if it isn’t the amount that was announced — at least a million here or there over the years. AT, by way of comparison, routinely underspends its ~$7-13 million walking & cycling budget.

  • Catherine

    I’m somewhat amused by the photo National has used in the cycling campaign image – I ride through this part of the road network regularly, it’s just next to the Petone roundabout and motorway on/offramps in Wellington. I’ve never seen anyone using the off-road paths pictured, because they connect to the surrounding roads and paths so poorly.

    Recently, NZTA has been investigating this part of the cycle network between Ngauranga to Petone (on State Highway 2) for cycleway improvements. This has included the provision of a new off-road cycle path on the existing on-ramp to access SH2 from the roundabout, meaning the cycle infrastructure pictured isn’t really part of the cycle network anymore, unless cyclists are approaching/exiting onto Hutt Road.

    Anyway, my point is that I think National have used a poor piece of cycling infrastructure as part of their ‘cycling infrastructure funding’ policy announcement.

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