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Greater investment in cycling has economic benefits

Greater investment in cycling has economic benefits, says UC expert

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Professor Simon Kingham

January 17, 2014

A University of Canterbury (UC) urban transport expert believes the Government and local authorities should invest more money into cycling because of the economic benefits.

UC Professor Simon Kingham says investing in cycling shows significant benefit cost ratios. He says some of the current motorways have substantially lower benefit cost ratios.

``There is significant evidence showing people who cycle to shops spend more money. The main beneficiaries are non-cyclists as it is gives them more choices, in not having to drive but having the option of biking. Cycling reduces congestion as some people will shift to biking, thus freeing up roads.

``Cycling also improves the personal health of new cyclists and helps improve the overall population health. Latest census figures show commuting rates have fallen from 5.7 percent of the population in 1986 to 2.9 percent last year.

``There evidence is clear. Make people feel safe on bikes and people will use them. People want to get on bikes: it just needs to be safe enough. Most cycle infrastructure is cheap to put in. The rebuild of Christchurch is a golden opportunity to rebuild as cheap as possible while roads and drains are being repaired.’’

Professor Kingham made the comments following a number of cycling accidents over summer so far.
Auckland’s biggest problem for commuting cyclists is the high traffic volume coupled with inadequate cycle infrastructure, which makes potential cyclists feel unsafe.

``New Zealand has not made enough money available to take commuter cycling seriously. There has been little investment in cycling over recent times as governments have become car and motorway focused.

``Painted white lines are just not safe acceptable for the cycling community. Research carried out at UC shows that fear of traffic is the biggest barrier to people cycling. The solution is to provide physical separation from traffic through protected cycle lanes where cyclists are physically separated from traffic.

``Christchurch historically does not have more than its share of fatalities than other areas although last year was a bad year for accidents. However, in recent years there have been a growing number of accidents.

``This is largely due to the fact that of the bigger cities in New Zealand, Christchurch has by far the highest rates of cycling. This is due to climate, topography and some historical culture of cycling.

``Only time will tell if Christchurch is going to seriously embrace cycling in the rebuild. The CERA plans for the central city should encourage people to cycle and the Christchurch City Council’s $70 million plans for a set of new cycleways are a good start to get people travelling around and into the city. This needs to be the start. Investing in cycling is really good value.

``An average of more than 300 cyclists require hospital treatment annually and about 10 cyclists die as a result of crashes. It is never acceptable, but some injuries and fatalities are inevitable.’’


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