Greater need to encourage more walking and cycling to school
Greater need to encourage more walking and cycling
to schools, UC expert says
January 27, 2013
The return of the school-run traffic chaos around New Zealand this week highlights the importance of plans to encourage more walking cycling and public transport use for all travel, a University of Canterbury (UC) transport expert said today.
UC Professor Simon Kingham says few people currently choose these modes of transport for everyday journeys such as travelling to work and places of education.
``The reason so few people choose to leave the car at home is not just the desire to drive, it is because of the lack of perceived alternatives. In places where there is high quality low cost public transport, many people choose to use it. Where there is safe separated cycle infrastructure many people cycle.
``Public transport in some New Zealand cities is of reasonable quality and inexpensive. However, there is still scope for significant improvement. It is also very clear that rail-based services are more attractive than bus-based systems.
``While set up costs for rail are high, they have been demonstrated time and time again to be more attractive to users. This is especially important in Christchurch where consideration of rail in the rebuild is missing.
``Cycling is a different story. Far more can be done in all New Zealand cities to make cycling more attractive. The government currently budgets less than 0.5 percent of its transport spending on cycling,’’ Professor Kingham said.
If safe separated cycle ways were provided, a significant number of people would bike to work and school. This was especially the case for young people who want to cycle but are often prevented from cycling to school because of safety concerns.
Professor Kingham said this was especially relevant in Christchurch as plans are being made to rebuild transport infrastructure in the city. Christchurch had the best natural geography to make it a true cycling city: largely flat terrain, mild climate and lots of road space to place excellent infrastructure.
``The government has to change its transport spending plans. It currently has a very strong focus on building motorways of national significance at the expense of investing in public transport and cycling. The benefits of cycling are great, especially when including the enormous health benefits of helping people be more active.
``The current debate in Christchurch about schools in the west 'poaching' students from the east is also pertinent. Students should, where possible, attend local schools which they can access by walking or cycling. The location and size of schools is not just about education benefits and financial bottom lines.
``It is also about health and wellbeing. These things should be taken into account when school zones are set, school rolls agreed and closures and mergers considered. Currently they don't seem to be part of the equation. Cycling must be considered when plans and decisions are made about how and where people choose and are encouraged to go to school.’’