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Cycling to Work Threatened by Extinction

8 December 2006

MEDIA RELEASE For immediate use

Cycling to Work Threatened by Extinction

Everyday cycling is under threat of extinction. That's the warning from New Zealand cycling advocates.

“The 2006 Census shows a further decrease in the numbers of people cycling to work, to nearly 2% of commuters,” says Cycling Advocates’ Network (CAN) chair Robert Ibell.

"Kiwis should have the choice of biking to work," says Mr. Ibell. "But right now that choice doesn't exist for many people because they think our roads are too unsafe."

“People who cycle to work help reduce pollution and congestion. They also improve their own health, which means fewer days off work, lower costs to the health system, and better quality of life in the long run. They also encourage others. But many cyclists are afraid to cycle to work,” says Ibell.

“A recent study shows that congestion costs the country about $1 billion a year, and pollution costs about the same again. That’s about $2,000 for every commuter car, aside from its annual running costs. Meanwhile, the National Land Transport Programme’s budget for cycling and walking combined is about 1% of its total.”

Land Transport New Zealand has recently published a national strategy to help encourage safe and enjoyable cycling. Called ‘Getting there – on foot, by cycle’, the strategy encourages cars and cycles to share the road for the enjoyment and benefit of both.

“But funding for implementing this strategy is just scratching the surface,” says Ibell. “Funding needs to be consistent with the benefits cycling delivers in transport, health and workplace productivity as well. Cities such as Nelson have recognised this and have experienced growth in everyday cycling in recent years. While leisure cycling is booming, everyday cycling is nearing extinction. Central government needs to support cycling much more strongly as a solution to pressing problems such as obesity, climate change, pollution and traffic congestion. It needs to move on from talking to making some real changes.”

CAN welcomes the initiatives proposed in the ‘Getting there’ implementation plan. These include developing model communities, creating long distance cycling routes, and education of motorists and cyclists. "But without a big increase in funding for cycling projects we won't be able to reverse the decline in everyday cycling." said Mr. Ibell.

“Thousands of people are getting on their bikes for fitness and enjoyment,” says Ibell. “Most cyclists are also car drivers, so they just want to enjoy sharing the road in safety.”

Leisure cycling is among the ten top leisure activities in NZ. About 15% of adults enjoy cycling every year – that’s about 411,000 active cyclists. About 1 million cycles have been imported to New Zealand since 2001, about one cycle for every four people. The 2006 Wattyl Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge saw 11,000 people of all ages take part, a record number of cyclists for the event.

ENDS

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