On 30 November, Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff opened the Ian McKinnon Cycleway. It’s a great piece of infrastructure providing protected space for the hundreds of people who leave their cars at home and cycle along the Northwestern Path each day, and it was great to celebrate another connection in our growing cycling network.
There has been a lot of commentary recently about whether anyone really uses our cycleways, and if they are worth the investment that we, NZTA and Auckland Council are making.
While I catch trains, buses or ferries on a daily basis and walking is my personal mode of choice, I congratulate those who have been so outspoken in their support for the cycling programme. This groundswell truly highlights that we and our partners are right to be investing in safe and protected cycling infrastructure. We, and Auckland Transport’s board, are unequivocally committed to walking and cycling.
Impressive growth in cycling
This month, the Quay Street Totem Counter counted its 300,000 trip. It’s the first time in a calendar year that this counter has reached 300,000 and it’s showing impressive growth.
We counted 329,000 cycle movements across our 26 city counters for October 2018 – an increase of 17.1 per cent compared to October 2017. In the last year, to the end of October, we have recorded 3.587 million cycle trips - a 6.8 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. These are just in the counter locations and there will be many more local trips that we aren’t capturing.
20 million rail trips in year to June
It is easy to forget that in 2002 less than 2.5 million trips were made on Auckland’s rail network. In the year ended 30 June 2018 over 20 million trips were made.
Is it so hard to envisage that the phenomenal success stories of our rapid transport network will not be repeated on our cycling networks?
Even though it is early days we are seeing some remarkable similarities with, for example, ebikes doing for cycling what electric trains did for our rail network.
Compelling case for walking
The case for walking is just as compelling. The number of people walking on Queen Street has doubled since 2012, and there has been a 34 per cent increase in pedestrians across the city centre as more people choose to call the area home. Up to 500,000 trips are made on foot in the city centre alone each day.
Aucklanders have told us they want more high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure. It is a key priority in our Regional Land Transport Plan, supported by 18,000 people. It’s also a very important part of addressing Auckland’s road safety crisis. Aucklanders have told us they want a transport network free from harm and delivering dedicated and protected walking and cycling facilities improves road safety for everyone – not just the people who choose to ride bikes.
Benefits go beyond transport
The benefits don’t stop there. In the past 40 years the rates of obesity in our region, with its associated quality of life and costs on the health system, have dramatically increased. According to Healthy Auckland Together, more than 30 per cent of our adult population is now considered obese. From this perspective, encouraging walking and cycling seems like an obvious thing to do.
When bids were submitted, in a very compressed time frame, for Urban Cycleways Programme funding in 2014, we were anticipating to deliver quick, lower-cost projects around the city centre and inner suburbs.
Today the Urban Cycleways Programme is about much more than cycling. It is also about place-making.
People care about the street environment they live in. The communities where we are delivering these projects want to make sure we are enhancing the spaces without compromising on safety. Retailers and businesses also want us to mitigate the impacts on them during construction.
We’ve gone from delivering a $5 million programme pre-2015, to a $200 million programme as Auckland’s population has surged. Over the past four years we have learnt a lot about how we deliver this infrastructure. As a result, AT has made changes and is now in a better place to deliver cycleways and shared paths that are integrated with trains, buses and ferries. More Aucklanders recognise that unless more of us make the change to public transport and active modes we will face a future of rapidly increasing congestion, a deteriorating environment, and poorer quality of life for our tamariki.
While some commentators continue to criticise the investment, the reality is walking and cycling are core to delivering a better Auckland.
We want better for our communities and I want my son, who bikes while I walk with him to kindy, to have safer and sustainable transport choices.
Like our transport ministers and the Auckland Council Governing Body, we are committed to seeing many, many more people walking and cycling. Have no doubt we are pushing forward!