There was a sense of relief in the Christchurch Green Party office when word came through that the City Council changed their mind on the timeframe to complete the major cycleways project. It started off as a three year project, and then expanded to five years, then to eight years, and now it is back to five years. This is the right direction, though whether it is soon enough is debateable.
The Greens, alongside cycle advocacy and community groups, have been lobbying the Council for a greater commitment to safe separated cycleways, which means setting the budget and a timeframe to reflect cycleways as a priority.
For us, advocating for safe separated cycleways is more than a ‘nice to have’ for hobby cyclists, this is essential for kids and commuters to get to school and work safely, for those that cannot afford rising petrol prices to have a means of travelling, and for those who want to work fitness into their work days. There are so many benefits of an active community, and making sure our cyclists are safe is a necessity. The Press recently reported that in Christchurch a cyclist gets injured by a motor vehicle every three days. This is unacceptable when we know safe separated cycleways goes a long way to solving this problem.
There has never been a better time to make change in Christchurch. Think about Christchurch right now, our city roadways change every other day – we have road cones blocking-off whole lanes, detour signs, no turning arrows, no exits, no entries, basically all over the show – we have roads that change daily.
Now on the face of it, this seems like a nuisance, but what we actually have is a dynamic culture that is flexible and accepting of change. We anticipate that we might need to wriggle our way around various detours, rather than rely on the previously most direct route, we know this, we adjust and we continue. So if there were ever a time to be bold and use temporary low-cost separators to test the success of a particular cycle route, now is that time!
In New York City they did exactly this – they created safe separated cycleways through testing temporary low-cost separators, and the results were remarkable. Watch Commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan explain how they did it here.
Timing of the cycleways project is also really important in terms of behavioural change. UC Professor Simon Kingham explains that people are more likely to change transportation mode when geographically changing locations. It makes sense, if you are moving into a new office, you would evaluate what options there are for getting to work. We know we have a whole central city to rebuild and populate again, so let’s make sure we have safe cycling and public transport infrastructure in place to encourage people to make those transitions if they want to.