27 February, 2009

A national cycle network? In NZ? Here's hoping!

The most positive rumour I've heard for some time --- from stuff.co.nz this morning:
...a cycleway the length of New Zealand [is] expected to be among the centrepieces of the Government’s Jobs Summit today. [The] $50 million cycleway built the length of the country.... would provide 3700 jobs and would take two years to build.
[Full Article]

Such a project would be a truly enlightened idea. Not only would it provide jobs in a flagging construction and engineering industry and be a draw-card for tourists and local cyclists, but it would be a significant step towards more sustainable transport in a country whose transport policy has recently looked more like that of 1970s USA than that of a country in the 21st C. which trades daily on a "clean green" image, yet has levels of public and active (i.e. walking, cycling, etc.) transport that are minuscule in comparison to those in, say, European countries.

The positive side effects of increasing the number of people cycling (safely and comfortably) are huge. Public health agencies estimate the savings to the health system from cycling to be about 50 cents per Km. Studies abound showing that employees who use active transport to get to work are more productive, more alert, less prone to stress, take fewer sick days, and, are more likely to arrive at work on time since they are freed from traffic problems.

Apart from the jobs and the more productive workers, the economic benefits would include points like people having more money to spend at local businesses if they can easily use their bike for shopping rather than a car. The environmental consequences of people cycling, instead of driving, can't hurt either.

Hopefully the network would be something like the Sustrans national cycle network in the UK.

This is made up of cycle lanes within towns and cities for cycle commuting and shopping, local cycle routes between nearby towns ans suburbs and then longer cycle trails across the country. The network is well signposted, similar to the way a highway/motorway network is and is a mixture of dedicated cycle paths and cycle lanes alongside roads where it is safe to cycle. (That means NOT just putting some green paint along the side of SH2 North of the Wellington Motorway)

Nothing has been announced for certain (or even uncertainly) yet --- but perhaps we will hear more later today. Fingers crossed and here's hoping!