Monday, August 28, 2006

Local government’s role in promoting cycling.

I have no doubt that if Local Governments in Japan were to introduce laws that compelled cyclists to behave as they do in New Zealand ( wearing helmets, riding with cars on roads and that they all had to ride mountain and road bikes) that cycling would die a swift death as it has done here.

To help cycling become established as an integral, rather than to remain as an incidental part of New Zealand's transport infrastructure, the Christchurch City Council has a natural responsibility as the Local Territorial Authority governing what has historically been New Zealand's most cycle-friendly city to take a leading role in setting precedents which can be followed by other L.T.A.s.

Setting aside funding to host promotional and educational campaigns and passing cycle-friendly by-laws to establish an environment conducive to ‘slow’ utility cycling will help the CCC realise its stated goals of increasing numbers of people taking up utility cycling while also contributing to their safety and enjoyment.

When doing cost benefit analysis, Local Government Engineers generally recognise that for every dollar spent on promoting the switch from driving to cycling, a benefit of $20 can be realised through reductions in costs such as wear and tear on roads etc, - so there is a strong economic incentive for Local Governments to get more actively involved in facilitating and actively promoting utility cycling.

New Zealand's Local Governments are required under the Resource Management Act
to be working towards achieving the goals set out in the Kyoto Protocol on reducing Greenhouse gas emissions (which in New Zealand mainly means reducing unnecessary use of carbon burning vehicles) and regardless of that, it makes plain economic sense to reduce the NZ$10 million* of imported fossil fuels that our transport sector burns through every day.

Maximising opportunities for urban commuters to take up cycling is an effective means of achieving these goals.

Despite all the good work that has been and is being done by the Christchurch City Council to facilitate cycling, there is still a lot of work that could be done to encourage people out of their carbon burners and onto their bikes.

New Zealanders under the age of 60 have no experience of seeing large numbers of cyclists in their cities and in general seem to feel inconvenienced or even threatened by their presence on the roads.
Changing the way that cycling is viewed by many as something that only kids or gung-ho twenty-something fitness freaks do on weekends by actively encouraging people to experience and enjoy for themselves the feeling of freedom and physical well-being that comes from being on a bicycle while also maintaining their awareness of other positives such as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, traffic, noise and need for parking space are things the CCC could take a leading role in.

A working party could be formed from which members could be assigned specific fact-finding tasks using the internet (no need for junkets) to communicate with those who have been involved in cycle-related policies in cities such as Kyoto , Amsterdam and Copenhagen to find out about the attitudes, practices and technologies that make cycling so popular,
Funding for the promotion and implementation of utility cycling projects could be derived from levies on cars coming into the city.

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