I heard the front page story from yesterday’s Press second-hand from some guys in the tea room. I’m paraphrasing, but it went along the lines of “bloody hell. You hear about this cycle way crap? They could take all the money their going to spend on the cycle ways and buy everyone a car instead”.
I thought that sounded like an idiotic, Chinese Whispers version of the story. But alas, it isn’t:
University of Canterbury finance professor Glenn Boyle and PhD student James Hill have analysed the Christchurch City Council’s business case for the major cycleways programme and say it is “excessively optimistic”.
Boyle said the 18,000 increase in cycling trips expected as a result of the new cycleway network roughly translated into an additional 9000 people cycling. For $156m, the council could buy all those people brand new Suzuki Altos.
This is what happens when finance professors – cost of everything, value of nothing – sit down to try and analyse social projects. It’s a waste of money! It doesn’t add up! The council is wasting your money!
You could spend $156 million buying 9,000 people who might cycle a car. Did you consider what the impact of 9,000 more cars on our already congested roads might be? Did you consider that people who cycle and don’t own a car, like me, don’t necessarily want to own a car? I like getting around on a bike, I pay rates, and I shouldn’t be treated as though I’m just a wannabe car owner, biking around because I’m cheap. I’m not. I’ve made a conscious decision to ride a bike around, and shouldn’t be penalised for that because a wonk economist can’t see the financial utility in someone with different ideals and values to himself.
This is a really good post on Christchurch’s future cycling infrastructure. I don’t have a huge amount to add to it, but would suggest you read it, if you prefer your cycling analysis to be backed up by research rather than based on wild speculation and grudges against bikes:
Even if the costs have blown out to ~$160 million, a quick calculation shows that the Benefit/Cost Ratio of the total cycleway programme in Christchurch is conservatively at 7:1 – a pretty good business case in most people’s eyes … Just for comparison, the much-vaunted Southern Motorway extension ended up costing $140 million for a projected Benefit/Cost Ratio of about 2.4:1
Last week, there was a bit of a brouhaha about a tradie who sent an offensive email to a cyclist who he almost hit. The whole thing went viral, and pretty quickly led to the company getting the employee to apologise for the remark. The incident happened on the corner of St Asaph and Manchester St, which is about 100 metres from where I live. This brought the whole thing pretty close to home for me. Traffic is a nightmare in town at the moment, including works on St Asaph. I tend to avoid riding my bike down there, as what was a two lane road with space for carparks on both the left and right hand side of the road, is now reduced to one lane, with the kerb on the left and cyclone fencing on the right, meaning there is no where for a cyclist to try and get away.
Unfortunately, this happened in the week in which the City Council announced that the proposed cycleway network may be delayed for three years, which could push its completion out to 8 years away. There are reasons for this, but I think it is disappointing, as I fear that repeated delays will result in it being shelved permanently. The big issue is that the insurance companies who are paying for the repair of the horizontal infrastructure – roads and the things under them – refuse to pay for “betterment”. Therefore the roads have to be put back in the way they were pre-quake. So once all the roadworks have been completed – remember that the people of Christchurch have already suffered through 3 years of this, with at least the same amount of time to go – only then will the council be able to start with the extensive works which some of the cycleways will require. After 6 years of intense disprution, can you imagine how well any proposal to dig up the roads again might fare? Especially in the minds of motorists, who will feel that they are going to suffer for the benefit of just a few cyclists.
The council and the government need to find a way to get the cycleways introduced into the current schedule of roadworks, otherwise we will end up with a situation where they just become too hard and too unpopular. Because we can’t keep having horrible incidents like this one, where a cyclist was killed by a truck on her way to work.
This is an extraordinary letter to the Press this morning, reproduced here verbatim:
The growing demand from cyclists – a small section of the community – for exclusive rights on our roads is becoming farcical.
Car owners face a myriad of costs for the privilege of taking their cars on public roads, which have been designed since the demise of the horse and cart.
The cycling community contribute nothing and are bludgers in the grand scheme of road use. Many are a visible distraction, bordering on environmental pollution, with their multi-coloured Lycra bulging at seams struggling to contain excess body weight.
Cyclists’ call for motorists to create a 1.5 metre space when passing will cause carnage on the roads. If that measurement is taken from the outside edge of the rump, it will force many a motorist into the on-coming lane.
My advice to cyclists is to walk or take the bus and save us motorists from these pesky distractions. There are plenty of off-road tracks designated solely for cycling.
Best that cyclists use them rather than roads.
KEN LLOYD, Parklands
A couple of days ago, sometime-cycling advocate Bob Parker decided that, yes, we did need cycle ways in the rebuilt Christchurch – so much so, that we would be charged an extra $20 a year to pay for it. While I agree that an improvement in cycling infrastructure is much needed, I don’t think that this is the right way to go about it.
The council has a massive budget, and included in that is a provision for cycleways. It is not very big at the moment. We are going to have a rates increase of around 6.6%, and then an additional levy for cycling? Why is cycling the additional levy? Why are some of the other capital projects, such as the covered stadium, convention centre, cricket oval etc – all of which are controversial, I would argue more controversial than cycle ways, which were largely supported in the “Share an Idea” scheme – included in the rates bill, but cycling an additional tax? By making the cycling “tax” additional to the rest of the rates bill, it has made it incredibly easy for opponents of cycling, and opponents of rates increases to knock this down. The letters to the paper already reflect this. It’s dead in the water already, and that’s a shame.
So while the council can find money to repair the tram lines that are run by a private tourism company, we can’t find money for something that the public expressed a strong desire for. I will kind of commend the council for putting this on the table, though I think calling it a “tax” and making it solely about cyclists was such a stupid way of going about it that I almost wonder whether they wanted to sabotage the idea. The problem for the council is that CERA and the CCDU have no desire to put cycleways in, and they have all the power and all the money. We shouldn’t be blaming the council – we should be targeting our guns at CERA. The problem, as it is with many things in the city at the moment, is that because the council still has some degree of representation, that is where the debate will be.
The council – including Parker and Keown with their new-found love for cycling (must have noticed it is an election year) – should be pressuring the government, not tax their ratepayers.