View interactive

Bevan Woodward: Roading body stuck in a one-track way of thinking

It's not just about the cycleway. I've been campaigning for walking and cycling access on the Auckland Harbour Bridge for more than 10 years. During that time the NZ Transport Agency (and its predecessor, Transit) has strongly opposed the idea.

It has come up with all kinds of excuses, ranging from, "It's not a priority for the region", to "It's too steep and windy".

Campaigners have responded to each excuse and the Transport Agency has come back with ever grander reasons why a walkway and cycleway could not be provided. Its latest excuse is that it would significantly shorten the service life of the clip-ons, but this excuse doesn't stack up with the facts.

The honest reason why the Transport Agency doesn't want to provide walking and cycling access is because, fundamentally, it is a road-building organisation which thinks Auckland's traffic problems can be solved with more and bigger roads. The Transport Agency sees pedestrians and cyclists as a hassle they could do without.

The agency's mindset is the 1950s dream of mobility for the masses by private car and hence it sees its role as simply to maximise traffic flow. To do this its needs to use all the money it has got, in order to maximise the amount of Tarmac it can pour.

It's time for the Transport Agency to wake up to the realities and challenges of today's world. Firstly, in these tough economic times, access to low-cost transport is essential. Walking and cycling are the cheapest modes of transport.

Providing walking and cycling access on the Auckland Harbour Bridge could be the cornerstone project for improving walking and cycling in the region, much like Britomart Station has been the catalyst for the revival of Auckland's rail network and the Northern Busway for improving bus services to the North Shore.

Secondly, the Transport Agency does not recognise the importance of encouraging walking and cycling to help improve the health of the community, or the importance of reducing our exposure to vehicle pollutants. Each year more people die prematurely because of exposure to vehicle emissions than the road toll, but this is conveniently ignored.

Our transport sector is the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions in New Zealand. However, the Transport Agency has no plan or intention to reduce CO2 emissions. Even worse, it makes the perverse claim that more roading speeds up traffic and hence reduces emissions. However, the research is clear; more roading encourages more traffic, which results in significant overall increases in emissions.

Thirdly, the Transport Agency fails to understand that prevention is better than cure. The most effective way of moving large numbers of people is rapid public transport integrated with superb walking and cycling facilities.

Investment in these transport modes will simultaneously reduce our environmental footprint and free up road space for those who must drive.

Fourthly, the Transport Agency sees rapid public transport, especially rail, as competition. Take the example of the motorway through Onehunga, which the agency is expanding to an incredibly invasive and polluting 10 lanes. It makes much more sense to first provide the rapid rail access to the airport and Manukau City before expanding the motorway. A modern electrified rail network will be more reliable, more environmentally friendly and quicker than a motorway connection.

Auckland spends approximately 14 per cent of its GDP on a transport plan which is roading-dominated.

Compare this with the 5 per cent typically spent by Asian and European cities on their more balanced transport plans and it's clear that pursuing a roading-dominated transport plan is simply too expensive and doesn't provide the safe, sustainable or efficient transport system we all crave for Auckland.

So coming back to the walkway and cycleway on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, 50 years of denied access for walking and cycling are highly representative of Auckland's transport planning. In thinking about providing this access, we are forced to think about the bigger picture and long-term vision for Auckland.

This is something the Transport Agency has strongly resisted in case it means changing the way it operates.

The public march over the bridge on Sunday, May 24 is being organised as a demonstration of support for the walkway and cycleway.

But it's more than this; it is an occasion for Aucklanders to march across the bridge and say we've had enough of the previous 50 years of roading-dominated transport planning.

It's time adopt a more balanced approach that improves public transport, walking and cycling for all Aucklanders. It's time to free Auckland from its ball and chain of car-dependency.

* Bevan Woodward is a spokesperson for getacross.org.nz and works as a transport planning consultant.

- NZ Herald

Your views

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 22 Sep 2014 22:19:06 Processing Time: 330ms