Cycle safe: Biking to work gains speed after decade of decline

By Martin Johnston

Auckland Transport said thousands of children and adults had been given cycle training at schools, businesses and community groups. Photo / Thinkstock
Auckland Transport said thousands of children and adults had been given cycle training at schools, businesses and community groups. Photo / Thinkstock

Cycling to work has gained popularity after a decade of declining, according to the latest census.

The national increase was slight at just under 7000 extra pedallers or 0.4 of a percentage point more than in the 2006 tally, but when considered alongside the rising number of cyclists counted in Auckland, it may mark the start of something bigger.

At least that's what cycling advocates and transport planners hope.

Auckland Transport, which commissions a 6.30am-to-9am count of cyclists each March, says the number of trips in the region increased by 9 per cent last March, compared with the same month in 2012.

Interactive graphic: NZ cycling crashes 2008-2012

"In Auckland we certainly are having a big increase in cycling uptake," said Cycle Action Auckland chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert.

She said the increase had to be attributed to Auckland Transport's free cycle-safety training and the positive public image of cycling as a healthy and enjoyable activity. It could not be attributed to improvements in roading or other cycling infrastructure, she said.

"We only had 7km of safe-cycling infrastructure built in the 2012/13 year. The official plan is to build 70 per cent of the regional cycling network by 2020. We should be aiming at 42km a year ... and the 7km wasn't even connected up ..."

Auckland Transport said thousands of children and adults had been given cycle training at schools, businesses and community groups.

Ms Cuthbert said the training and advertising campaigns on cycle safety and her group's media profile had contributed to cycling now being seen as "healthy, stylish and cool".

However, Grant Schofield, professor of public health at Auckland University of Technology, said it was likely Auckland would be below the national bike-to-work census percentage because most Aucklanders lived more than 5km from their work and few people were willing to commute more than 5km by bike.

New Zealand had a long way to go in encouraging cycling, he said.

"The overall rate [of cycling to work] is so far from any other livable city in the world that it's a joke."

In Copenhagen, Denmark, 30 per cent of trips were by bike, he said.

Auckland Transport media manager Mark Hannan said: "I haven't been to Copenhagen but a colleague has worked there and says geographically it is very different to Auckland ... very flat with wide streets and footpaths."


Read more stories in our Cycle Safe series here.

- NZ Herald

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