Cycleways get $100m more in pedal power

Cycling advocates are celebrating the Government's plan to pump up funding for urban cycleways by $100 million for the next four years.

Prime Minister John Key launched the urban cycling initiative on the Petone foreshore yesterday, chosen because a proposed upgrade of the Petone to Ngauranga Gorge cycleway would be one of the first projects to be considered by a new urban cycleway investment panel.

The panel, to be made up of representatives from central and local government, would advise the Government on where, when and how to speed up development of city cycleways, helping to connect existing routes, as well as expanding the network.

"Everyone knows the health and traffic congestion benefits cycleways can deliver," Key said.

"Many people cite safety concerns and the lack of infrastructure as the reasons for not cycling. I think we can say that there's also been some underinvestment in the cycling facilities in urban areas."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the move would help to address the "major government underspend on cycling facilities in recent years" and showed that most political parties realised the importance of improving cycling infrastructure.

"This is particularly welcome in Wellington, where we have a number of projects close to being ready and some really significant developments being planned with the potential to transform the cycling network, including the Great Harbour Way, Middleton Rd, and our strategic cycling network."

Wellington City Council recently opened Ara Tawa, the shared pathway through Tawa to Porirua, and was publicly consulting about sections of a proposed cycleway from the central city to Island Bay.

Cycling Advocates' Network spokesman Patrick Morgan said the new funding was "a step in the right direction" and significant because it was not coming out of existing land transport budgets.

Increasing cycleways reduced congestion and gave people more transport options, he said.

Yesterday's funding announcement would double annual cycling spending, but he believed it needed to treble to about $75 million a year, as called for by more than 3500 people who made submissions as part of the "On Yer Bike" campaign on the Government's draft policy statement on land transport funding.

Nationwide youth organisation Generation Zero agreed, saying the funding boost contrasted with the Green Party's recently announced transport policy, which proposed to increase the budget to at least $100m a year.

"Some councils, such as Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch, have already majorly boosted council funding for cycleways, so it's time to get building as a top priority," spokesman Sudhvir Singh said.

Automobile Association motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said the extra investment would benefit all road users by making cycling safer in urban centres and reducing congestion.

The Dominion Post