Editorial: Cycling increase is welcome news

Last updated 12:46 28/03/2014

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Cycling up 26 per cent in Nelson

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Editorial

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Confirmation that we are cycling more than ever in this region is encouraging news - and should be especially welcomed by motorists.

The more our local councils build facilities catering for two-wheelers, the greater the numbers that will use them. This in turn means: extending the life of existing road facilities, including parking; reducing peaktime traffic snarls; potentially healthier and happier people - assuming they avoid accidents with vehicles, pedestrians, car doors, wandering animals or other cyclists - and citizens generally in closer connection with their community.

Latest census figures show a staggering 26 per cent rise in people biking to work in Nelson compared with the 2006 census.

In Tasman, where distances are often greater and the council has been a bit slower out of the blocks in creating dedicated cycling lanes, the increase was less than half Nelson's at 12 per cent and only three-quarters of the national average rise of 16 per cent.

In both local council areas, the numbers of people travelling to work by car rose by very low single figure percentages.

The figures support policy decisions to build better cycling infrastructure - even if some cyclists seem to bloody-mindedly refuse to use them in preference to riding on adjacent highways.

The increase in cycling gives some credence, too, to the Green Party's push for a greater share of government transport spending for cycling.

The Greens' cycling policy calls for government investment of $50 million a year nationally over four years so that more children can walk and cycle to school safe from traffic.

The party claims New Zealand can secure up to $20 of health and roading "decongestion" benefits for every dollar invested in safe walking and cycling.

Few would disagree that cycling is an activity to be strongly encouraged, with few downsides.

There has been too much focus on the negative views of a few petrol-heads who delight in moaning about lycra-clad backsides, fluoro-shirts, red-light jumping pedal-pushing cowboys and lane-blocking pelotons adding seconds to delayed motorists' journeys.

The way to reduce the criticism is to increase the production of dedicated cycle infrastructure, reduce the "pinch points" forcing cyclists to swerve into roads - and then develop strategies to make it more likely the majority will use it.

The vulnerability of cyclists is often highlighted and of course it is encumbent on all road-users to have regard for the safety of others.

However, it is interesting that despite the surge in numbers of cyclists they continue to have a very low presence in the road toll stats.

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Last year, there were nine "pedal cyclists" among the national fatalities toll of 296, compared with 32 pedestrians and 43 motorcyclists.

While the potential for disaster is very high given cyclists' lack of protection, the number of deadly encounters with cars is rare.

- Nelson

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