Cycle lane costs rocket

The cost of Christchurch's planned new cycleway network has ballooned to more than double the original budget and could end up at $156 million.

The project is expected to take "considerably longer" than its initial five-year target, but the council says the extra money and time will provide safer off-road cycleways.

Six cyclists have been killed on Christchurch's roads in the past two years.

Cr Phil Clearwater, who chairs the council's infrastructure, transport and environment committee, said when the previous council committed in 2013 to spending $68.3m on 13 new cycleways across the city it envisaged those cycleways would largely be on-road.

Advice the new council had received from Dutch cycling experts had led to a change in the scope of the project so that all the new cycleways would be largely off-road. This was in line with best practice guidelines.

As a result of that change the cost of the network had increased to more than double the original budget, Clearwater said.

The increased cost had been factored into the council's $1.2 billion funding shortfall.

"What was planned would have been white lines and green paint on roads. What we are talking about now is new off-road cycleways," Clearwater said.

The off-road cycleways would be safer for cyclists, but they would require the council to purchase more land.

Because of that and other complexities associated with the re-worked project it was unlikely the council would be able to get the network completed within its five-year target.

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"With what we know now about the new designs, it will take considerably longer," Clearwater said.

The council intended to consult the public about its revised plans for the network and the costs as part of its Long Term Plan process.

Shirley-Papanui Community Board member and former councillor Aaron Keown, who was instrumental in getting the original budget allocation approved by the previous council, said the public was likely to "blow a fuse" over the escalating costs.

The new council had gone overboard in designing a network with all the bells and whistles, he said.

"They have been shown some other designs [by the Dutch cycling experts] that aren't applicable to our environment because we have a completely different culture here . . . and decided to go with them and the costs have blown out as a result.

"I think the whole project is gone at that amount - there will be a revolt. I'm just flabbergasted because I think this will turn the public against the cycleways."

Don Babe, chairman of cycling lobby group Spokes, said $156m was a "very large number" but anything to do with roading was costly.

"You have to look at the alternatives. If you don't spend that money and offer people alternative ways of getting around Christchurch you're going to end up with a grid-locked city and that's going to be way, way more expensive," he said.

Spokes wanted a cycleway network that people felt safe using.

"We want to get to the stage where it was like my childhood when we all biked to school. We had this great big mass of people who biked to school and got experience on cycles so if they chose to cycle later in life it was nothing new to them," Babe said.

 - The Press

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