Keown calls for $16 per home to fund cycleways

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013
Aaron Twemlow
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ

ON HIS BIKE: Christchurch cyclist Aaron Twemlow has experienced first-hand the dangers of cycling in Christchurch.

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aaron keown
Christchurch City Councillor Aaron Keown

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If Christchurch is to become a city for cyclists, the city council should spend the $69 million needed to create a city-wide cycleway network.

That is the view of Cr Aaron Keown, who says that if the council is serious about turning Christchurch into the Amsterdam of the South Pacific, it needs to put its money where its mouth is.

He said number crunching by council staff showed that if ratepayers were prepared to accept an extra 1 per cent increase in their rates, the network could be funded and built within two years.

"The average household in Christchurch pays $1600 a year in rates, so a 1 per cent rate increase is an extra $16 a year," Keown said.

"If the people of Christchurch really want a cycle network, are they prepared to pay an extra $16 a year for it?"

Keown and the other members of the city council's environment and infrastructure committee last week considered a report that suggested the council give priority to just six of the 13 cycleway projects they have identified as key factors in getting more people cycling.

The top six have been collectively costed at $25.2m, but less than half of them are likely to receive council funding in the near future.

Keown, who has in the past called cycling uncool and suggested people will not take it up as long as they have to strap "ugly helmets" to their heads, does not believe that is good enough.

He wants funding found for not only the top six, but also for the other seven cycleway projects staff have proposed.

They would cost another $43.4m to build, bringing the total cost of the network to nearly $69m.

Keown, who has just taken up cycling again after years of relying on a car to get around, acknowledged it was a lot of money, but if there was public support for more cycleways, the council should push ahead and build them all now.

"I'm not one for having a bob each way," Keown said.

"I think you do it all and do it well, or you don't bother."

Clare Simpson, chairwoman of cycle advocacy group Spokes, said the city council had to step up.

It promoted itself as a pro-cycling council and spoke of the need to be bold, but so far it had not backed up its words with action.

She said if Christchurch had an extensive cycleway network, it was likely that many of the people who said they wanted to cycle but did not feel safe on the roads would get on a bike.

"What cycling needs is a real champion from amongst the councillors to propel this issue and get the funds," she said.

Today is national Go By Bike Day.

CYCLISTS DISAGREE OVER RISKS

Aaron Twemlow knows all too well the risks cyclists face on Christchurch roads.

The Hillsborough 38-year-old was cycling home from work when a motorist at a give-way sign drove into him, knocking him off his bike. He landed awkwardly and tore the ligaments in his hand.

Despite needing reconstructive surgery and eight months off work, Twemlow still braves the traffic each day to make the 10-kilometre commute from his home to his job at the Chain Cycle shop in Riccarton.

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He said the worst thing about cycling in Christchurch was having to deal with stressed-out drivers who cut corners and opened car doors without looking.

"There are a lot of angry drivers out there," Twemlow said.

But Egyptian-born Mohamed Edris, who has cycled in many places around the world, said Christchurch cyclists had little to complain about.

An engineering student at the University of Canterbury, Edris cycles regularly and said he felt safe on the city's roads.

"Cycling here is very easy."

Latvian Raitis Baukavs has lived in Christchurch for three months and had found the roads safe to cycle. "It's not as good as in places like Amsterdam, but compared to places in Eastern Europe it is very easy to get around. I haven't had any problems and I've been cycling all over the place," he said.

Another cyclist, Sally, who declined to give her surname, said she had been cycling in Christchurch for about 45 years and was aware of the potential dangers.

She felt cyclists were too ready to blame motorists for the challenges they faced when often they were at fault. "A lot of cyclists are very arrogant."

PROPOSED CYCLEWAYS

The 13 cycleways proposed for Christchurch and their costs:

The University of Canterbury route, which runs from the university to the central city. Cost: $1.9 million.

The Grassmere route, from the Northlands Shopping Centre to the central city. Cost: $3m.

The Little River route, from the city through to the start of the Little River Rail Trail. Cost: $2.7m.

The northern rail route, which extends and upgrades the northern and southern sections of the off-road rail pathway from Factory Rd in Belfast, with a link into South Hagley Park, to the central city. Cost: $6.7m.

The Avon River route, which connects New Brighton to the central city by the river corridor. Cost: $4.2m. The Sumner to city route. Cost: $6.7m.

The western orbital route, which tracks around the suburbs from Hoon Hay through Middleton, Upper Riccarton, Bryndwr and Papanui. Cost: $8.6m.

The Hornby rail route, which runs from Templeton to Addington and connects with the northern railway route at Hagley Park. Cost: $12.6m.

The Halswell to city route, which follows Halswell and Lincoln roads to South Hagley Park. Cost: $4.2m.

The Heathcote River-Heritage Trail route, which follows the river to Ferrymead. Cost: $3m.

The south to city route, which runs along the foot of the Port Hills and links with the Heathcote River route. Cost: $2.9m.

The Heathcote Rail Route, which primarily uses the rail corridor to travel through Woolston, Opawa, Waltham and Sydenham into the city centre. Cost: $7.8m.

The Christchurch International Airport route, which provides a link to the airport and its wider employment and business areas. Cost: $4.3m.

- The Press

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