Council crusade for 'normal' cycling

CYCLING CRUSADE: The Christchurch City Council aims to make cycling the normal way in which to commute to and from work.
CYCLING CRUSADE: The Christchurch City Council aims to make cycling the normal way in which to commute to and from work.

A team of Christchurch City Council staff is planning a subtle crusade to get "Mr and Mrs Average" to bike to the corner dairy.

They want parents to ride to school with their children - and grandparents, too.

Forget Lycra-clad commuters, the council is focusing on the non-cyclist.

Christchurch's 13 new cycleways will form a $68.3 million network and, following consultation, are scheduled to be constructed in the next five years.

Michael Ferigo, a council transport planner, said a lot of work had been done "at staff level" developing and planning the alignments of different routes.

Council education programme manager Anne-Marie Kite said a biking culture needed to be created.

"We have got a culture . . . that the roads are for cars. That's not only the culture we have had, but it's also how the infrastructure has worked," she said.

"There is a big barrier out there - people's perception of cycling being unsafe. The [education] programme will increase as cycleways increase."

Ferigo said change would be "gradual", but the council's $68.3m investment meant it would happen. In the past, cycling had "piggy-backed" on the back of other transport projects.

"I think it has been accepted in a lot of Western countries that cycling has been neglected compared to the emphasis on the motor vehicle."

Not any more.

Ferigo said Christchurch was experiencing a "watershed" period in terms of raising cycling's priority in transport planning "that's not going to come around again".

The city was in a prime position to encourage more cycling, with workplaces relocating across the city post-quake, upsetting people's usual routines.

Kite said the council was keen to work with businesses and government departments when they moved into the CBD.

Her team hoped to advise businesses new to the CBD on how facilities, including cycle stands and showers, could encourage more staff to ride to work.

The council was also building on its school cycle-safety programme, which had been running for 15 years.

But facilitating behavioural change required "more than just handing out pamphlets".

"Behaviour is often embedded habits. We're giving people the information and the opportunity to have a go and then it's their choice," she said. "They have got to see that it suits their lifestyle."

The Press