Cycle lanes three-year delay 'gutting'

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 08:45 26/03/2014
Cycling chick
JOSEPH JOHNSON
DELAY DISAPPOINTS: The Christchurch City Council wants to delay the construction of the cycleways network by three years.

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The Christchurch City Council is back-pedalling on its promise to deliver the city a new $69 million network of cycleways within five years.

The previous council committed to building 13 major cycleways criss-crossing Christchurch by 2018 but the new council is proposing pushing out that delivery date by three years.

The revised timeframe is included in the council's draft 2014/15 Annual Plan and is one of a raft of deviations from the Three Year Plan (TYP) the new council is proposing so that it can balance its books and keep this year's rate rise at the projected level of 6.5 per cent.

PROPONENTS DISAPPOINTED

Proponents of the cycleway network are worried it could be the first of many slippages in the project's delivery.

Former city councillor Aaron Keown, who led the push last year to get the $69 million programme on the council's books, said he was disgusted it was being pushed out.

He had originally pushed to have the cycleways all built within three years and to now hear it would take eight years was "gutting".

Keith Turner, chairman of the cycling lobby group Spokes Canterbury, said the group appreciated that the council was in a difficult financial position but it would be disappointing if the network took longer to complete than the promised five years.

"Spokes' position is we would like to see it built as soon as possible," Turner said.

"I think the need is there and the demand is there but it is just getting that translated into action isn't it?"

CITY CITES ADVICE FROM HOLLAND

Council acting general manager, city environment, Terry Howes said practical delivery considerations rather than budgetary factors were behind the proposed time extension.

The previous council had made the decision to include money for a cycleway network in the TYP quite late in the process and it had become clear in the intervening months that delivering all the projects within the specified five- year timeframe was not practical.

The council was not talking about simply painting lines on a road. Its goal was to deliver a level of service above the standard that had been used for the construction of existing cycleways in Christchurch in the hope it would encourage the 30 per cent of the community who had indicated they would consider cycling if it was safer, to get on their bikes.

It needed to consult communities about routes, possibly acquire some land, and make changes to kerb lines and intersection layouts.

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Howes said expert advice the council had received from the Netherlands suggested it needed to take its time and get it right.

"We want to make sure that what we deliver is the best possible and that is going to take us a bit longer [than five years]. We're just trying to be realistic - we want to to do it, but we want to do it right," he said.

BASIC PLANNING HAS TAKEN A YEAR 

Dr Glen Koorey, a senior lecturer in transportation at Canterbury University who is helping the council with the cycleway network programme, said it had taken almost a year just to get the basic planning and designs standards worked out.

"I'm hopeful it could still happen in a shorter timeframe than eight years but I can appreciate it could be a challenge ," Koorey said. "It is important we end up with good-quality infrastructure."

Council environment committee chairman Cr Phil Clearwater said he was comfortable with the decision to stretch out the work on the cycleway.

- The Press

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