Editorial: Christchurch cycleways worth supporting but compulsory demolition a step too far
Cycling's popularity is booming. A bike is a great way of getting around; nowhere is that more the case than in Christchurch.
In recent years, lobbying from cycling groups and sustainable living advocates has lifted the profile of biking and encouraged investment in both new separated or marked cycleways across the city and also upgrades of existing bike paths.
One of these is the Quarryman's Trail, a $15.5 million cycleway which, when completed, will run from Halswell through Hoon Hay, Somerfield and Addington to the city's new metro sports facility. Christchurch City councillors have now approved the precise route of this track and in so doing have effectively signed a death warrant to two homes, comprising four occupied units, that stand in its way.
Cycleways are clearly an important component of the Christchurch of the future. Biking encourages healthy living, should ease congestion by taking cars off the road and can foster a stronger sense of community. However, demolishing perfectly good homes against the wishes of their owner to make way for a cycle track is absurd. One of the good things about bikes is that, with correct handling, they can actually turn corners and go around obstacles.
Even the most ardent of city cyclists would probably agree that putting bikes before homes is going too far.
Could anything make the decision to choose an option involving house demolition seem even worse? Yes it could. It appears homes are not only being put second to bikes, but actually are coming a poor third, behind car parking too.
The Quarryman's Trail is one of 13 major cycle path projects. Its approval follows what was a lengthy and fraught process between the council and locals.
The two properties which now appear under threat back on to each other, one facing Barrington St and the other the end of Roker St. The cycleway is meant to run from Strauss Pl across Barrington St at this point and then apparently through private property to link to Roker St.
While most of the 466 submissions on the cycleway supported the route, there were some who, rightly, believed that demolition would be too "extreme" a measure. One said the earthquakes had been hard enough on Christchurch people and their homes, and demolishing properties for the sake of bikes was "unethical and immoral".
Roker St residents were also against it, fearing thousands of cyclists disturbing the peace and quiet of their cul-de-sac.
The original plan was for the cycleway to run along Milton St. There would have been obvious advantages to that – it was the most direct route, no demolitions would have been necessary and it already has a marked cycle path.
But it had a drawback – it would have meant sacrificing parking spaces on the street and that would have upset local businesses. The route through people's homes agreed by council was seen as probably safer and cheaper, even with a bit of land purchase and demolition thrown in for good measure.
The council needs to think again. Knocking down wanted homes in favour of bikes is insensitive and draconian.