A Little Lockdown Dream to 'Tall Poppy' Porirua in to a Cycle Centric City

Over lockdown we kept having these visions of how Porirua would be if there was less car traffic and more cycle traffic. It was easy to imagine because there weren't cars on the roads and cycling felt safe and there was no noise pollution. It was great!

Picture drop off and pick up points around the town centre and suburbs, and cycle paths connecting it all like a beautiful big dot to dot. The CBD all grassed and shrubbed to become a mini 'Central Park' type area with all of the great eateries like The Little Goat, Tuk Tuk Thai and Cobb & Co spilling out on sunny days to a beautiful outdoor green space. And then when customers had finished their meal they'd ride or walk off home and it would be easy and fun and much more car-traffic free. Can you feel it?

And Porirua's getting there. Have you noticed the cycleways going in and hopefully the Adventure Park will boost the cycling profile even further. It's some great progress we're seeing. Good cycling infrastructure attracts people from out of town to visit too. Reports from Hastings indicate that visitors are being attracted to the area because of its cycling opportunities and many local businesses are reporting significant growth. Apparently, after it built a cycling network, New Plymouth saw a 35 per cent increase in cycling between 2006 and 2013, and increases in the numbers of people commuting by bike on shared pathways were reported in excess of 50% which is great for both visitors and locals alike.

Incredibly, the number of people In Wellington and Auckland, cycling during peak hours grew by approximately 40% and 22%, respectively, between 2007 and 2012 according to Statistics NZ. 76% of people in Wellington over 18 say they would consider cycling for recreation, errands or commuting if safe, separated infrastructure was provided and Gen Y New Zealanders (aged 15 to 35) want to increase their travel by cycling more than by any other mode. According to NZTA across NZ, cycling is the 3rd most popular recreational activity with 24.8% of adults participating in it.

In countries with high-quality cycling infrastructure such as Germany and Denmark, over 10% of all trips by over-65s are by bike, and in the Netherlands, 24% of all trips by over-65s are made by bike. Even with Dutch people aged 80-84, over 20% prefer their bike to other transport modes. And cycling saves people money that they can then go on to spend in their local communities. With no fuel, registration, warrant of fitness and parking costs, and much lower purchasing, maintenance and insurance costs compared to operating a car, people who cycle have more money to spend on other things. Four and a half years after the implementation of bike lanes in a retail area of San Francisco, 66 percent of merchants believed that the bike lanes had had a generally positive impact on their business and/or sales. Similarly, when Salt Lake City removed a third of car parks from nine blocks of a main shopping street and improved footpaths and added bike lanes, retail sales increased by 8.8 percent in the first six months.

Evidently retailers often overestimate the number of people who have driven to their stores. A study in Wellington showed that only 6% of shoppers on Tory Street were using the car parks along that street. Retailers also overestimate the contribution of car parks to their business. An Australian study found that switching one car park to six bike parking spaces could create an increase in retail spend related to that space, from $27 per hour to $97.20 per hour.

If nothing else is going to swing it for you and sell you on the cycling life then perhaps it's the overall health benefits. Evidence shows that New Zealand communities with higher numbers of people cycling and walking, especially for transport purposes, have better health profiles than those in less active neighbourhoods. Studies by the British Heart Foundation say cycling just 32 km per week reduces the risk of heart disease to less than half, compared to people who don’t exercise. A study for British Cycling found that if people in urban England and Wales cycled and walked as much as people do in Copenhagen, the National Health Service could save around £17 billion within 20 years.

Two large Copenhagen studies cited by the World Health Organisation found that people who regularly commuted by bicycle for three hours per week had 28 percent less chance of dying of any cause compared to people who didn’t commute by bicycle.

We are all about getting more bums on bikes and are involved with NZTA initiatives such as Bike Ready and Bikes in Schools but ideally it would be great to see lots more bums on bikes and a cycle-centric Porirua vision may just become a reality!

Excerpts from NZTA 'Benefits of Cycling' Booklet

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