One of the unsung but more useful documents that the City Council prepare each year is a Residents’ Survey. Designed to measure resident use of and satisfaction with Council services and activities, it provides a useful snapshot on what local residents think about what the city has to offer. And that includes a useful insight into what people think about cycling in Christchurch
So how does it work? Each year about 800 residents aged 15 years or over are contacted and answer a series of questions about their use of Council services and activities (e.g. libraries, festivals, rubbish, roads). The questions are particularly designed to see how well the Council is achieving its community objectives as expressed in its Long Term Plans. Although 800 people doesn’t sound like a lot in a city of over 300,000, statistically the survey is likely to produce results within +/- 4% of how the overall population would respond.
So how does cycling fare? There were two key questions asked under the “Active Travel” part of the 2012 Survey:
- Firstly, participants were asked “Overall, how much do you agree or disagree that Christchurch is a cycle friendly city, by which I mean cyclists being able to safely and conveniently travel around the city by cycle?” Currently 42% of respondents agree or strongly agree that Christchurch is a cycle-friendly city, with 41% disagreeing and 14% neutral. I guess you could say that this is a reasonable base to start from, although the target in the Long Term Plan is actually ≥50% agreeing. 50% doesn’t seem a terribly ambitious target, but then it was developed prior to the pro-cycling feedback from Share an Idea. So hopefully they might look at increasing the target in next year’s Long Term Plan to reflect the latent demand expressed for cycling?
- Next, participants were asked “How often have you cycled on a public road in Christchurch in the last 12 months?” It is quite encouraging to read that 51% of respondents have cycled in the past year and more than a third did so at least once a month. Remembering that this survey doesn’t include under-15s (who are usually even more keen to hop on a bike) and we are talking about over 150,000 residents who would typically cycle in Christchurch in a year (with about half that typically cycling at least once a week). Cycling is often portrayed as a very minor component of transport in Christchurch (e.g. ~6% commuters, ~3% of all trips), so it is useful to know that more than half of the city’s residents have some recent experience of cycling.
The survey also helpfully provides breakdowns by age and gender. It is perhaps not surprising that younger people (who are more likely to cycle too) were more inclined to consider Christchurch a cycle-friendly city (e.g. 63% of 15-24 yr-olds agreeing). Only 29% of women, often the “indicator species” for good cycling in cities, had cycled in the past month compared with 45% of men, and similarly they were less likely to rate the city as cycle-friendly.
The verbatim comments from participants also provide a useful insight into people’s concerns. Cycling issues were amongst the top dozen or so topics raised, with about 4% of respondents expressing concerns about cycling and cycle facilities as their top-of-mind issue. In many ways they mirrored the concerns and wishes expressed last year during the Share an Idea process.
One of the purposes of these surveys is to monitor long-term trends. This is where the Canterbury earthquakes seem to have provided a notable change point. Because just prior to the quakes in early 2010 the Residents’ Survey had 54% of respondents agreeing that the city was cycle-friendly, more than twice the “disagrees”. Hmm, perhaps there is some concern with post-quake efforts on the cycling front (cycle lane closures anyone?)…