Cost of pandering to cars

40bikesignAaron Keown’s remarks about cycling infrastructure adding $16 to each households rates have sparked some comment!    It is interesting that there is no analysis in this discussion of the cost per household of providing roading and maintaining roads primarily for cars.  this means that provision for cycling is seen as an added extra while provision for motorists is taken for granted and ignored.  In addition, as taxpayers we also pay per person for the maintenance of state highways and the development of new roads such as the roads of national significance.

It’s still a great pity to me that there is no detailed economic analysis anywhere of the benefits of increasing cycling in Christchurch, but we can ascertain where they might lie based on analyses done in other places, including in New Zealand.

Thinking about it purely from an individual perspective, if I pay $16 as a householder, I know I can easily save that directly by cycling just 150km in a year – which amounts to well under half a kilometre per day.  it’s actually really easy to bike 20km a day (about an hour’s easy ride for a pleb like me who rides in a skirt and is not keen to sweat heaps) and I regularly ride more than that.    If I live with a family of four and we all bike places, and if I can let my kids bike because it becomes safe for them to do so, then imagine the petrol savings alone would save heaps. The cost of parking adds to this.  As a regular cyclist I”m quite annoyed that I have no choice but to subsidise car users in places like my local shops where the parking is (apparently) free but where the costs of what I purchase there include the costs of providing free parking.  On top of this, if enough people cycle then I will not have to pay as much as I do now in my rates and taxes towards maintaining and developing roads.

As well as these savings, as a regular cyclist, I don’t feel the need to go to the gym and sit on a stationary bike, I seldom go to the Doctor and seldom get sick and apparently the research indicates that my concentration levels are greater than if I did not exercise regularly.  If others become regular cyclists then the benefits of having less congested roads, less stressed fellow road users and lower health costs through my taxes.  It is clear for example that sitting still and not exercising is very bad for your health and that turns out to be a cost to us all.

We also know that cycling and pedestrian facilities make places much more attractive to people.  In a city that is worried about the diminishing numbers of young people, we need to think about what attracts them and this researcher indicates that it is the quality of place that is most important to this group.

Of course, this is not the reason I ride a bike!  I bike because it is fun, easy and a lot less frustrating than driving a car – particularly around the many closed roads that we have in Christchurch at the moment.  but, the way I see it,  $16 is not a big deal given what I can save if cycling becomes even safer and more fun than it already is given the savings it can make for us all.  It is also likely that  $16 extra spend this year may mean many less dollars spent on roads and economic development in coming years.


6 thoughts on “Cost of pandering to cars”

  1. Hear hear! Mind you, I’m still trying to crunch their numbers because $16 x ~150,000 households x 2 years definitely doesn’t equal $69m! Maybe they meant $16 per PERSON over a 10-year Plan period? That would get us there…

  2. Your comments seem far too intelligent for a person from this car loving, helmet enforcing nation, are you an expat? As a young person ( technically, but I certainly dont feel it ) who has moved to Munich, Germany to enjoy the very things you mention – pedestrian and cycle friendly with a great rail network, cobbled streets in place of american big box stores I can’t agree more with what you say. I can only see Christchurch going down hill as more and more people want to move elsewhere. My family feels so much safer at home now, walking and bicycling very much kids to school ect ( everyone without helmets, of course ) and as those who value these things leave, the desire for change dies. Good luck and best wishes.

    1. I am not really sure that Christchurch is going downhill. Yep there are still real challenges, certainly in people’s personal lives. And have I to admit that Christchurch can still appear (dare I say it) a bit parochial at times but in my opinion it is a much more interesting place than before the quakes. There is GAP Filler, art on the streets, a new vibrant restaurant and brew pub scene, there are exciting ideas like the Avon River Park or the Coastal Path way and many people engage (however not always listened to) in the debate on how to make Christchurch a great place to live in.

      I was actually pleasantly surprise that almost 60% of people in the poll indicated that they were in favour of a rate increase if that would mean that a serious cycling network could be built. Any rate rise seems to be highly controversial, so I thought it was not a bad score. The poll is hopelessly unscientific of course but again many people expressed their desire for a safe cycling and comprehensive cycling network even if if it means that they will have to pay for it. I am sure ACC can do a very generous first donation towards this network as it would save them heaps of money.

  3. Perfectly put . You do have to give to to Cr Keown though , he can stimulate a debate like no other . It just seems crazy that despite the obvious benefits so many of the population just don’t yet get it . This is what decades of regular car use does to motorists , they can’t see past the windscreen or the a/c. Judging by the comments in yesterdays press website it is not surprising there is such aggressive driving on our roads . There are some angry people out there , some cyclists are angry because they fear for their lives , and some motorists because their journey is delayed by 30 sec when they have to allow for a cyclist. Crazy

  4. I’m excited to hear any progress that seems to suggest real additional investment in cycling infrastructure. The more regular cyclists there are will result in a virtuous circle of increased investment and tolerance.

    I’d also welcome more sharing of the costs and benefits. A rationale case, in addition to the anecdotal benefits, will only help win the argument against the arrogant and ignorant.

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