Aaron 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.