A complete cycling network for 34 cents a year

Cyclists and pedestrians only bridge - Copenhagen

Am I missing something?  The Christchurch Transport Plan says that there’s a golden opportunity right now to create a complete high quality cycling network in Christchurch.  The graphs in the plan show a steadily increasing spend on cycling and walking.  Yet, apart from the Southern Motorway the council’s annual plan includes only $118,000 for cycling infrastructure next year and that’s to maintain existing lanes.

How can we tell what sort of budget is really needed to transform cycling in Christchurch?  At such a low level it’s pretty obvious that there will hardly be enough cash to maintain the status quo.  But can we be more realistic as to how much is really needed to create and maintain a complete, separated cycling network throughout Christchurch?  There are at least two approaches:

  1. Look at countries or cities elsewhere that take cycling seriously and that have high quality cycling networks and see how much they are spending.
  2. Define all of the components of a good cycling network in Christchurch, cost them out, split them over say five or ten years and come up with an annual cost.

Let’s look at option one.  Maybe option two can be the subject of another post.  I’ve picked three locations around the world because of their high quality cycling infrastructure or at least an attempt to achieve it:

  • Holland.  With the highest cycling modal split in the world and one of the lowest accident rates Holland is generally recognised as the best example of how to cater for cyclists.
  • Copenhagen.  Denmark and Copenhagen in particular usually comes second after Holland in cycling modal split and has made great strides in recent years encouraging more people to cycle.
  • London.  Not in the same league as the others but cyclist numbers have increased dramatically in recent years as an effort is made to ease traffic problems and people look for ways to avoid the congestion charge of around 10 pounds a day introduced in 2003.
Cyclists and pedestrians only bridge - Copenhagen
Cyclists and pedestrians only bridge – Copenhagen

In recent years Holland has spent around 487 million Euros a year on cycling as covered on David Hembrow’s excellent blog.  That works out at about 30 Euros per person or, in NZ dollars around $48.  In Copenhagen the cycling budget for 2013 is KR75 million for new infrastructure and KR17 million for maintenance.  Working out expenditure per head is a bit harder for Copenhagen as there are some independent boroughs such as Frederiksberg which have their own budgets but a population of around 550,000 is close enough for comparison and when converted to New Zealand dollars gives an annual spend of $35.70.

Spending in London has fluctuated over the years and sometimes not all of the allocated budget has been spent.  The average annual spend in recent years has been around 100 million pounds.  With a population of eight million this converts into a per head spend in New Zealand dollars of $24.65.

While it is reasonably easy to find out what’s being spent on improving cycling facilities in Holland, Denmark, London and many other places round the world, getting at the facts in Christchurch is quite hard.  The figure of $16.1 million in the 2012/13 Annual Plan (page 49) for active transport is so all-inclusive as to be meaningless.  Fortunately Spokes has obtained a better breakdown.  This shows that, excluding the Southern Motorway, total expenditure on cycle network improvements for the 2012/13 year is $118,000 and this appears to be for “resurfacing and colour renewal”, not new tracks.  Given a population of around 350,000 this works out at 34 cents per person.

Location Cycling expenditure per head Multiple of Chch












Is it fair to exclude the $5.7 million being spent on cycling and walking facilities related to the Southern Motorway?  For several reasons I think it is and besides it is a one-off which will disappear from the budgets next year.

How can the rhetoric of the Christchurch Transport Plan’s “cycle city” become a reality when the budget for new facilities to form a complete separated cycle network is zero?  At that rate of spending the number of years we will be waiting is infinity and I won’t be around then, nor will you.  Even taking London, the lowest spender of the three examples, Christchurch needs to spend $8.6 million a year to compare.  Please tell me I’ve done my sums wrong.

4 thoughts on “A complete cycling network for 34 cents a year”

  1. Staggering numbers Jim. I am not sure how much the government will contribute for the rebuild but even if the government would be enormously generous (?) then it is still a disgrace if the council would only contribute a few cents per head. Funding of the rebuild plan is a sensitive issue which neither government or the council seem keen to elaborate on. The rebuild plan needs clear milestones and financials to underpin all the glossiness.

  2. Thanks for a clear comparison. The problem here is leadership. Ours is stuck in an autocentric past.

    The Southern motorway pedestrian and cycle elements were to be funded by NZTA, but CCC offered to fund them in order to speed up the project. No doubt they will be of use to some people, but $14 million could have been targeted to completing the cycle network and other more important uses.

    Spokes and many others submitted to the Chch Transport Plan calling for funding to be increased and prioritised now. Councillors did not appear to get the message. You can let your Councillor know your thoughts at http://www.ccc.govt.nz/thecouncil/index.aspx

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