Christchurch Council’s Commitment to Cycling fails the ‘Sniff Test’

ghost bike

Another recent example of government failing us has been much in the news lately with a tragic death illustrating why inadequate cycling infrastructure and the entrenched culture of motor vehicle focused law and bureaucracy must not be allowed to continue.

Christchurch’s major cycleways projects were originally to be delivered in three years, then five, now eight. Some people thought that this was not OK. With the recent tragic death a whole lot of people are saying very loudly that this is not OK.

Council has not leapt into action. Creative ways to make the system work on behalf of the community have not risen to the surface. The previously planned delay to the major cycleways projects has not been lifted.

Some delay is to be expected. There are lots of i’s to dot and t’s to cross. There is planning to be done, land to be purchased, opposition to be overcome (Often by people frightened that a cycle way along their back fence will attract ‘undesirables’ or merchants unwilling to lose their publicly funded on street parking.)

Sadly our new city council seems to have fallen under the legalistic/bureaucratic sway of the entrenched way of doing things. That it has only taken about six months for our representatives to be co-opted into the inertia of business as usual speaks volumes for how much they need our support to maintain perspective.

CCC’s media release of 4.4.14 heralds that some progress will be made, $1.78 million spent. OK, let’s think about this. CCC will spend roughly $300 million this year on roading infrastructure and operations. The major cycleways projects will get just over one half of a tenth of a percent of that. If the entire $68.9 million is spent over 8 years, and there is no increase in roading spending, CCC will be allocating a mere 2.3% of road spending to the cycleways projects per year.

Could it be that the inertia of the business as usual entrenched bureaucratic culture at CCC is more focused on delivering roading for motorised vehicles? Even 99.44% more focused? Of course, delivering motorised transport solutions is what they have been doing for ages. It’s what they do.

No Cycles

Whose job is it to steer them onto a new course? It is the job of the Mayor and Councillors to hear and respond to the public. It is their job to make sure that staff, through the city manager, get the message and produce what is required in a timely fashion.

With CCC management busy scrabbling to secure their positions now that Tony has finally gone they may be more open to pleasing the Council by responding effectively. With ongoing accusations questioning staff competence the opportunity to prove their worth may also be attractive. One could hope.

But there are other obstacles. The sweetheart rebuild contract the last Council signed with Quake Czar Gerry to fund unaffordable and not particularly popular anchor projects sucks money and staff resources away from where the public would like to see them applied. Add to that central government’s love for pork barrel roading projects and prioritising cycling infrastructure carries political risks. The Mayor and Council will need strong community support to overcome these. That is our job, to keep the pressure on to do what is needed, now.

Some easy wins could help and the quakes provided us with them. Quoting Leo de Jong a Dutch transport planner working with CCC “There is so much potential here. …it is a chance, an opportunity to transform the transport network and if you don’t grab it now you probably never will.”

car crush

CERA insists on replacing things as they found them, no betterment such as quality cycle infrastructure for Christchurch unless CCC is willing to design and pay for it. So far CCC has opted not to. Yet, this is the opportunity to shine the Council so desperately needs.

Unlike the major cycle routes there is no land to buy just work with the road widths at hand and design them to suit the needs of the public. This will be unlikely to deliver fully separated cycle paths, but it will deliver an improved network. Build safe intersections; reallocate carriage way width to improve safety, provide plentiful cycle parking and more. Even if staff aren’t up to the task and consultants have to be hired to do the design work this is a no brainer. Working directly with the cycling community is an obvious way to help get things right.

Rather than lame media releases trying to claim victory because 2.5% of the $68.9 million cycle routes budget will be spent in the first year, Council and staff must seize the opportunity to actually overcome the bureaucratic and political obstacles that are stopping people from cycling. Business as usual will lead to more tragic deaths. We did not elect a Mayor and Councillors to listen to bureaucrats tell them why what the community wants, and needs, can’t be done.

This is where you come in. Call and write your Mayor, Councillors and Community Board members. They need to know that real pressure is coming from the voters if they are to be strong enough to stand up to the pressure coming from central government and the entrenched business as usual culture. This link provides entry into who they are and how to reach them.

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