Election Promises for Cycling – How do they Compare?

Who are you going to vote for?
Who are you going to vote for?

We’re only one week away now from the next General Election. For some (like my wife), they can’t wait until it’s all over; for others (like me), I still feel like I’m waiting for the actual substance of policy debate to begin. (but since when has that ever been a priority with modern-day media…)

So who to vote for? Well obviously that depends on what’s important to you, and I won’t pretend to tell you how to make that decision. But, being a website dedicated to considering cycling in Christchurch, it seemed worthwhile to see how the various political parties provided for cycling and related aspects of the Christchurch rebuild in their policies.

So, in alphabetical order, here goes:

  • ACT – The fact that ACT has a policy on Roads (not Transport) perhaps says it all (no mention of cycling that I could find). I suppose you could argue that their push for more tolling and road pricing might have the effect of shifting some more people to cycling (and keep more money in the pocket of those that bike). Being the party for minimal Government expenditure, I quite liked the cheeky approach they took to promised cycleway spending from other parties – just change the helmet law and you’d also get a notable increase in people cycling.
  • Internet – The Internet Party don’t seem to have any particular policies around cycling, although (as you might expect for a tech-savvy group) they do have an interesting online “policy incubator” for its members to discuss potential policy ideas, including transport. Whilst their Environment policy features some discussion about the potential of “smart transport”, oddly walking and cycling never rate a mention (although their Christchurch Rebuild policy at least talks about cycleways in the mix).
  • Labour – Labour have plans to put more priority on cycling (and walking & pub.trpt) if they get elected, by shifting funds from some of the Roads of National Significance projects. The policy is a bit vague on exactly how much more that will be, but they have undertaken to “ensure that future roading projects will make provision for cycling”, “make cycle and pedestrian safety a priority and ensure that legislation, the road code and by-laws are made sufficient to protect all road users”, and “introduce new safety zones across suburbs and towns during school commuting hours, to help facilitate safe cycling and walking to and from school.” Labour also recently unveiled a plan to introduce commuter rail for Christchurch, including connecting walkways and cycleways.
  • Mana – The Mana Movement’s transport policy is fairly sympathetic towards sustainable transport, including promoting “the use and development of walkways and cycle lanes wherever possible”, although it seems to be mostly focused on public transport. Not much detail beyond that though.
  • National – As the lead Party in the current Government, National’s record over the past two terms could be taken as evidence of their support (or otherwise) for cycling (e.g. massive expenditure on motorways, NZ Cycle Trails, CERA’s support of cycle-friendly Chch central city transport plans, etc). Their recent announcement for $100 million extra spending on urban cycleways certainly raised the stakes, although the cynical might say that it was about six years late in coming. Most of their focus has been on the National Roads of Significance (including the Christchurch motorways), although recently they have also thrown some lollies at improved roads in other regions.
  • NZ First – NZ First”s transport policy is led by former Chch City Councillor and now MP Denis O’Rourke, who oversaw the development of significant sustainable transport plans at Christchurch City. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, they “seek to increase funding for well-designed cycling and walking commuter routes in the cities, and to/from schools and tertiary institutions” and will “require the NZTA to develop a National Safer Cycling Strategy aimed at reducing the number of serious cycling accidents”. NZ First also indicate strong support for public transport and railways as well.
  • United Future – United Future has quite a number of interesting specific proposals relating to cycling in their transport policy, including encouraging “greater use of cycling and walking as alternative transport methods, through better cycle lanes and walking paths in urban/suburban areas and in the countryside”, encouraging Councils to “increase off street parking spaces and remove on street parking to make room for better cycling infrastructure” and to “introduce bike share schemes in order to increase use of cycling in inner cities”, as well as initiating “a full review of the effects (negative and positive) and the overall benefit of the compulsory helmet law”.
Parties would do well to remember how many people ride a bike AND are eligible to vote...
Parties should remember how many people ride a bike AND can vote…

Note: nothing specific regarding cycling was found for the Conservative and Maori Parties, nor any other minor parties. The exception was the NZ Independent Coalition, whose Policy Platform wants to encourage electric cycles, begin developing cycle programmes in areas that are potentially high cycle use areas, and provide for safer routes to schools for children to cycle.

So there you have it; as you might expect a range of policy positions, from virtually nothing for cycling through to a dramatic improvement in provision. It has to be said though that many of the major players have stepped up and provided quite a bit more thought about cycling this time, compared with previous elections; a sign that the topic has become more mainstream (or at least cycle safety has become more topical…).

If you want some other thoughts from a cycling perspective, our colleagues at the Cycling Advocates Network and Cycle Action Auckland have also run their rule across the various party policies and made their own assessments.

A final word – DO VOTE! The beauty with MMP is that there are few wasted votes; your decision does influence the make-up of the next parliament. Personally, if you don’t vote, I don’t feel like you can complain about much for the next three years. So have your say, on or before next Saturday 20th!

Why not bike to your polling station (c/ Bike To Vote)
Why not bike to your polling station? (c/ Bike To Vote)

What are your thoughts about the Christchurch/cycling policies of the main parties?

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