This National led Government is strong on providing greater choice for New Zealanders (or so they claim) but when it comes to transport, it seriously fails. Under this Government the preferred mode of transport is cars and each budget ensures that it remains so.
While I do drive a car and appreciate well maintained roads, the $12 billion dollar obsession with building motorways of dubious benefit is a concern. When I travel overseas and experience sophisticated European cities I become aware of how limiting New Zealand is for those who wish to cycle, walk or use public transport. In the 1970's Holland decided that they wanted towns that were safe for children and all cyclists and ensured that separate cycle paths were built, well removed from motorized transport.
In the 1950's cycling was the most common form of transport for getting to work in Invercargill and it was actually cyclists who forced the City Council to properly surface all the streets in the city.
Esk Street, Invercargill 1950s
The Tour of Southland cycle race is the longest running cycling event in New Zealand, our velodrome is an internationally recognised facility and yet it is probably not safe for a 10 year old child to cycle to school. We do have cycle lanes painted on roads, but a painted line is no protection from opening car doors or inattentive drivers. Only 23% of all accidents involving bicycles is the fault of the cyclist according to national research. Since 2008 we have had almost 1,000 cyclists seriously injured and 53 deaths, most of which could have been prevented with properly designated cycle lanes.
With one million New Zealand adults now deemed obese we need to have a serious look at how we live our lives. Children are now brought up to think that a car is the logical way to travel short distances and one of the busiest times on our roads is when children are being delivered and picked up from school. Making cycling safe and convenient will remove large numbers of cars from our roads, reduce the need for so many parking spaces in our cities, allow children to be more independent and make us a much healthier society. The initial expense of building proper cycle lanes will be quickly recovered from savings in health costs and a drop in the demand for imported oil.
It is a real pity that we don't have a Government that has a strategic approach to transport funding and is committed to providing real transport choices that most developed and sophisticated nations already have.