Posts Tagged carbon dioxide

If "cycleway" was the answer, what was the question again?

As we conclude the second decade of the 21st century, let me review Dunedin’s major project of the decade, the great cycleway network. 

Background: In line with a national and international trend, increased use of bicycling was being strongly promoted by the cycling fraternity in Dunedin as a preferable alternative mode of transport to private motor vehicles.

The rationale behind the cycleway project was in three parts: a) Increasing cycling in Dunedin will help reduce the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution as our contribution to the global fight against the greenhouse effect and sea rise.

b) That the existing situation which integrates cyclists and motorists is so dangerous for cyclists that it discourages recreational cyclists from using their bikes for commuting. A safer cycleway would, in the DCC calculation, lead to 10% of residents (13,000) choosing cycling as their primary means of commuting.

c) The central SH1 carriageway should be for the passage of traffic, not for stationary parked cars. Removing the parked cars on one side of the SH1 provides ample space for a cycleway thereby safely accommodating all moving traffic. Car park buildings are a far more efficient design for parking than along the SH1 route.

I am not a cyclist (hills and weather) and consistently challenged the logic behind the project but, in the end, the politicians managed to get their ‘public consultancy’ process to agree with them and they did what they always intended to do. Now that the cycleways are well up and running right through the centre of the city it is appropriate to review. So as I recall :

In Dunedin city, the elected councillors began with a cycleway network around the southern suburbs of Dunedin city. The objective being that within ten years, 10% of residents would choose cycling as their primary mode of travel.

The next priority of this plan was to create a separated cycleway along both of the one way streets in Dunedin which are also the State Highway 1 bypass for heavy transport vehicles and cars avoiding the main street. This is now done and as a bonus the recently introduced e-scooters were allowed to share this space, a privilege denied to the mobility scooter users.

At the completion of the project (at least I hope it is the end) I would like to review the situation:

a) It is far too simplistic to put forward cycling as a solution to pollution. The Netherlands is the planet’s poster-country for cycling with a total of 16,500,000 bikes representing an exceptionally impressive 98% of population. And yet on Yale University’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index ranking  for average exposure to PM2.5 (dangerous fine particles in the air) the Netherlands ranked 152nd worst out of the 178 countries; New Zealand ranked #1 for clean air in the same survey. If our cycleway logic was based on being a contribution to the planet’s reduction in carbon in the atmosphere, then it was a pathetic gesture in the true sense of the word.

b) The need for investment in cyclist safety quoted the three cyclist deaths over the last 16 years which have occurred on the State Highway 1. Two were in collision with large trucks, one of which was at the intersection of Anzac Ave with SH1 another was a cyclist swerving to avoid a collision and the third was when a motorist mistakenly turned the wrong way at an intersection. The cycleway was proposed as the solution to avoid accidents. Three fatal accidents in sixteen years, while tragic for those involved, is hardly an epidemic; and nothing will ever prevent genuine accidents.

Subsequent to the completion of the city inner city cycleways, a 2019 survey published in the ODT 14/12/19 showed that cyclists are the largest source of vehicle accidents presenting at Dunedin Hospital ED, with e-scooters, the other user of cycleways as the second highest category. If safety was the objective, the cycleway solution has been a failure and the reason was always obvious. As with the Dunedin experience, the national statistics show that over 70% of cycling accidents occur at intersections where safety is dependent on all road users obeying the road rules.

As for the assumption that the cycleway would result in 10% of commuters (13,000 people) adopting cycling for commuting, that is as wrong as it could be. The official NZTA cycleway statistics, published in August 2019 showed: a) Great King St,  the jewel in the cycleway crown running through the heart of the university precinct, recorded a zero increase. b) The Victoria Rd cycleway, the ‘visionary’ concept of linking south Dunedin to the city by cycleway: a 7% decrease. c) Daily average cycle count in July was 130 from six different counters around the city; that of course does not account for the same cyclist being recorded on two or more of the six counters on the same day. And with all cyclists at least making a return journey, lets be generous and say there were 65 cyclists on average a day during that month.

c) The DCC observation that car park buildings are a more efficient parking option than roadside parking on SH1 may be valid, but that is purely academic since they have not built, nor do they have even preliminary plans to build, any car park buildings to replace the parking space conceded to the cycleway. The impact has only being to push commuter parking further out from the city and create a new residential parking problem. 

In summary, the Dunedin cycleway ‘project of the decade’ has made zero impact on both local and global carbon levels; has not increased use of cycling nor made it a safer option; and it has not provided more efficient parking solutions for motorists. All of these outcomes were predictable and publicly predicted at the time that we were being ‘consulted’. So as we sign off the decade, we can only ask,’if cycleway was the answer, what on earth was the question?”

, ,

1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: