Given the recent publicity about cycling investment it is interesting to see how Auckland stacks up to other cities in New Zealand.

The real leader at the moment is Christchurch. In June they signed off on a $69 million plan to construct a major cycleway network over the next 5 years. In the 2014/2015 year they will spend $13.5 million. Even better these will almost exclusively be separated cycleways. Earlier this year reconstruction of a major road near the University led to the construction of a great separated cycleway, see details on the excellent Cycling in Christchurch blog here.

Ilam Road
New separated cycleway on Ilam Road, Cycling in Christchurch 2013

Christchurch is also showing the way with great Cycle Design guidelines, inspired by one of the world leaders, Copenhagen. For example this is the preferred layout for major cycleway intersections, called the ‘Dutch intersection’. The work to be done in Christchurch trialling these will make it much easier for Auckland Transport to roll out these designs in Auckland.

Christchurch City Council 2013
Christchurch City Council 2013

Christchurch is not the only city boosting spending. In December Wellington City Council announced they planned to triple cycling spending from $1.3million to $4.3 million. Dunedin also boosted their cycle spend a few years ago and they plan to spend $1.9 million per year on cycling.

Well how does Auckland stack up. Here is the recent data from Auckland Transport.

  • -2011/12 – $7m (prior to 2012-15 RLTP)
  • -2012/13 – $9.967m spent
  • -2013/14 – $10.3m planned

The  Draft 2014/2015 Annual Plan was discussed at the Governing Body meeting in December, and I found a copy online. This will be open for public consultation for a month starting from January 23. Looking through the list of transport projects found these cycle projects-

Browns Road Bridge


Station Road Manurewa


St Georges St


Beach Road


Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive


Mangere safe routes


Mount Roskill safe routes


Tamaki Drive, Takaparawha Pt – Millenium Bridge


Waterview cycleway connection




Adding in the $1.5 million budgeted for New Footpaths (clearly not part of the cycling budget) gets us to the $10.4 million identified in the Regional Land Transport Plan, and similar to this years budget.

Generation Zero thought it would be useful to compare the 2014/2015 capital spending plans for these cities on a per capita basis, and came up with this graphic.


Note Auckland looks very sad compared with other New Zealand cities, and we really need to up our investment if we are serious about getting people cycling.

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  1. Do you think there are economies of scale in cycling infrastructure? If that’s the case then we might expect larger cities, which can more easily achieve scale in cycling infrastructure to have lower per capita spending.

    Also, RE Christchurch, do you guys have a feel for how much of that spending is re-building? Need to be careful of the broken window fallacy (

    In saying that, on their face, these figures are a pretty damning indictment and support my personal experience of Auckland’s cycling infrastructure being sub-standard.

    1. the $69 million in Chch is to build a new cycling network, nothing to do with the earthquake. However did come out of the share an idea campaign I believe.
      Economies of scale probably a minor issue. Sure in Netherlands where experienced at building cycle infrastructure may be bigger market.
      However cycle infrastructure uses mostly similar skills to other road works.
      Again the Christchurch and Wellington figures a both big expansions proposed for this coming year, so they don’t have economies of scale yet.

    2. I would call it “economies of skill” – as authorities get more experienced building cycling facilities, the costs drop, as you make less mistakes, spend less time on design / testing, know better how to convince opponents of the merits (and learn to accept that some people will just simply stay opposed), etc… – the finances, even for Christchurch, are tiny. It comes back to the will (not that Auckland doesn’t need more funding, but will, will, will is the important thing).

    3. The opposite is also possible. Higher populations live in higher density creating more complex traffic systems thus demanding more investment per person to achieve the same safety level

      Just a thought

  2. Looks like post – earthquake Christchurch is fighting hard to claim the “most liveable city” tag. Auckland’s advantage is that we have a fantastic waterfront with great public spaces like Queen’s wharf… wait, what?

    There is no reason why Auckland cannot be a great cycling city. Not the weather. Not the hills (which are massively exaggerated). Not the “narrow” roads. Not the isthmus geography. Not the population density. etc etc. All that seems to be lacking is the political will and public support.

    One area I would really like to see us focus on is neighbourhood cycle infrastructure. For example, people should be encouraged to cycle to the dairy for their milk, kids should be able to safely ride to their local school and commuters should be able to ride to their local train / bus stations. Cycle “highways” like the northwestern are great for keen cyclists who can handle reasonably long commutes (or for MAMILs for training) but are not really as useful for getting around day to day. This kind of infrastructure is not expensive either – just remove on street parking from one side of the road, put in a small barrier of some kind and slap on some green paint. On many streets it will be as simple as painting sharrows and putting up signs! This is an area where the local boards should really come into thier own.

    When it comes to the CBD (ie inside the motorway ring), let’s designate the routes that are there for fast ingress and egress from the city (Wellesly St, Hobson and Nelson Streets, Fanshawe St) and reclaim the rest of the city for pedestrians and cyclists by lowering the speed limit to 30km (as planned for ChCh), pedestrianising key areas (Britomart, High Street) and putting in some traffic calming measures (eg speed humps / raised crossings on Shortland St ). Streets like Victoria St / College Hill, Parnell Rise / Beach Rd, Hopetun St / Vincent St, Tamaki Drive / Quay St and Symonds St/ ANZAC Ave should be developed to allow safe and efficient use by all modes (cars, buses, bikes and walkers). Again, none of this takes a huge monetary investment, it just trakes some vision and some political will to make it happen. Given that the majority of people who live and work downtown don’t commute into the city by car, why is it that the entire downtown area is designed primarily for the few who do?

    1. Great comment Ian and bang on. That is exactly where the focus needs to be – trips of up to 5 kms. About 2/3 of trips in Auckland are 6kms or less so that is a huge proportion of the car trips made in Auckland.

      That would also let the majority of Aucklanders to access rail and busway services right now. Cycling and PT are made for each other.

  3. Why are we just trialling a single intersection treatment, of a design that has been researched and implemented successfully in other countries? It’s like the Bike Corral trial in Ponsonby. New Zealander’s, apart from driving on the other side of the road compared to the Netherlands or Denmark, are just people. We managed the change over in Give Way rules quite well. Other countries have switched driving sides altogether successfully. Why not at least trial one concurrently in Auckland? The pace is so mind numbingly slow.

  4. Nice graphic, but not the only way to look at it unfortunately. When you adjust those figures for Annual Spend Per Commuter Cyclist, I wonder what the picture would look like then. I don’t think the census transport mode data is available for another year. I suspect there are fewer commuter cyclists per capita in Auckland than in CHCH so things will look more balanced and then the nay-sayers will throw your argument in the bin. Our cycle funding is abysmal, but the argument needs to be less about shaming Auckland with a “we spend less than others” and more around “spending on cycling is win-win for everyone!!!”. I personally would never cycle for recreation or for transport, but logic dictates that cyclists take up less space on the road, do far less damage to the road, are cheaper to cater for than cars, are far less dangerous(to others), are better for the enivornment and our collective health. Spending money on cycling is win-win for everyone, including the tax-payer. It is just trying to get that message out which is the challenge.

    1. Spoken like a true traffic engineer! Measure and provide, the reverse of what we need. This kind of investment is explicitly in order to change the numbers of people cycling, not simply to provide some amenity for what ever numbers there currently are. What we invest in we encourage. So let’s invest in the best modes for our whole economy and society. As you say at the end.

    2. Why do only commuter cyclists count? What about kids going to school or sports practise? What about people choosing to bike to their local shop rather than driving to the supermarket? Does a cyclist count as a commuter if they bike to the train/busway/ferry to get to work?

      Cycling is not just about getting to work, it is about so much more including creating better communities and allowing our children some freedom to get around safely without needing to be chauffered in SUVs. As well as creating safer streets and having less people dead or injured in car crashes. Did you know that we have one of the worst rates for children dying in road crashes in the OECD?

      It is great that you see the value and logic in promoting cycling but I think your idea of what cycling can be used for is way too narrow.

      1. In our village we still don’t have a pedestrian crossing for a road that connects our kindy, playgroup and school. Not enough traffic apparently and wrong road category – even though the road leads to the beach (not exactly crucial to the economy). And just down the same road is one of Auckland’s busiest speed cameras. One kid has been hit and hospitalised at the non-crossing but not killed. We’ve had multiple meetings, letters and discussions with transport, council, police school, teaching for the kids, posters. Sometimes you don’t need the statistics when the safe obvious and reasonable thing is just bleedin’ obvious. Same for cycling. Good safe design. Stop wasting everyones time. We dont’ need more deaths or measures or reports to know what is right. Just build it properly. That pic is just obviously good safe design that would be used by more people. No meetings or reports needed.

        1. Look at Waimauku and the woefully slow process to put in a roundabout at the Muriwai Rd intersection. Even then, I understand NZTA want to put in a 2 lane roundabout as the preferred option. Oh great, more lanes for residents to cross. Oh, traffic flow. That’s right. Priority #1.

        2. Perhaps a tub of white paint, and some white stripes mysteriously appearing at night could shame the NZTA into action… Even better if they send contractors to remove them. Take photos send to the local media.

    3. Personally I think the per capita metric is quite valid, as we want cycling to be equally available to anyone who would like to bike (or bike more). While the % of people cycling in Chch is higher than in Akld, I would be surprised if the % of people who WANT to cycle given the right environment is too much different.

      Although there is about 5-6 times greater proportion of people cycle commuting in Chch compared with Akld, the greater NUMBER of people in Akld means that Chch has slightly less than twice the actual number of people cycle commuting (~5000 vs 9000/day). However Akld also appears to have a greater number of people doing other cycling (e.g. recreational). So, from the national Travel Survey data, Chch only has ~20% more cycle trips of all kinds, and the annual kms biked in Akld vs Chch are almost identical (Chch being a smaller place I guess). So even if you focus on the current amount of cycling done (not the potential), that still puts Akld in a fairly poor light.

      BTW, Census local data on Main Means of Travel to Work will be out publicly next month. Some places have already obtained their data by paying for it. E.g. Chch cycle commuting is now 7.0%, up from 6.5% last time. Some suburbs have >15%…

      1. Well, congrats to Christchurch, for raising cycling even with the difficulties of recent years. You’ll be at 10% percent overall in a few years, and 25% in some suburbs, I hope.

          1. Haha thanks Patrick.

            Yes indeed Chch has a fine history as a cycling city and I am sure will do again!

            It was certainly the biggest cycle city in the Southern Hemisphere and maybe 2 or 3 in the world. Even up to the 1980s cycling was still a mainstay of travel in Chch.

            Auckland was always held back as the single or 3-speed cycles werent really good for the topography – now though this is easily solved with high gearing and ebikes.

    4. Ari,
      Census data for commuting only covers those in paid work at the time of the census, so excludes a large majority of the Cycling population (e.g. unemployed, school and university students, retired, Mormons) who might well be cycling but who don’t get paid to do 30+ hours of work in the Week ending the Sunday before Census Day – so who can’t answer the “how did you get to work today” question on the Census as they are told to skip that section.

      So the Census data is a bare minimum estimate at best and to base your funding decisions on cycling infrastructure on people in paid work who said they cycled on Census day is pretty token.

      So who cares what the Census data shows – what matters is the sheer volume of cyclists out there, who could and would use the infrastructure if it existed.

      After all NZTA don’t base all their roading funding decisions on the census data either do they? – no they do other polling and surveys and use indirect data as well.

    5. Census travel to work data by region and perhaps even area unit is meant to be available in March according to a tweet by Stats NZ a few days ago. Also in my opinion we should be setting transport funding based on the outcomes we want in terms of modeshare, not based on how many currently use each mode.

      1. My point was that shaming approach is going to convince anyone of the valid benefits of cycle infrastructure investment. Anyone can look at the same info and see something different. I have always believed this is a political issue and a perception problem.

        Patrick, I see little wrong with the “measure and provide” approach. It is an entirely fair use of public resources, maybe not the best use of resources, but it is fair. Also nothing wrong with the aspirational “build it and they will come” approach either, as long as it is based on supporting evidence and has public support (or strong political support). This approach has lead to a great many success stories and also massive waste of public resources for political reasons.

        Glen, I wasn’t saying that metric wasn’t valid, but rather that you can use different metrics of the same data to support different sides of an arguement.

        Goosoid, I would consider going to school/uni/work at least part of the way on a bicycle as commuting by bike. However, when it comes to use of public funds, it is essential that it is wisely spent to get the greatest benefit for everyone. I dont mind paying craploads of my wage in taxes to healthcare as long as I know it is being well spent. It is the same for all public money. Thus in transport spending it comes down to economics and not just quality of life which is subjective and much harder to estimate. Commuting time and delay is economic. % of people recreational cycling is not. Accident rates and their social cost are economic. Using a car to spend the day at the museum is not. Congestion and air pollution is economic. Taking a bus to church is not. I don’t ignore the intangible benefits of walkable communities and better cycling facilities, but the benefits are harder to see and even harder to attach an accurate value to. When public funds are involved, decisions need to be made using accurate economic models to predict benefits (Not that we do that currently) in order to prioritise projects. Basing priority on subjective feelings without sound grounding in data is folly.

        Greg, I was just using the census data as an example. Lets just make up stuff and base our decisions on what we feel like today. That sounds like a great plan.

        Matt, it’s fine to come up with aspirational mode-share as a basis for how we should fund transport projects, but in NZ we know it comes down to politics. With the right message you can make it a pressing and non-political issue. Until the politics change, no matter our aspriations, it will be incremental at best.

        1. well this is just one way the cycling question is being approached, there have been many different angles in past week, and will see more. The main point is Christchurch decided they wanted a great cycling network, and are now setting about building it. Auckland are not putting the effort or the money in.

          It is easy to make economic benefits of transport investment look very accurate, but in reality the assumptions are not anywhere near as accurate.

        2. “Thus in transport spending it comes down to economics and not just quality of life which is subjective and much harder to estimate” – Well I would say that is a fundamental problem with our system – quality of life is not hard to measure – other countries do it all the time and seem to have great success (both socially and economically). It is just that we have signed up to the idea that “success” is only to be measured in dollar terms and that in a very narrow way.

          Countries that spend more on active modes and PT arent failing economically or socially – in fact the opposite in Europe. The countries that spent up large on roading (mostly in the south) are in trouble while those who spent a lot on alternative modes are doing well (mostly in the north).

          We just need to change the way we look at our infrastructure and the way we assess it. For example, is it really that great to say that a street is successful because x number of cars get down it at x speed? What about if we assessed it on how many people travelled on it, the safety of ALL road users or whether a child can cycle on it safely?

          As a traffic engineer, you must assume that the system you work within is fundamentally correct – just, as a lawyer, I must assume that the legal system fundamentally operates correctly.

          However, the transport system you operate within is not delivering the best result for people (which in the context of criminal justice I would also argue for the legal system) – it is delivering the best result for cars within the current paradigm (more cars moving faster = better economic performance).

          We need to change that paradigm as it is false and has not delivered a good transport system, economic system or a very healthy society. It is especially negative for children and I think that is a real shame on our society.

        3. “I was just using the census data as an example.”

          With respect to cycling or PT use Census data is the worst data set you can use as it only applies to work-bound commuters not the general population who might be using PT or transport as well on Census day.

          “Lets just make up stuff and base our decisions on what we feel like today. That sounds like a great plan”

          We don’t have to do that, the Government already does that part now, and bends the data to fit what it feels like today.
          How else can you justify the fact that most of the RoNS and big motorway projects are all going ahead full-steam when the NZTAs own traffic analysis and many of these project BCRs simply don’t add up and never will.

  5. That’s a good read Matt. Interestingly, it appears Auckland Council will spend over $52M (after income) in operating expenditure alone, for parking in Auckland in the 12 month period. And just for good measure, another $7M in capital expenditure. That’s some subsidy.

    1. Ask Auckland Council. It’s not a good look to make such horrendous mistakes in their own draft budgets. Open government means we’re supposed to be able to see what the council is up to – if they don’t actually publish accurate figures until the budget’s been approved, how can we possibly know what’s going on in time?

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