While the answers to this question are largely sell-evident, it’s great that NZTA have recently released a summary of their view: Benefits of Investing in Cycling in New Zealand.

Follow the link for the full PDF, below is a summary of the seven ways NZTA have identified as beneficial. Followed up by a few images that do the same thing.

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1. Investing in cycling is giving people what they want

People want cycling infrastructure. Many people say they’d like to cycle more, especially if separated cycling infrastructure was provided.

2. Cycling makes towns and cities really liveable

Cycling improves quality of life in towns and cities. ‘Quality of life’ rankings consistently show bike-friendly cities at the top.

3. Cycling makes travelling around urban areas better for everyone

More people cycling potentially improves traffic flow so travel times are shorter, more predictable and reliable, and the transport network performs better. Bicycles are considered to impose 95 percent less impact on travel flow than an average car.

Getting just a few people onto bikes can15 make a di erence to tra c ows. On the congested 5km Petone to Ngauranga section of State Highway 2, for example, research suggests that only 10-30 vehicles out of the 250-280 vehicles occupying the space at congested times are causing the congestion.16 Evaluation of Hastings’ iWay cycling network indicates there was a 3.6 percent reduction in tra c volumes soon after it was built.17

4. Cycling is great for the local economy

Cycling saves people money to spend in their local communities. With no fuel, registration, warrant of fitness and parking costs, and much lower purchasing, maintenance and insurance costs compared to operating a car, people who cycle have more money to spend on other things.

Cycling potentially also boosts retail spend. Various studies have shown that cycling infrastructure can lead to an increase in retail sales.25 People who cycle have been found to be more likely to stop and visit shops more often, and to spend more money at those shops over time, than people who drive.26 Cycleways that run past shop doors can be a very good thing for retailers.

5. More cycling means reduced costs for the council

An increase in cycling saves councils money. This is especially clear where populations are expected to grow. In Christchurch, for example, where 50,000 additional car trips per day are predicted in the city by 2041 unless there is a mode shift to walking, cycling and public transport31, more cycling would mean reduced costs for additional road capacity, maintenance and operations.

6. Cycling is great for the environment overall

A small reduction in short vehicle trips potentially generates signi cant reduction in carbon emissions. Shifting 5 percent of car trips to bicycle could reduce emission impacts by up to 8 percent.33 Similarly, reducing trips by car can reduce the amount of other air pollutants.

7. Cycling makes people healthier and more productive

Cycling reduces the incidence of a range of serious illnesses.

In New Zealand, physical inactivity contributes to around 8 percent of all deaths37, and one in three adults and one in ve children are overweight38. The Ministry of Health reports that only 50.5 percent of New Zealand adults are regarded as sufficiently active for health benefits and physical inactivity is the second leading risk factor of disability adjusted life years.

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44 comments

  1. get the right bike and u will never regret it = pure joy every ride 🙂

    2nd best = 50cc scooter : happiness every ride

    last: commuting / riding in car = sad

  2. They look so happy on their bikes. Gosh we’ve moved so far away from this in Auckland where it can be downright dangerous to cycle in places. BTW I don’t suppose anyone rents bikes to use on the pink path or do I need to buy one?

    1. Jeff, there is a bike share scheme in the city. http://www.nextbike.co.nz/en/auckland/

      There seems to be something wrong with their website at the moment, so hopefully they haven’t gone out of business. You need a credit card to register with them, and then I think you can “book” your bike through a mobile app. There are some bikes opposite ASB North Wharf, and some more at Queens Wharf near Britomart. Helmets are supplied.

      You can combine the pink path and the Grafton Gully path into a big loop from downtown and back. Enjoy!

  3. It would be nice if the cycling and safety people were allowed to take charge, rather than being siloed. There are people who get it, but they don’t drive the (substantial) spending decisions of the NZTA.

    1. the message I got from a departed NZTA cycling specialist was that the general works guys were (in his estimation*) pretty proactive on cycling

      the biggest issue for cycle funding sits in #7, health benefits; DHBs are aware of the health benefits of cycling and do promote healthy travel within their staff, but their funding has so often been stretched to fund among other things tax cuts for the wealthy, that they cannot contribute out of their silo to NZTA’s silo

      * note qualifier for the skeptics

      1. Good to hear.

        However, the DHBs are also well aware of the benefits of stopping the population smoking, but its not their responsibility to manage it, or set policies for anyone outside their own staff or hospital grounds to change it.

        Thats all managed (or some would say mis-managed) centrally by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

        So why should cycling be treated differently from any other national health goal and devolved to the DHBs to implement themselves?

        This should be directly handled by MoH and the MoH and the NZTA (and MoT) directly communicate and co-ordinate their plans, strategies and such.

        Individual agencies like the DHBs can then be given their own goals and targeted funding to help support/lead the national goals set by MoH not just provided out the general DHBs annual budget – it will never get anywhere if left to that device.

        There is too much unmet short and medium term need in the health system to assume that a long term goal like promoting more cycling will become anything other than an aspiration goal otherwise.

        1. the Waitemata DHB did have representation on the last RLTS I worked on, good bloke from memory

          but also there’s little point in identifying (the very real) health benefits from cycling if the project evaluation procedures don’t take them into account (p[lease someone tell me I’m out of date ant that they do take health benefits into account now!)

    1. “This study has a few noteworthy limitations. Given cross-sectional data, any finding here cannot be taken as causal.”

      So basically, lots of healthy people cycle to work as opposed to cycling to work will make you six times healthier?

      But yeah, any exercise is good.

  4. Cycling to work is not going to get you fit. Stop pretending it is! If you cycle at a rate that would induce a cardio workout you will turn up in the office sweating. Your co workers do not want to sit next to your smelly body all day thank you and your employer does not want to have to put showers in just to indulge your workout.

    1. Cycling to work will not prepare you for an Ironman, but nobody is suggesting that it will. Cycling to work will absolutely get the majority of people, who are largely idle and very unfit, fitter. And fitter to a sufficient extent to make a meaningful difference to their lives and to health outcomes for the community at large. That’s what the article above says and what the NZTA study says. Best to read links fully before attacking them.

    2. That’s completely false. Fitness or a level of exercise to gain fitness (what level of fitness?) isn’t determined by sweat or even the need to do a ‘cardio exercise’. Plenty of activities help you maintain a level of fitness and weight control. Cycling at a moderate pace and walking are 2 of those.

  5. No need to read the links if you understand basic human biology! Do you accept that to get fitter you have to do a cardio workout? Do you accept that any cardio workout raises the resting pulse of the person exercising? Do you also accept that when you HR is elevated the body produces sweat?
    It is very simple, you can cycle to work like the Dutch and never raise your HR (like walking to work) but if you are going to say cycling to work increases fitness you are going to be sweating….it is very simple science!

    1. No need to read link cos you know everything- genius. Which explains why you attack what the links don’t say. Fitter, is comparative, not absolute. You might be Mr Sporty fit guy, and cycling to work won’t improve your condition, but most aren’t, and it will. That’s what the data shows: Is there some part of ‘six times healthier’ you don’t grasp, or did you not even read the headline? Also showers do exist, and increasingly so in work places.

      1. ” Is there some part of ‘six times healthier’ you don’t grasp”

        I read the article to find out just how one person can have some sort of health metric six times that of another. What does that actually mean? Nothing in the article stated what this health metric was for either non-cycle commuters or cycle commuters, what the units are, how it is calculated or any other relevant information.

        I don’t doubt that cycle commuting has health benefits and I am enthusiastic about the cycling infrastructure that is being developed in Auckland but this “6 times” headline is clickbait for the gullible and the wishful thinkers.

    2. To get a cardio workout you do not have to significantly raise heart rate. So no I do not accept your unscientific premises. Cycling at low intensities is clearly healthier than driving

    3. The difference is between healthier and fitter. Walking and easy cycling will improve your health like eating well. Fitness is increased with cardio. Either way it’s better than the 20m house to car then 20m car park to desk that most commuters do.

  6. The accepted medical science states that to have any cardio improvement you must exercise at 0.6 x your max heart rate (220 – age). At that rate you would break a sweat. Cycling to work at a pace that doesn’t reach 0.6 x your min heart rate is not going to improve your health six times more than someone that drives a car to work. It is absurd to suggest this.
    At the cardio level you are talking about you may as well just walk and Auckland already has infrastructure for that. Footpaths!

    1. That isn’t accepted. Nor is cardiac capacity a particularly important measure of health. Cholesterol, resting heart rate, and body fat percentage are all markedly reduced by light exercise.

        1. “Inactive adults or adults with disease limitations will have added health benefits if moving from the category of “no activity” to “some levels” of activity. Adults who currently do not meet the recommendations for physical activity should aim to increase duration, frequency and finally intensity as a target to achieving them.”

          From your own source. For most New Zealand adults intensity is the least important factor in exercise for health.

          You literally just proved yourself wrong.

    2. No James that cute metric is a theory for an ideal exercise regime to rapidly increase fitness. It doesn’t negate that other levels of exercise are also beneficial, what certainly is accepted is that steady and frequent exercise is almost certain to do the individual good, and two trips a day five days a week certainly fits that bill. And yes the comparison is with sitting on your arse in car. Ergo; more people replacing the trip to work, or anywhere actually, like for shopping, visiting, or entertainment with a ride instead of a drive, is demonstrably beneficial for them and society as a whole.

      1. You are wrong Patrick, plain and simple. The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest that moderate exercise of 300 minutes a week or 150 mins of high intensity is required for real health benefits. The type of cycling you are suggesting (not breaking a sweat) does not even fall into the category of moderate exercise.

        1. First paragraph of your link!:

          “In adults aged 18–64, physical activity includes leisure time physical activity (for example: walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming), transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (i.e. work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities. In order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, reduce the risk of NCDs and depression.”

          “Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.”

          Weirdly you doubled their metric… Really this is silly; your link even has a picture of someone riding in what clearly looks like for transportation.

      2. You are either challenged by the text or deliberately ignoring the data. The WHO say’s everyone should do at least 150 mins of moderate activity – that is not sitting on the sofa or riding a bike so slow that you do not break a sweat. The article goes on to say ‘For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity’

        1. And as to showers at work, pretty standard in all new build CBD towers and refits, significantly cheaper to add showers than it is extra carparks, its the building owners doing it to attract Corporate tenants. And they have been fitting them for the last 20yrs

        2. James, I commute a moderate distance to work of 11 kms at around 25 to 30 kph which makes me sweat and gives me around 300 minutes of fairly intense activity each week. When I get to work I change and shower in our staff facility. According to you; I’ve done all the WHO’s recommended physical activity just getting to work and I arrive fresher and cleaner than those that have taken a car; especially those that had a smoke in the car on the way…

          Not sure what point you’re trying to make but pretty sure you’re just a troll.

    3. Just to cut-n-paste my response from your last rant:

      The idea that there is no benefit to exercise unless you are sweating is quite contrary to Ministry of Health guidelines that state we should aim for “at least 2½ hours of moderate or 1¼ hours of vigorous physical activity spread throughout the week”

      Which can be “achieved by doing at least 30 minutes of moderate or 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity on five days each week or an equivalent combination of both”

      • Moderate-intensity activities (3–5.9 METs)
      make breathing harder than normal but
      a person should still be able to talk while
      doing them. Examples are brisk walking on
      flat ground, cycling (< 16 km/h), playing with
      children, dancing and kapa haka.

      http://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/eating-activity-guidelines-for-new-zealand-adults-oct15_0.pdf

      PS. I've never worked in an office that didn't have a shower for those that do want to get more intense.

  7. The truth in this little spat lies somewhere in the middle so I think you should drop it, but what I am interested in are the images on pages 6 and 7 of the NZTA “Benefits of cycling …” document. On the one hand you could say that NZTA are trying to soften us up for shared path experiences or, someone has made a blue and the document shouldn’t have been published. Personally I think pavements are for walking and cycleways are for cycling. Put the two together and you have an an unhappy mix.

    1. I think you might be reading too much into the picture of the kid riding on the footpath.

      Shared paths are ok when there is no engineered conflict. i.e. mixing up a lot of pedestrians and bike riders of a narrow path when there is a desire of riding at a reasonable pace is not going to work. A wide path might work, or separation may be necessary depending on demand. I suspect I am agreeing with you in that statement…

    1. Yes that way you get the cycling away from the pollution from road transport to me that is the primary reason to separate the two, filling your lungs with exhaust fumes is as dangerous as being hit.

      1. You can’t cycle over the bridge because when it was originally constructed and then subsequently widened it was not thought that many Aucklanders would want to walk or cycle the bridge. Current cycling stats would suggest that assumption was correct.
        That said, with the AWHC there is very likely to be a walking and cycling lane on the Harbour bridge, all paid for by the central Govt and toll free. National – giving people transport options since forever 🙂

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