In the Greater Auckland that we’re campaigning to achieve, getting around the city safely by walking or cycling will be a preferred transport mode for many people. We’ll have safe streets suitable for all ages and all levels of confidence. Creating this safe infrastructure is a critical step to creating a healthy and sustainable city.
While many cities have been improving their cycling infrastructure gradually over many years, 2020 has shown what’s possible when fast action is taken – the ability to reallocate space to safe walking and cycling, and people will walk and cycle.
Research shows Aucklanders want these changes too with this from research conducted for Auckland Transport a few years ago.
Although we’ve been sheltered from the ravages of COVID that the rest of the world has suffered, particularly our first lockdown reminded us again just what a difference it makes to cycling when the traffic no longer dominates.
At Greater Auckland, we believe the city deserves high-quality cycling infrastructure. We also believe that our various transport agencies are simply not doing anywhere near enough to make this happen. Even small, seemingly common sense projects require extraordinary efforts by advocates and communities just to get on the agenda let alone built. As I pointed out two months ago, even after they’ve developed solid policies/plans/strategies at central and local government levels, planning and implementation teams tend to just ignore them.
Yet even with the meagre progress that has been made, there are loud cries from some that it’s all gone too far and agencies like Auckland Transport are just trying to make everything about cycling and walking.
As mentioned, I covered this a few months ago but over the last week two new/updated pieces of information have been published which helps to highlight just how wrong that view is.
AT’s Annual Report
The first piece is the release of Auckland Transport’s annual report for 2019/20. It includes information on what AT have been doing in the walking and cycling space and importantly, how they’ve performed against the targets they set themselves in their Statement of Intent.
In their annual report they say:
AT continues to place high priority and emphasis on encouraging the use of active modes, including walking and cycling, and on significant investment in new and improved footpaths and cycleways.
The roll-out of the Urban Cycleways Programme initiated in 2015 has continued, with a record number of new cycleways under construction during the 2020 financial year. The Franklin Road cycleway was officially opened in July and work has continued to construct new, and link up existing cycleways across the region.
Talk of giving walking and cycling projects a high-priority and of having record number of projects under construction sounds like we’re on our way to some kind of cycling nirvana but the numbers certainly don’t back that up. Since the 2015/16 financial year Auckland Transport have had a formal target for the delivery of new cycleways across the region.
This year they had a target of to deliver just 10km of new cycleways. To put that in perspective. we currently have just over 5,100km of urban roads in the Auckland region and only about 10km of dedicated on-road protected cycleways. Many of our cycleways are just shared paths which are not ideal for either cyclists or walkers. Adding just 10km a year to the network it is going to take a long time for there to be ubiquitous safe routes.
Despite the low target, in 2019/20 AT delivered just 6.09km of new cycleways. To be fair, the delivery of some projects was delayed by the first COVID lockdown though I don’t think that would have been enough to achieve the target. If this year was a one off that would be understandable however other than the first year they had the target, Auckland Transport have consistently failed to achieve it and the projects they are working on were originally meant to have completed in 2018.
For the current financial year we’re in they’ve lowered the target to just 4km. They’ll probably exceed that because of all the delayed projects that are due to finish. But once they’re done with those, things look grim with the annual report saying:
The impact of Covid-19 means no new cycleway projects will be started during the coming year but AT will continue investigating projects included in the 10-year Cycling Programme Business Case.
Last week Waka Kotahi NZTA also updated their funding data for how much was spent by them and local authorities on transport projects. This includes both local projects as well as state highways. There are a few exceptions, for example local projects that don’t receive funding assistance from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) are not included. This is mainly the City Rail Link but also can cover some other areas like placemaking projects. Likewise the payments for the Puhoi to Warkworth PPP haven’t started yet so aren’t in the numbers.
The data shows that in the most recent financial year, just over $45 million was spent on walking and cycling projects. However in total we spent nearly $1.98 billion on transport (not including the CRL). That means just 2.3% of expenditure was for cycling projects. That is an improvement over the last few years after AT removed their dedicated cycling team and then stopped progress on cycling projects to appease a handful of vocal anti-cycleway complainers. But it is still down on what was achieved in 2015/16 thanks to the Urban Cycleway Fund of the previous government.
That almost $1.98 billion includes operational costs like for public transport services. As another comparison I’ve split out just the dedicated capital spending for new infrastructure. This also doesn’t include maintenance or renewals which can be significant at almost $450 million alone. In total Auckland Transport and the NZTA spent just over $1 billion on capital projects in the last financial year but again, only just over $45 million of that (4.2%) was on walking and cycling projects. What you do notice is the big spike for public transport infrastructure which is likely to primarily be construction on the Northern Busway extension, the Eastern Busway and possibly the new batch of trains.
Whatever way you look at it, we’re simply not doing all that much on walking and cycling.