Friday, May 31, 2019

On yer bike

What are the best cities for cyclists? According to an insurance company called Coya, that describes itself as “digital insurance specialists” and also as “committed bikers”, Auckland is 7th best city in the world for cyclists, and one of only two non-European cities in the top ten. This is largely because of the huge improvements Auckland has made since Auckland Council came into being nearly a decade ago. There’s still a long way to go, however.

Coya produced its “Bicycle Cities Index 2019” their study focused on six main categories using various factors that to determine how cycling-friendly a city is:

  • Weather.
  • Percentage Bicycle Usage.
  • Crime & Safety: Fatalities / 100,000 Cyclists, Accidents / 100,000 Cyclists, Bicycle Theft Score.
  • Infrastructure: Number of Bicycle Shops / 100,000 Cyclists, Specialised Roads & Road Quality Score, Investment & Infrastructure Quality Score.
  • Sharing: Number of Bicycle Sharing & Rental Stations / 100,000 Score, # Shared Bicycles / 100,000 Score.
  • Events: No Car Day, Critical Mass Score.

Complete details of the rankings and the process used can be found at the link above.

From our perspective here in Auckland, the city still has a long way to go, however, Auckland Council, NZTA (the transport agency responsible for roads, like the Auckland Harbour Bridge) and other government agencies are committed to making cycling more easily and safely.

For example, last week NZTA announced plans for new, improved cycling and walking path next to the bridge. The bridge, which turned 60 years old yesterday, was originally supposed to be built ‘with footpath and cycle-track’, according the 1946 Royal Commission, but by the time the bridge was actually built a decade later, those plans had been scrapped.

Quite why the plans were dropped is a matter of debate, but in the 1950s through 70s Auckland was plagued with shortsighted politicians who couldn’t see how big Auckland would become, and what the implications of that were, so that’s probably a big part of it. Fixing that earlier mistake has taken up the past decade, and finally started moving forward within the past few years, especially with the change of government in 2017 when the new government committed to build the cycling and walking path across the harbour. Finally. Work could start next year.

NZTA is also adding cycling and walking paths as part of their major expansion of the Southern Motorway, connecting Karaka and Papakura. That project will be completed later this year.

Auckland Council is also making cycling safer and easier, by making roading improvements, like on Quay Street in the CBD, as well as in other areas throughout the city. Some of the projects in suburbs (neighbourhoods) are currently under consultation or design, while others have been completed.

Add it all up, and in five years Auckland could very well rise in global rankings like Coya’s. That’s incredibly good news because it means fewer people in cars, more people getting exercise, and both of those will make for a healthier city—and healthier people. It’s a win all around.

I can’t fairly evaluate the index or its rankings—I’m not a cyclist nor an expert in that subject or transport generally. I admit that I think that it is a bit, um, nice to Auckland. But I also know that better and safer cycling and walking is important for any modern city. Anything that helps advance that is a good thing, in my opinion.

The data visualisation of Coya’s index at the top of this post is a “Chart of the Day” from Statista. Their summary of the data can be found at the link.

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