Following on from our posts on cycle streets and cycle boulevards, this post will look at how this cycling infrastructure can increase the catchment areas of public transport.

It is generally accepted that the maximum acceptable walking distance for public transport like trains and ferries – or a busway – is around 800m. Ideally it should be less than this and the tram system that operated in Auckland until 1955 aimed for a 400m maximum walking distance, by the use of smaller blocks and spacing of the stops.

Using an 800m catchment area, we see the public transport catchment area around the existing train network and ferry terminals as something like this:Rail Map_01_CAA Logo

As you can see this gives a fairly good catchment but there are large white areas where walking to trains and ferries would be beyond the distance most commuters are happy with. This is because time is probably THE main consideration for commuters and it will take the average person around 10mins to walk 800m at a reasonably brisk walking speed of 5-6km/h, allowing for the occasional delay such as crossing roads. Beyond such distances, the walk becomes too long for most, in more than one sense. [Although with increasing residential densities around transit hubs in the future, even at walking pace a sizeable percentage of Auckland will be close enough to the 10-minute frequencies the electric trains will give us, and the even more frequent services after the completion of the CRL].

As most of you are aware, one of the biggest uses of bicycles in cycle friendly countries like Netherlands and Denmark of bicycles is to travel from home to the local public transport station. Around 40% of train passengers in the Netherlands use bicycles to reach the train station and another third walk to the station.

This is made possible by the fact 45% of Dutch people live within 3kms of a train station, with great cycle conditions – and you can see it by the legendary cycle parking facilities at train stations:

[Is that a tree growing through the middle?]
[Is that a tree growing through the middle?]

Overcrowded cycle facilities are actually becoming a problem in the Netherlands – though it’s a problem the Dutch are very happy to have as it is far cheaper to solve than Auckland’s transport issues. The Netherlands spends around 30 Euros a year per person on cycling facilities, about $50 NZ.

[Editor’s note: Depending on what you include, a rough estimate for NZ’s own spending on cycling currently might be around $7-14 per person per year, despite a much worse backlog than the Dutch have.].

Over 70% of cycle trips in the Netherlands are less than 7.5kms. In Auckland, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) estimated in 2007 that approximately 43% of peak morning trips are less than 5 km, and that approximately 67% of these are currently undertaken by car (ARTA 2007). The Ministry of Transport, Household Travel Survey, 2003–2009 revealed that one-sixth of household car trips in New Zealand were less than 2km long and almost half were less than 6km long. So it appears that our travel patterns are not that much different than in the Netherlands – only our choice of mode.

If we keep our 10min acceptable travel time for commuters to travel to high-quality public transport, we can calculate that most commuters should be happy to travel up to 3kms by bicycle at an average speed of 20km/h. This is a very comfortable travel speed and doesn’t require a huge amount of physical effort, no more than walking for the same period of time. If you have an electric bike, it is even easier! The 3km cycle range has also been found to be a suitable range by NZTA research.

A catchment area of 3kms gives us the following catchment map for train stations and ferry terminals:Rail Map_02_CAA_Logo

As you can see, residents of almost the entire central isthmus, most of West Auckland and large parts of South Auckland are within a 10min cycle ride from a train station. In addition, almost the entire Devonport peninsula, Northcote, Birkenhead and the Howick area are within a 10min cycle ride of a ferry terminal.

Unfortunately this map doesn’t show western and far southern Auckland, nor the scope of the Northern Busway stations – or the future AMETI busways to the east – but you get the idea!

I know many people list hills as a major consideration as to why cycling won’t work in Auckland. I suggest this is mainly because cycling has been presented as a commuting option to your place of employment, which is often a distance of more than 5kms and may often include at least one major hill. However, despite Auckland’s hilly topography, there are many people who would have a fairly flat ride if the distance was less than 3kms (or you might chose to go to a train station that is 3km away, but has a flat ride, instead of the closer one that needs you to go up a hill).

In order to make this a viable option for a significant percentage of Aucklanders, there will of course need to be adequate infrastructure in place to make cyclists feel safe. The fact that cycling in Auckland is in fact already statistically safer than driving on a per hour basis is irrelevant – we must have infrastructure in place that FEELS safe, that allows children, women and the elderly to cycle, not just the 1-2% of Aucklanders who currently ride and who are largely males between 25 and 40 years of age. In fact, one of the biggest indicators of a safe cycling environment is the percentage of female cyclists. For example, 55% of Dutch cyclists are women. In NZ it is more like 15-20%.

Most Aucklanders have some anecdotal evidence of why it is impossible for them to cycle to their local transport option. But two things need to be considered. First, what would it take for that situation to change? Do people need better cycle infrastructure, or is there something inherent in their job (tradie, travelling salesperson) that requires them to use a car? If the problem is their job, what percentage of people they know have the same issue?

Second, it is well known that traffic in Auckland improves significantly during school holidays, often dramatically. This situation is attributable to a 5% drop in traffic volumes, an amazingly low percentage. If only a small number of commuters were to cycle to public transport, that would create huge knock on benefits for all motorists.

The real change needed for a network of cycle streets would be ensuring lower travel speeds of 30-35km/h on residential streets. Remember this would not apply to arterial roads, only to the quiet residential streets that usually make up 5-10% of most driver’s travel distances. That seems to me to be a small sacrifice to create a safer and more pleasant street environment for us all. So the benefits of offering this option to even a small minority of Auckland’s population will create benefits that can be enjoyed by everyone:

  • More cycling – creating a virtuous cycle increasing safety, public acceptance and funding
  • More public transport use – using our investment more efficiently, and creating a real mixed-transport city
  • Decongesting existing roads for those who still want or need to drive, easing the constant pressure for “more roads!”
  • Creating more liveable and safer suburbs for our communities

The costs of putting in place cycle boulevards and cycle streets are incredibly low. The amount spent on consultant reports for one Road of Dubious Significance would pay for a large network of such facilities in Auckland. The cost of separated cycle infrastructure on arterials is greater but will also happen alongside this, if the cycling numbers and modal share can be increased.

So let us go for this, big time – if this isn’t seen as low-hanging fruit, it’s only because we still need to open our eyes!

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10 responses to “Reaching out – Cycling and Public Transport

  1. If you cycle to train and take it into CBD, what do you do in town if you have several meetings OR a long walk – Think AirNZ or Saatchi’s?
    Public bike hire – Currently 600+ cities have added this to their PT mix

    1. And that is the big question. A this time we have a very disjointed CBD network of privately owned and council owned / operated bike schemes which actually all combine to do pretty much nothing. It really needs a single, AT run, bike share system like Citibike.

  2. Excellent post Ben..

    As you say, the costs are “incredibly low”.. not only that but of course the benefits are huge.

    Even “only” considering reduction in congestion, however this is measured, the benefits are usually very attractive relative to other (motorised) traffic investments, without even considering the health outcomes which of course are very favourable, both to the cyclists (general fitness) and the wider population (less pollution).

    It never ceases to amaze me why urban transport investments aren’t strictly prioritised by benefit / cost ratios. Sure the programme mix would be transformed, but where is the downside? If the $ invested were the same, surely in round terms the same value of contracts would need to be let, with roughly the same number of people employed? Presumably if anything more people / less mechanisation compared to huge motorways..

    So who loses?

    1. The interesting thing is that they used to be prioritised by BCR (~10+ yrs ago); if you didn’t have a BCR above ~3-4:1 it wouldn’t get funded. But, because there were limited valuation methods around at the time for the likes of cycling projects, invariably they didn’t get as good a BCR as roading projects and so weren’t generally funded (as an aside, it also meant that cost-effective road projects like safety improvements easily got funded, while big inefficient motorway projects a’la RONS didn’t…). The fact that you had to use the same very complex evaluation process for a $20k cycle lane as a $2million road widening also meant that roading authorities were less inclined to put in the effort to investigate a cycle project for funding.

      Then there was a whole lot of very good work done to estimate additional cycling benefits, e.g. health benefits, crash prediction. More simplified procedures for evaluating cycling (& walking) projects were also developed, so now it was much much easier to put up a proposal. Around the same time, a separate funding bucket for walking/cycling projects was also provided to avoid competition with roading projects but, truth be told, many more cycling projects would have comfortably held their own against the road project BCRs now anyway.

      By mid-2000s there was already a push to have transport projects evaluated on more than just their BCR; e.g. considerations/wishes of regional transport committees also came into play when developing regional transport programmes. This was actually potentially quite useful in many places where the value of cycling projects were being recognised and regions were pushing to ensure that they were on their regional wishlist.

      That was certainly fine while there was a pro-sustainable trpt Govt in place (well, as much as Labour ever were), fairly happy to allow regions to influence the shape of the transport programme. Unfortunately that process has been turned on its head by National, who have introduced fairly prescriptive “Strategic Fit” and “Effectiveness” criteria ahead of the traditional BCR “Efficiency” one. So now it is less important what the BCR is; it first has to meet the Govt’s key goals, of which Model Walk/Cycle Communities is the only cycling one that has a similar ranking to Roads of National Significance. Great if you live in Hastings or New Plymouth, but…

      So there is a certain irony that when (finally) the economic value of cycling has been well established and quantified, the Govt seems to be placing little emphasis now on calculated economic benefits in prioritising transport projects…

    2. Hi Tim – unfortunately AT is constrained by Government funding bands which determine the subsidies AT gets for transport projects. These bands determine why the Puhoi/Wellsford motorway gets massive investment despite an abysmal BCR due to its RONS classification, while other high BCR projects go begging. The bands make it much easier for AT to build roads (where subsidy money is plentiful) than PT & cycleways (where it’s not).

      So the problem has to be addressed at the Government level as well as the car-centric AT level. You can see how the two together result in a congestion death-spiral 🙁

      1. It’s the NLTF, the 2012 annual report notes “Initial delivery of walking and cycling infrastructure against plan was below plan”. Julian & Bryce P, while bike share is the obvious solution for commuters, the law needs to change for bike hire to be considered a Public Transport Service under the Land Transport Act (LTMA), if done, then the industry could be regulated/ subsidised fairly and coherently by an agency such as AT.

        1. It’s not even about the subsidies. What about operators moving bikes from where they’ve been dropped off to where they are needed without charge? How do you mandate and control that? NYC do this already. I don’t see how the law needs to change. The funding can come from general expenditure and sponsorship (same as citibike I understand).

          1. Julian has already provided bike-share for Auckland (inc. operational aspects), so it’s not un-achievable. Continuity is the issue if the service is not financially self sufficient. Not everyone shares the same opinion about the value of cycling as we do therefore, in my opinion, the best way to ensure financial continuity and the good health of the industry is to regulate (per buses, trains, ferry’s). Disparate funding creating monopolies, cartels etc in any non-regulated (private) industry only will attract the interest of the Commerce Commission and scare off Council for good.

          2. If you mean nextbike, you have to pay an additional charge if you do not take it back to whence you got it. That is not comparable to NYC’s bikeshare. All the successful stories I’ve read about bike share programs are centrally run so regulation is not required.

  3. Interestingly, the Congestion Free Network is proposing a rail spur to Mt Roskill which would fill in the one big gap in the cycling catchment.

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