With Tamaki Makaurau’s next 10-year budget now being thrashed out in public it is no surprise that cycling is once again contentious. We’ve been told that cycling’s share of all trips is stuck on one percent when it should be at 17, that the facilities are there and we’re not using them. “Gold plated cycleways” have already been singled out in Mayor Wayne Brown’s budget proposal, which sees $141m cut from cycling infrastructure.
Predictable, really. When riding your bicycle to work becomes politicised you can expect the debate to produce more heat than light.
Here’s what we know about cycling’s share of trips, or mode share, and about the current state of cycling infrastructure investment in our city:
Is cycling stuck on one percent mode share? We believe the one percent figure comes from the Ministry of Transport’s Household Travel Survey, which shows that cycling accounted for one percent of all trips in the three-year period from 2019 to 2022, and it’s been that way since at least 2015-2018.
In this case, the most recent data is the most useful. Auckland Transport’s (AT) 26 automated cycling counters tell us that cycling took a hit during the Covid lockdowns but has since bounced back, with cycling movements up 8.1 percent year-on-year in October 2023.
Plus, there’s this: AT’s current 10-year budget is $37 billion and cycling’s share is just $306 million, less than one percent of the total. The big surprise is that anyone should expect cycling’s mode share to grow when we’re not prepared to fund it.
What about that 17 percent mode share target? That’s the 2030 mode share target set in AT’s Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP), its own framework for moving towards a less congested and cleaner, more connected city. TERP has other targets – 23 percent mode share for public transport, 22 percent for walking, and 50 percent fewer vehicle kilometres travelled. And guess what? They’re all stuck too.
Are cycling facilities there and are we using them? Auckland’s cycling network can be charitably described as nascent. Look at AT’s own map and you’ll see something like a small handful of spaghetti thrown at a large wall; only in a few areas are there contiguous networks that take you where you want to go.
What we do know is that where we build contiguous cycling networks, we flock to them. The Glen Innes to Tamaki shared path is an example: Cycle counts on its initial stage soared by 164 percent when sections two and three were opened. So yes, network effects are real and when we do build cycling infrastructure that is fit for purpose, we do use it.
What about the mayor’s proposal to cut $141 million from the cycling infrastructure budget? The debate about Auckland Council’s 2024- 2034 budget, otherwise known as the Long Term Plan (LTP), has a long way to run. Public consultation begins in February 2024 and the budget itself won’t be adopted until June that year. Bike Auckland won’t shrink from the debate and we’ll be making the point that everyday cycling is the fastest, lowest-cost route to the cleaner, less congested transport system the climate emergency demands. The budget for cycling infrastructure needs to match our ambitions, not undermine them.We’ll also remind the city’s leaders that we’re not on our own; plenty of other cities have set bold targets for cycling and have put their money where their mouths are. Seville, Spain’s fourth-largest city, is one of them. Without any existing cycling culture and with peak summer temperatures in the region of 40 degrees, it went from 0.5 percent cycling mode share to six percent in just a few years by building out 120 kilometres of cycle lane. None of this is magic; when we build it they do indeed come.