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A Green policy with some merit

The Greens have announced:

The Green Party has announced a new policy to make walking and cycling to school safer.

We will invest $200 million in new transport infrastructure so kids can cycle and walk to school safely and to ease congestion on New Zealand’s roads.

Our aim is to get most kids walking or cycling to school again by making it a safe and pleasant experience.

A generation ago, most kids walked or cycled to school. Today, only a third do When kids walk or bike or ride their scooter to school, it’s good for their health, it’s good for their learning, it eases congestion and it’s good for the environment.

I agree with the aim of the policy. Far better to tackle obesity by making it easier for kids to cycle to school, than trying to ban large easter eggs and tax certain foods.

Allocate $50m a year for four years to build modern, convenient walking and cycling infrastructure around schools: separating kids and other users from road traffic, giving a safe choice for families

The $50 million a year seems a figure plucked out of thin air. I’d rather a smaller sum spent on say a couple of dozen schools and measure the impact it has on cycling rates before committing to a larger spend.

The latest research shows that we can get up to $20 of gains for every dollar spent. That’s a billion dollars of gains for each year’s $50 million investment.

First of all it isn’t 20 to 1. Eric Crampton points out they’re comparing benefits in 2015 to the cost todat, not taking into account the cost of money over the next 40 years.  At even a 5% discount rate $1 today is $7 in 2050. And the benefit to cost ratios they cite range from 6:1 to 20:1 so in fact they may not provide a net benefit. As I said, it could well be beneficial, but if it really was a 20:1 benefit – would have happened by now.

A key is whether the rate of kids cycling to school will increase as they have assumed. Best to test it, before you spend $200 million.

The other issue is paying for it. They say they’ll divert money from roads. They should be more specific and say explicitly which current road project they will scrap. To be credible it has to be one that has not yet started construction.

But overall not a bad policy.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

Comments and questions

A nice feel good policy..... Around our area Auckland council won't even invest in a simple zebra crossing over Portland road so kids can safely cross the road, let alone ride to school....

Most parent's aversions to kids cycling or walking is a modern fear of kiddy-fiddlers. Until they can be sure their kids are safe from societies misfits nothing will change.

How often has a child been accosted on the way to school by a complete stranger? Maybe once in ten years? This argument for driving the kids to school is ridiculous.

Wake up, David. Or haven't you noticed there is no actual room anywhere around schools to provide this extra separate cycling haven.

What we should be investing in (given the very poor job the NZTA is doing in relation to prioritising the erection of median barriers to stop those killer head-on collisions) is developing the robot technology in cars to warn of and to avoid drivers hitting one another - and pedestrians.

Build it (them) and they still won't come.

Middle class mothers cart their kids to school because they believe there is danger lurking around every corner and for a chance to show off their European SUV children carrier.

Kids from low decile schools have no trouble walking - they have no other option.

A cheaper and far more effective option would be to ban parking anywhere within a 500 metre radius of a school at school start and closing times.

Yes lets face it if private school kiddies weren't chauffeured across town and bridges to attend out of zone areas a lot of the problems would disappear.

No need to spend $200m on this nonsense.

Cycleways are middle-class welfare at its worst: "I like cycling and I want somebody else to pay for it."

Worse still, it doesn't succeed in separating cars and bikes. Driving down Tennyson St this morning, I had to slow to a crawl and manouevre my way round two grey-haired female cyclists dawdling along in the middle of the road. Yet Tennyson St has major, separated-from-cars, cycling lanes on both sides! I hasten to add this is by no means uncommon. No doubt all the cyclists who stay on the road have a good reason for doing so - which highlights the futility of spending taxpayer money on cycleways. had to wait for two cyclists! Wow. How many cars did you wait for on the same trip?

"A Green policy with some merit" - at last! - keep it up Russ

It seems a good idea to reduce impact on the transport infrastructure by getting getting children to walk to school, The Transport Agency says 1 in 3 car trips in the morning are taking children to school.

So why not look at what the 2 in 3 car trips in the morning and address these. I would suggest that at least another 1 of those car trips is simply talking a person to a work location that is established for no other reason that that is where the employer has secured office space and that having this single office space is for no other reason than that is what we have always done - i.e. get everyone into one office.

With modern technology we have an immediate capability to support distributed, networked offices for knowledge workers. If we focus on this opportunity we can have far more impact on the transport infrastructure, but not only that we can impact the housing problems, we can impact the large scale urbanisation that Auckland is becoming.

We have all the capability now to achieve this which will remove the need for a great deal of cross town movement and even remove the need for all New Zealanders to move to Auckland to get a job that could be delivered from anywhere in the country. I am really surprised that no political party is looking at this possibility.

I recently had a short contract at Telecom NZ where I had to travel into Auckland to their central office so that I could work with their staff in Wellington. After that I did a short contract with Tower Ins where I did 80% of the work from my home in Waiheke - travelling in for a few presentation meetings. I recently did a 12 month contract in Sweden from my Flat in London. It is all quite possible now - you can still travel to meet on occasion, just not every day.

Been to Hamilton lately? One of the flatest cities in NZ, ideal to be planned and promoted as an the ideal bicyle friendly city. However, take a look at the millions being spent on motorways and bypasses. A bit of pocket change that the greens suggest is a no brainer.