A Green policy with some merit

David Farrar

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.

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