Investing public money into safer routes for biking, scooting and skating will provide big benefits for everyone in Hamilton.
That’s according to Hamilton City Council’s Strategic Growth Committee Chair Dave Macpherson who strongly supports a proposal to invest $55 million over the next 10 years in better cycling routes.
The proposal, outlined in the Council’s draft Long-Term Plan, would see $24.5 million invested over the next five years in projects to connect existing cycleways in the city, provide bike and scooter parking, push for improved bus services and deliver safety programmes. A further $30.7 million would be invested in the five years from 2026.
But the proposal comes with a $28 million hitch. The Council wants Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to provide its standard 51% co-investment, equating to $28 million. Without it, the proposal is at risk.
“We know that we need to start investing more in these kinds of initiatives now and I would hope Waka Kotahi would think that as well,” Macpherson said. “If not, I think we may miss an opportunity to make big improvements to the city and offer people real choice about how to get around safely.”
He said there were now 130,000 vehicle movements a day between Hamilton and satellite towns like Cambridge – double that of 2014.
“We can expect that growth in traffic to accelerate and that’s going to put more pressure on existing routes, on congestion and on safety,” he said.
“If we don’t really get stuck into this now, most things won’t proceed past the design stage and there is a real lost opportunity with that. This investment will benefit everyone, whether you walk, cycle, drive or catch a bus. Getting people onto safe cycling routes or onto buses is more environmentally sound and lessens traffic congestion for those still needing to drive.”
Mayor Paula Southgate said she supported much greater choice in terms of transport options in the city but said there was still debate within Council about how much to invest, and when. A second option in the draft Long-Term Plan would see Council investing the same amount, but only investing $15 million in the first five years.
While the faster investment option would cost the average Hamiton ratepayer $20 a year from 2021/2022, the slower option would see that cost drop to $16 per year.
“Let’s see what the community has to say and then start drilling down into priorities. I know there is a lot of interest in the Eastern Pathways and generally in cycle lanes which are completely separated from roads and much more connected across the city. And of course transport choice has a huge impact on our environment and on efforts to lower our carbon footprint,” she said.
“Overall I think the city needs a far more cohesive approach to cycling, joining up the cycleways we have, taking them off-road and making sure people can go between more destinations safely.”
During discussions in December (click here for the minutes and voting resolutions), not all Councillors supported Council’s $55 million proposal but the majority agreed to put it in the draft budget and seek public feedback.
Final decisions will be made once the total Long-Term Plan budget is locked down in June this year. Before then, Council is undertaking a comprehensive public engagement programme on what it is proposing to spend – and when – over the next decade.
Public engagement on the Long-Term Plan runs until 7 April.