Opinion: Build the roads and the traffic will come

CONGESTION: Work turning Cranford St into a four lane major arterial is about to begin, but city councillor Mike Davidson isn't sure the money is being well spent. PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN

Papanui city councillor and avid cyclist Mike Davidson writes about the major issue afflicting his ward and what he thinks would be a good alternative during Biketober

One key issue facing the Papanui Ward, and the city, at the moment is traffic congestion.

By 2041 it is predicted that there will be an additional 70,000 vehicle movements within the four avenues every day.

Work is also currently underway on the Northern Corridor, which is due to be completed within the next three years.

But I struggle to see what benefit the city will see from this $240 million roading project, which channels non-ratepaying residents into the heart of St Albans as they head into the central city.

The built environment influences behaviour and it will not take long before this new four-lane highway will be at capacity.

So what is the answer?

Modal shift – encouraging those who can, to use a different form of transport instead of a single occupancy vehicle – walking, cycling, catching a bus or car pooling.

Perhaps if the money for this project had been invested into a decent passenger rail service from the north we could have had a true opportunity to influence behaviour for the better and created a truly sustainable public transport option.

However, it would appear that numerous authorities and agencies have never taken seriously the possibility of passenger rail.

The focus seems to be on the bus network as our public transport option even though the bus routes are not continuously separated from vehicles and are still forced to deal with the congestion street fight.

Plus changes to the bus network now make it more difficult for a lot of people who have multiple changeovers and longer waiting times.

With 50 per cent of car trips in the city under 5km we need to encourage the uptake of cycling and walking as an alternative mode of transport.

Survey after survey show that there are a large number of people wanting to cycle, but choose not to because they feel it is unsafe. The major cycleway programme is designed to remove this safety concern barrier and encourage more people to take up cycling.

There was never an expectation that the day these were completed there would be hundreds of new cyclists as it takes time to change culture.

However, from cycleways completed so far, the numbers using these cycleways are already exceeding the predicted volumes.

It is important that the cycleway programme is completed, public transport becomes more user-friendly and our transport culture is changed. If we don’t the congestion we are seeing today will pale in comparison to what will happen in the near future.

We need our streets and transport network to work for everyone no matter what age, ability or form of transport used.