Hamilton: A cycle city?

Hamilton is a relatively flat city with reasonable weather. On the face of it, ideal for cycling?

Interestingly, global studies show that weather is not a key issue in determining the popularity of cycling in a city. In Ubrecht there is a saying: 'you are not made of sugar', meaning you won’t melt, so can ride in the rain.

The key factors are infrastructure and safety. Having dedicated cycle lanes is a start, but protected cycle lanes are best practice. Surface, lighting and safe places to lock up bikes are also important.

This video I came across while preparing for the Bike Waikato Candidate Meeting tells the story so well.

At rush hour, main intersections and bridges are clogged with cars, often with only one occupant. Yes, we have some painted lines, some trial barriers and a few stretches of off-road cycleways, and yes people do cycle. However, it is not uncommon to hear complaints of cyclists being cut off, knocked by passing cars or of having car doors open onto them. Some workplaces are providing bike lockers and showers, but many do not.

Overseas places with larger populations and a critical mass of riders have more cycle-dedicated infrastructure. Some cities that historically have not been cycle-friendly are building many kilometres of protected cycleways. Not due to the demand of cyclists but as a response to congestion and low carbon economies. And it is working.

Here in Hamilton, progress has been made with dedicated cycle paths. Claudelands Bridge modifications are happening. I attended the Access Hamilton meetings where plans were hatched for these improvements. The Western Rail Trail provides a West to the central route and the cycleways near the Rototuna Schools have been hugely successful. Where do we go from here though?

I believe we need to join the gaps to create a North to South and East to West (including university to town) routes. We haven’t an endless pot of money but careful route planning connecting the suburbs to service areas and the CBD would be a start. 

Electrify NZ lent me a bike to try earlier in the year and more recently to deliver pamphlets. I want it! If elected mayor, it will be my first treat purchase. I find the off-road paths a dream and quiet parts of the city are fine to cycle most of the time. But the bridges, intersections and busy streets with lots of parking are nerve-wracking. I absolutely understand the need for protected lanes now. 

Protected lanes do not prevent parking bays. They can be factored in. We have streets with wide berms which can be reorganised so the green space works as the buffer between cycles and cars. 

In new areas, there is no excuse for not providing wide, protected cycle lanes, encouraging cycling from the day people move in. We need to transition from the sub-standard green lanes and lines to protected lanes that have proven to work all around the world.

Studies show that when a city is safer for cyclists it is safer for all transport.


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