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Who is really benefiting from cycleways? asks Lynley Hood.
Browsing through media coverage of Dunedin's cycleway completion put me in mellow mood. What a great project. If increased safety encourages cycling there'll be fewer cars, cleaner air and healthier people.
We'll all benefit. I put aside years of disquiet at NZTA's failure to take pedestrian safety seriously, and gave the agency a warm thumbs up.
My disquiet related to the situation under the previous government, when the NZTA bracketed walking and cycling, and funded only cycling. This meant that all NZTA decisions on active transport were made by cyclists for cyclists. But with a new Government committed to making our country a fairer, more inclusive place, and with more than four times as many pedestrians as cyclists being killed on our roads, I was looking forward to a more pedestrian-friendly NZTA.
Sadly, my hopes have been crushed. When I clicked on what I thought was another article on the cycleway completion, I found a February 2018 newspaper article headed: "Cycleway switch aims to reduce Dunedin's high rate of cyclist and pedestrian crashes.''
Since cyclists get killed riding along traffic lanes, and pedestrians get killed crossing traffic lanes, I couldn't see how building cycleways would do anything for pedestrian safety, but I kept an open mind and read on.
Most cycleway articles honour cyclist Dr Li Hong He, whose tragic death in 2012 inspired our cycleway project, but this article updated the statistics, presumably from data provided by NZTA (since 2017 road toll statistics are not yet online). The article begins:
"Authorities hope installing concrete safety barriers and switching a cycleway to the other side of the road will help turn around Dunedin's high rate of crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians.
Six cyclists and pedestrians have died in crashes in the city centre between 2013 and 2017...''
I found four deaths (2013-16) in the Ministry of Transport's online database, and all six (2013-17) using the ODT online search engine. Then I gave the NZTA an emphatic, and totally disgusted, thumbs down.
So please join me in honouring the six pedestrians killed on Dunedin roads between 2013 and 2017, and cynically exploited by NZTA in 2018. They are: David Duff (2013); Marjorie Joyce Pullar and William Fraser Mitchell (2014); Albert Arthur Wolf (2015); and Mary Egerton and Margaret Mary Jane Herbert (2017).
May they rest in peace.
- Dr Lynley Hood is co-convener of the Dunedin Pedestrian Action Network and trustee of Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa.