Christchurch’s entire cycleway network will be put on hold and some routes immediately axed if mayoral hopeful Darryll Park is successful.
Park is standing on a zero rates platform but to do that he needs to find $100 million in savings over three years.
During a debate on RNZ hosted by Morning Report’s Corrin Dann with other candidates Lianne Dalziel and John Minto, Park said he would cut non-essential services like community neighbourhood barbecues. Dalziel said that would equate to a couple of thousand dollars.
In a later phone call to Stuff, Park said he would put the cycleways on hold, pending a review, but immediately scrap the planned route from Templeton into the central city, via Hornby, Sockburn, Middleton, Riccarton and Addington.
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The route has already been approved by the council and work is expected to start next year. The South Express passes nine schools, The Hub Hornby, Riccarton Raceway and market, Upper Riccarton Library and the Wharenui Recreation Centre.
Park said the cost of the South Express cycleway was $36m (about 65 per cent of which is paid for by central government), but the council was not able to give him figures of how many people would cycle on it.
“It’d need a lot of people to justify that expense.”
Park also has his sights on the partially completed Heathcote Expressway linking the suburb to the central city.
“I like cycleways, but there’s got to be a balance.”
The council’s cycleway programme is heavily subsidised by the NZ Transport Agency and central government, which means the council pays about 35 per cent of the total cost.
Cycling advocacy group Spokes chairman Don Babe said if money was not spent on providing alternatives then more money would have to be spent on roads.
“Roads are a lot more expensive than cycleways.”
Babe said if Park did a thorough review of the cycleways he would soon come to the realisation that spending on cycleways was the way to achieve lower rates increases.
A lot of money had been spent on the cycleways but motorists had benefited from the associated work too, he said.
At least three intersections along the Quarryman’s trail cycleway, linking Halswell to the central city, have been rebuilt and traffic lights installed as a result of the cycleways.
The money to upgrade those intersections, which had allowed traffic to flow more smoothly into the city, had been included in the cycleway budgets, Babe said.
“If you don’t allow people to cycle you’re going to end up needing more car parking at the hospital because everyone is going to be in there.”
City councillor and cycleway advocate Mike Davidson said people had been misinformed on cycleways and their impact on rates.
The council was building 13 cycleways, amounting to 100 kilometres, across the city at a total cost of $256m – two-thirds of which is Government money. Two have already been completed, six are partially open and construction starts on another two next year. Planning still needs to be completed on another three. The council plans to complete the cycleways by 2028.
Davidson said about 30 per cent of the cycleway budget was spent on general infrastructure such as road surfaces or intersection upgrades that benefited everyone.
The city’s cycleway programme added about 0.17 per cent to rates per year, he said.
“The programme is 100km of cycleways … added to our existing 50km will mean that in 2028 Christchurch will have 150km of cycleways. With a transport network that is over 3000km, that is less than 5 per cent. Not really a proliferation, simply catching up after decades of under-investment at a time that our climate needs us.”