Take Action On The DCC’s Draft Annual Plan

The draft annual plan sets out the Dunedin City Council’s proposed annual budget for 2013/14.  Make a submission and tell the DCC whether you agree or disagree with the spending priorities for 2013/14 outlined in the draft plan. Draft Annual Plan 2013/14. Below you can read SPOKES’ submission and you are welcome to copy and submit it as is, modify it as you like, or use any portion of it while writing your own.  For your convenience, you can download a Word version of our submission that has been modified for individual submissions here.

Deadline for submissions is 5pm on Tuesday 9th April 2013.

SPOKES Dunedin Submission on the Draft Annual Plan, April 2013

SPOKES Dunedin aims to help make cycling in Dunedin safer and more enjoyable so that it becomes a viable transportation mode for more residents.   SPOKES is part of a network of local cycling advocacy groups that constitute the nationwide Cycling Advocates Network (CAN).  See http://www.can.org.nz for more information about CAN.

The benefits of increasing the transport mode share for cycling are myriad, including health,  environmental, liveability, social well-being, and social justice.  These are not just intangible niceties but have important and well-documented economic benefits such as the reductions in health care and sick leave costs , fewer transport and fuel costs, increased property values and cycle tourism that result from encouraging active and multi-modal transport.

As part of the Economic Development Strategy, one of Dunedin’s key goals is to attract and retain world class, talented entrepreneurs and innovators who are able to contribute to the City’s economic development.  In this increasingly mobile and global workforce, liveability and lifestyle are important factors in attracting talented people who have the freedom to live and work virtually anywhere.  The mayors of Seattle and Chicago certainly recognize this fact, having recently sparred over which city could provide the best cycle lanes with which to lure workers[1].

Cycle tourism in particular should be a highly motivating factor for Dunedin.  The Central Otago Rail Trail contributes roughly $12 million per year to the economy of Central Otago.   But when it comes to cycle tourism the focus of the Rail Trail is on the Trail portion of the route while the Rail portion (the Taieri Gorge Railway) is often not seen as part of the trip.  Dunedin should be marketing itself as the Eastern terminus of the Rail-Trail, where the complete experience includes both the Rail and the Trail.  Isn’t it ironic, then, that the Dunedin Railway Station is not readily accessible by bicycle for average users, the main road passing by the Railway Station is not very bicycle friendly, and the Taieri Gorge Railway does not advertise as “the” way to get to the Trail with a bicycle?

The impact of the Rail Trail on the Central Otago economy is impressive, but it is the Otago Peninsula which has been recognized as one of the world’s top ten bicycle rides by leading travel guide Lonely Planet[2].  But to fully realize the potential economic benefits, Dunedin needs a world-class cycleway to match the world-class rating of the route.  Although plans are in the works for a Harbour Cycleway, the currently proposed design does not meet the standards required for international cycle tourism. Furthermore, the proposed timeframe for completion of the cycleway requires another decade, during which time tens of millions of dollars (up to $100 million if the Rail Trail is any indication) in potential economic activity will be lost.  SPOKES Dunedin has recently provided a separate submission on the Harbour Cycleway that discusses the issues in more detail.

We recognize and appreciate the steps that are being taken for improved cycling infrastructure in Dunedin, with work commencing on a portion of the Strategic Cycle Network and a portion of the Harbour Cycleway, and improvements being made or planned for on SH1.  However, despite the outpouring of public demand for safer cycleways, particularly following the death of Dr. Chris He in November 2012, and despite an obvious recent increase in cycling in the city (no doubt partly attributable to an unusually pleasant summer), the annual plan includes no additional measures to accommodate cycling or prevent more deaths.

The response in Christchurch to an equal number of recent cycling fatalities has been much more proactive. Mayor Bob Parker has called for a modest increase in rates to help fund a $70 million cycleway project.[3] Granted, Christchurch faces a very different set of financial and infrastructure challenges; but it is disappointing to see Dunedin getting edged out in its public commitment to the safety and well-being of its residents, and increasing the liveability of the City.

Our recommendations on this year’s annual plan:

  • Fix SH 1 now. To become a viable and preferred transportation alternative in Dunedin, cycling must be made safe and convenient along the one-way sections of State Highway 1.  The current on-road cycle lanes are, as local NZTA officials acknowledge, not even up to NZTA minimum standards.  Alternative routes on back streets are not always practical for residents who need to travel to shops, schools, the university, and other major destinations on the one-way routes.  The council and NZTA must collaborate and move expeditiously on measures to provide safe, preferably separated, cycle lanes along the full length of the urban sections of SH1 in both directions. SPOKES urges the council to commit immediately to funding its share of these improvements—and to act decisively in removing parking as necessary to accommodate them.
  • Get going on the Caversham and Chain Hills tunnels.  Opening these tunnels to pedestrians and cyclists will significantly lower the barriers for cycling as a viable transport option between the City centre and the southern suburbs.  The citizens of Dunedin have clearly said time and again, year after year, that they want these public assets to be publicly available.  It is now time to end the stalling and excuses that have plagued this project for years.  For years utilities have had exclusive access to our tunnels but now we want them back.  Make it happen.  Now.
  • Set ambitious and measurable goals for cycling safety and cycling numbers.  In last year’s annual plan, the target level of resident satisfaction with cycling infrastructure for the current year was set at ≤28 percent.  The target level of satisfaction for the coming year is also set at ≤28 percent. With unimaginative objectives like these, it is not surprising that progress is slow. Part of the difficulty in pointing to any progress in accommodating safe cycling in Dunedin is the lack of data available.  Although numbers of cyclists are counted, the counts are infrequent and highly dependent on weather and other circumstances. SPOKES urges the adoption of a more consistent and regular means of monitoring cycling at several locations in the city.  We also encourage the council to adopt at least one specific, measurable goal for the coming year: no cycling fatalities.
  • Expedite development of the Strategic Cycle Network.  SPOKES is pleased to see the council soliciting the views of cyclists on the design of cycle routes in South Dunedin, and we are submitting separately on that issue.  However, the drip-feed spending proposal for the Strategic Cycle Network remains wholly inadequate.  SPOKES recommends shortening the timeline for complete implementation of the network to a maximum of ten years rather than twenty, increasing annual funding and seeking supplementary external funding as necessary.  This would entail, at a minimum, increasing the coming year’s funding to approximately $3 million.
  • Expedite completion of the Harbour Cycleway. SPOKES has already submitted on the planning and design of the Portobello and Harington Point Road improvements, we urge the council to reconsider the schedule and funding for this vital project and modify the annual plan accordingly.  Given the high international profile of this route, Dunedin should seek additional funding through the National Cycleways programme.
  • Install cycle racks.  Although excellent bicycle racks have been designed and purchased, installation has been generally slow.  Demand is obviously high: at the farmer’s market and in the evenings at the Octagon, for example, the few existing bike racks have been stacked full, and bikes are locked to every available sign, lamppost, fence, and other immovable object.  Visible, well-designed bike parking encourages potential users to leave the car at home, freeing up parking spaces and encouraging more and longer visits to nearby businesses.
  • Adopt a mandatory “Complete Streets” policy for transport infrastructure.  We  encourage the council to adopt a Complete Streets policy (see www.completestreets.org), in which the needs of all road users (including walkers, cyclists, and the mobility-impaired as well as motorized traffic) are taken into account at all stages of transportation planning, and to apply these guidelines to the redevelopment of urban areas as well as to new development.  We would like these guidelines to be specifically cited in site-specific urban planning, such as that for South Dunedin.

[2] “Saddle up for the world’s best cycling routes,” Lonely Planet website, 1 May 2012, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/travel-tips-and-articles/75502

[3] “Cycleways Call after Two Road Deaths,” Stuff website, 28 March 2013, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8481686/Cycleways-call-after-two-road-deaths.

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