Sunday, 26 June 2016

Safe cycleways--build them and they’ll come.

Some motorists see cyclists as a nuisance. Thirty years ago, I was one of them. I was irritated if I had to slow down behind cyclists when they moved slowly on the hills, or when they ‘claimed the lane’ on a narrow road. But I didn’t ever have to feel the real death-threat posed by a ton or more of steel and plastic which protected me, but greatly threatened them, as I hurtled close-by. My ignorance made me intolerant.
But then a friend encouraged me to bike. What fun. It brought back childhood pleasures when my bike was my favourite toy. Later, as my aged joints deteriorated, I could feel the joy of regular bike-riding as well as knowing that I was benefitting my health with non-impact, joint-friendly and pain-free exercise. Soon I was persuading my patients after their  operations of the benefits to their joints and general health as they rehabilitated. And a common response to my advice? “I’d love to do more cycling, doctor, particularly to and fro work, but it’s too dangerous out there on the roads”.
We now know that an epidemic of modern diseases are associated with a lack of exercise. Also, recent research shows the major financial cost-benefit of creating cycling infrastructure compared with more road-building. And of overwhelming importance, we now know that we have to stop burning fossil carbon to counter our deteriorating climate and to reduce urban pollution from exhaust fumes.
As I’ve learnt more about the benefits of cycling, I now strongly reject my own previous attitude So, this week, when I saw a letter to the DomPost describing cyclists as ‘a minority holding the rest of the population to ransom', I needed to respond. I want to encourage more Wellingtonians to commute by bike. The advent of electric bikes makes the impact of hills and wind much less while exercising. It will be a game-changer for some in our compact city. Distances are small in our CBD:  this makes cycling a potential winner in Wellington. But we've got to persuade our car-obsessedgovernment and their road authorities( NZTA)
to stop their urban motorway plans and spend generously on public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure

Here is my letter published on 23 June under the heading “The benefits of cycling” --

Dear Editor,

Ellie Quigley ( letters 21 June) says that “the rest of the population is being held to ransom by a minority” ( ie cyclists). She correctly identifies health as a major benefit of cycling—it does this by encouraging more exercise thus saving public health dollars. Commuting to work by bike saves people time otherwise put aside for exercise. Cyclists take cars off the road reducing congestion for all.  Also, global population health benefits from emission-free and less polluting transport.. Is all this “holding the population to ransom”?
Yes, cyclists are a minority: this explains the thrust by modern urban planners to create separate cycleways to correct the imbalance with car numbers. Surveys show many more people would cycle given the improved safety that they provide. 

Build them and they will come.

Yours sincerely, 
 Russell Tregonning.

The picture ( thanks to hospital photographer Louise Goossens) is of me cycling on Riddiford St., outside my previous work place ( Wellington Hospital). There is no safe cycleway there despite recent upgrades to the road layout. I am not smiling. That's a grimace. I'm hoping I won't end up on the wrong side of the operating table.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

LetsGetWellyMoving in plain English

Bill English bad-mouths Wellington  for its "lack of 'progressive attitude' to transport solutions"
( DomPost 3 June). But then he appears to offer an olive branch saying "Lack of money is not a problem for the bottlenecks in Wellington's city infrastructure".
But Wellingtonians beware: what he means, of course, is ' Hurry up and make the decision to bore another Mt Victoria tunnel, bulldoze a huge swathe through your town belt along Ruahine St, destroy your citizens' homes along Wellington Rd so we can put a huge motorway through to the airport'. Because this is this government's and its NZ Transport Agency's (NZTA) agenda.

NZTA are such slow learners—first they muck up the Basin flyover plan at huge cost to taxpayers, appealing the decision to cancel it made by independent Commissioners after a long and expensive enquiry. And now they are still pigheadedly refusing to see alternatives to more roads--the obvious one for Wellington's constrained geography being light rail which can be installed for a fraction of the cost of the $1billion plus for their roading plans.

Besides cost, there are two other compelling reasons to cancel these motorways: climate change and health. The first is the greatest threat to the second. Also, more roads threaten health further by encouraging more private transport which promote air pollution, crashes and a sedentary lifestyle. And road congestion returns soon after building them (just look at Auckland).

We dodged a bullet cancelling NZTA's Basin flyover plans. Let’s bring this government and NZTA's thinking into the 21st century. GetWellymoving is our chance to stop this planned motorway madness.

The Minister of Finance says there's plenty of money. Both our City and Regional Councils have climate change action plans which are to encourage people out of their cars and create a low-carbon capital--these plans are completely at odds with the government's transport agenda for Wellington.

Our local politicians must now get Bill English's funds currently projected for destructive roads transferred to pay for all-electric, high capacity, congestion-free light rail from railway station via the hospital to the airport. If Mayor Brown can get the Government to cough up towards Auckland's recently-started light rail construction why can't we?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Ten things you didn't know about climate change

Climate change is upon us. The global temperatures in 2016 are breaking all records. But we can act now to prevent the worst effects in the future.

Professors Tim Naish and James Renwick are touring New Zealand on behalf of The Royal Society of NZ . They will be presenting lectures on climate change entitled TEN BY TEN 2016: CLIMATE CHANGE  They say "Climate change is already redefining coastlines and the weather, both here in New Zealand and around the world. They ask--will it affect you, and what can you do about it?"

These two highly-respected climate scientists from Victoria University will give their take on this the biggest of issues – from the very local to the global.

I've heard them speak at the launch of this important initiative in Wellington last month. I can highly recommend their presentation. The link gives the towns and days when they speak.

My advice--Go & hear them.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Regional Council hard-nosed about killing hard-wired Wellington

I made an oral submission to Wellington's regional Council last Wednesday ( 25 May) I congratulated the Council on its decision that all future papers and policies include a statement as to their effect on climate change. This is essential to address and act on the climate crisis happening right now which the climate scientists are warning us about. But they also say we have the means to avoid the worst--given the right political leadership.
There are very good Council transport plans afoot like the plans for The Great Harbour Way safe walking & cycling track. But their handling of the most rapidly expanding source of greenhouse gases--fossil-fuelled transport--is foundering. Currently their bus fleet, apart from the trolleys, runs on diesel which has serious health and climate problems.
I pointed to the flawed  Public Transport Spine Study of 2013 which concluded that Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) should exclude light rail transport from Wellington's public transport agenda. This was based on over-emphasising costs and under-estimating the benefits of light rail while over-estimating the benefits of BRT. Many transport experts point to Wellington's narrow CBD streets so that 'Rapid' will not happen with a bus solution.And buses won't carry enough people to gain the real low emission and low pollution benefits inherent in light rail.
Another  major backward step has also been to plan the expensive destruction of the city's wiring for the popular clean green trolley buses. I have had a Wellington Scoop article printed on my views on this.