Limitoo News

More people biking in Christchurch than in any other New Zealand city

More Christchurch locals are getting on their bikes with one cycling advocate saying its boost in popularity is down to investment in cycleways after the 2011 earthquakes.

no caption

In the Aotearoa Bike Challenge, an annual month-long cycling initiative in February, over a million kilometres were cycled by 6000 participants in the city.

Christchurch City Council said the city also has the highest global participation rate in initiatives run by the wider challenge platform, Love to Ride.

Aranui Bike Fixup leader Steve Muir thinks the boost in cycling popularity is down to investment in cycleways after the 2011 earthquakes.

"A certain percentage of people will bike no matter how dangerous it is 'cause they're just hard core, but it's that sort of middle ground of people who are not confident enough to do battle with traffic who are really getting out and trying the cycleways."

In 2013, the council promised to build 13 major cycleways connecting the city's central suburbs.

Four have been fully completed so far, and the initial estimated budget of $67 million has now surpassed $300m.

Spokes Canterbury chairperson Don Babe said while the earthquakes allowed significant development of infrastructure, he wished the council had done more to finish the cycleways within the promised five-year timeline.

"We're still not there, it's been going for coming up to 10 years," he said.

"The budget's blown out, but they're getting a lot more support financially from central government."

The cycling advocacy group has the ambitious mission to make Christchurch one of the top five cycling cities in the world by 2025.

Babe said there was a long way to go before this could be achieved, but the unfinished projects are not stopping people from hitting the roads.

RAD Bikes community workshop co-founder Jess Smale said Covid lockdowns gave biking a boost.

With roads clear of the usual traffic, she said more locals than ever were dusting off their bikes, and continued to use them afterwards.

"We as an organisation are driving it and can see the opportunity, but equally there's a whole lot of momentum in the community," she said.

Muir, who runs a bike trailer business alongside Aranui Bike Fixup, said he does not just want to help people access a free transport option, but wants create a more enjoyable city to live in.

"I think, what sort of city do I want to live in, is it one that's dominated by cars and traffic congestion and fumes and smog and noise, or do I want to live in a city which is dominated by quiet, healthy bikes?"

The Ministry of Transport says road traffic makes up 20 percent of New Zealand's carbon emissions, and the Climate Commission recommends more active and public transport use is needed to reduce emissions.