03 April 2006

Transport targets should favour pedestrians

Even relatively enlightened agencies don't really know what to do for pedestrians. Road congestion, because it's more visual, seems to drive transport policy, even for enlightened local authorities. Here in New Zealand the Greater Wellington Regional Council has proposed its 10-year plan entitled A Sustainable Region. I approve of the plan's designating clear, explicit and (mostly) quantifiable targets to be achieved by 30 June 2016, for the environment, water supply, parks etc. Its transport targets included these:

  • At least 80% of all trips up to 1 km and 60% of all trips between 1 and 2 kms will be walked or cycled (74% and 19% respectively in 2004; and
  • Average congestion on selected roads will remain below 20 seconds delay per km travelled despite traffic growth (currently 20 seconds delay per km).
My submission was:

"Making Wellington more pedestrian-friendly would be better for the environment and people's health. It would make Wellington city centre more vibrant and more pleasurable for shopping and walking in. My main quibble is with your congestion objective. Car drivers inflict huge social and environmental costs on all of us. They are not charged per km travelled, so about the only check on car use is congestion. The objective of reducing congestion could be used to justify more road building, but car users are already over-catered for in Wellington. If you doubt this try crossing Taranaki St at Courtenay Place, or just see how little time pedestrians get to cross the road at any junction. Wellington should be a great walking city, but cars get priority over pedestrians at all junctions. Not only that, there is little law enforcement, so cars get away with dangerous life-threatening manoeuvres all the time. Reducing congestion without any law enforcement will simply lead to more car use, more deaths and injuries, and reduced walking.

As for cyclists: in the city centre, they are frankly a menace. I would approve of measures to cater for responsible cyclists, but merely making increased cycle use a target without any such measures and without any more law enforcement would further imperil pedestrians.

A further point: I hope you will consider introducing a scheme that will favour buses at traffic lights, which would speed up their journeys and help fulfil the public transport objective.

So my pleas can be summarised thus:

1. Give higher priority to pedestrians and buses on the city's roads.

2. Curb car-driving, perhaps by charging for using the city centre's roads and making it more pleasant to walk and use buses as per my point 1.

3. Introduce some effective law enforcement against irresponsible car-drivers and cyclists who constantly get away with performing illegal, dangerous manoeuvres making life - literally - difficult for pedestrians.

Thanks for the opportunity to submit."

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