10 Oct 2017

A protected cycleway network is vital if Christchurch wants to see the “true transformation” of the city into cycle haven, an international expert says.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth, a programme manager at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, says Christchurch is facing the same barriers as all western industrialized countries as it tries to get commuters out of vehicles and onto bikes.

“We’ve developed our transportation systems focused on the automobile and changing that takes money and political will. At a high level, it’s pretty simple: the places with the best bicycle infrastructure have the highest cycling rates. Where it’s more comfortable to drive than bike, the bike rates are low.” 

Steve Hoyt-McBeth with a bike in Portland.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth, an international cycling expert leading the charge on cycle transportation in Portland, Oregon.

Mr Hoyt-McBeth has helped revolutionize cycle commuting in Portland over the past 20 years. He will be sharing his experiences with Cantabrians when he speaks at the Asia Pacific Cycle Congress in Christchurch later this month.

“I think Portland has seen some great jumps by getting the 'enthused and confident’ cyclists onto their bikes. They are cyclists who don’t feel they need world class cycleways to bike. Portland has an average of 6 to 7 percent of people biking to work on any given day and that is mostly the ‘enthused and confident’ cyclists.

“But we are struggling to get that next section of potential cyclists – what we call the ‘interested but concerned’ – to ride.

"Unfortunately, they compose about 60 percent of our city. They don’t feel comfortable riding alongside cars. Evidence from other places and local research suggests that we need protected bike lanes to get them to ride.

"Building protected bike lanes is a lot more expensive and requires a lot more trade-offs. So I would say that creating a network of bikeways is important on grabbing that first wave of cyclists, and the protected bike lane network is paramount if you want to see a true transformation.”

Christchurch City Council is building a network of Major Cycle Routes over the next seven years, connecting suburbs, shopping areas, businesses, schools and sporting destinations. There has already been an increase in the number of people cycling on the cycleways that have been completed.

“In Portland we have a strong community culture around bikes. On Fridays volunteers serve doughnuts and coffee to people biking into downtown. We have an amazing 21-day bike festival, Pedalpalooza at the end of spring with over 100 different themed bike rides. It’s completely volunteer run and underscores the strength of the grass roots,'' Mr Hoyt-McBeth said.

“I can’t wait to get to Christchurch and experience your cycleways and learn from the locals. Getting to speak at the Asia Pacific Cycling Congress is a tremendous opportunity for me. As they may apply to Christchurch, I hope to share lessons from Portland.”