When the team at Eco-Counter installs a bicycle counter on a new lane or path anywhere in the world, one of the most frequently asked questions we get is: “Will building this new infrastructure increase the number of people riding their bicycles in my city?”
And we have many good examples to prove that new infrastructure, done right, does increase cyclist numbers. Our most recent is the Lightpath in Auckland, New Zealand.
Organizations in charge: Auckland Transport, New Zealand Transport Agency
Population: 1,529,000 inhabitants
Installed counters: 1 ZELT counter
Background of cycling in Auckland
While historically, cycling in Auckland is a mode of transport which has had high levels of modal share, by the early 2000’s it had become all but replaced by cars, with the remaining few cyclists mainly cycling for leisure and sports motives.
Today, cars are still the main form of transportation within Auckland, with only a minor percentage of trips taken by bicycle. Auckland also ranks quite low in its use of public transport, taking only 46 public transport trips per capita per year, compared to Wellington which has almost twice this number at 91, and Aussie neighbor Sydney with 114 trips. This car-oriented mindset results in substantial traffic congestion during peak times. (Source)
On top of this, Auckland has a much less positive attitude towards cycling and new cycling infrastructure than other cities in New Zealand including Wellington and Christchurch. An Otago University study showed that fear of rude and actively hostile behavior from drivers was the main reason New Zealanders were not cycling more. Some 59% of respondents in an Auckland Transport study cited “safety” as a barrier to cycling. (Source)
This picture is changing. Through political support of new cycling infrastructures initiatives (like this one, for instance) there has been a revival in cycling. In 2014, census results showed cycling mode share had stopped declining, although the increase from 0.9% in 2006 to 1.2% in 2014, was small. (Source)
However, our wide network of more than 50 counters installed across Auckland show the recent success of cycling where higher-quality infrastructure has been installed, reporting an annual cycle increase of 3% (on average). At a national level, New-Zealand bicycle traffic increased by 3% and 1% in 2014 and 2015 respectively. (Source: Eco-Counter Worldwide Cycling Index).
And of course the “Lightpath” is a very good example of high-quality infrastructure. This six meter-wide shared walking and cycling path created on a disused off-ramp might even be the only bicycle lane that can be seen from space (because of its incredible magenta color obviously).
Less than four months after the opening of the Lightpath, also called ‘Te Ara I Whiti’, 100,000 cyclists have been counted by the bicycle counter with approximately 25,000 cyclists using this new path each month.
While enthusiasm for this new infrastructure was already high from the very beginning (see opening day here), it is worth noting that long-term behavioral change might also be underway, with the Lightpath fulfilling a ‘desire line’ for Auckland cyclists.
Bottom line is: if you build it, they will come. And they will probably be numerous.