Active transport in growing cities

March 2017

By Dr Hamish Mackie, Mackie Research

The Future Streets project partners have made changes to streets in Central Māngere, including safer bicycle lanes. Here a bicycle lane flows safely around a bus stop, by temporarily sharing a footpath space. Photo: Mackie Research.

In New Zealand there is a gradual ‘maturing’ of transport planning with a growing appreciation that successful cities have strong multimodal transport systems. This follows a gradual realisation that we won’t solve some of our biggest issues for cities by simply adding more lanes to roads. In addition to effective public transport systems, affording opportunities for safe walking and cycling is also key and is the only part of the transport system that helps to address New Zealand’s obesity crisis, not to mention the implications for congestion, air pollution, climate change, and vibrant towns and cities.

However, serious effort is needed if we are to reverse the steady decline in walking and cycling for transport in New Zealand. Over the past 30 years, school travel, for example, has decreased significantly – according to the New Zealand Household travel survey, in the 1980s typically one fifth of secondary school students cycled to school, whereas today typical numbers are one to three percent. But things are changing, with recent investment in the Urban Cycling Programme, town entre upgrades, Model Communities, and Future Streets – all initiatives that are having a tangible impact on walking and cycling participation for transport.

Ultimately, we may need to consider the design of towns and cities that people actually want to live in by taking much greater notice of residents’ preferences, perceptions, and ideas. When effort is taken to understand the views of people who live in towns and cities, in most cases, preferences for better and more walking and cycling opportunities are highly valued.

The MBIE-funded Future Streets research project is testing alternative street designs that afford user-friendly and safe travel by all travel modes. Led by Mackie Research, and partnering with Auckland Transport, the New Zealand Transport Agency, and the Māngere Otahuhu Local board, the project partners made changes to streets in Central Māngere and a substantial before/after controlled study design is being used to understand the impacts of the changes.

Following the recent implementation of the infrastructure, follow-up data collection is underway over the next two years to monitor the effect of Future Streets (with the associated environmental changes and other community-generated supporting activities to promote physical activity for transport) on the health, safety, travel patterns and social outcomes of Māngere residents.  

Dr Hamish Mackie, Mackie Research principal researcher, recently presented his work at the March Speaker’s Science Forum hosted at Parliament’s Grand Hall by Dr Jian Yang Chair of the Science and Education Select Committee. The science forum is a well-attended series of research presentations for Members of Parliament organised by The Royal Society of New Zealand in partnership with IRANZ, Science New Zealand, and Universities New Zealand. The March Forum was on “Transport in growing cities”. Also at the March forum, Dr Jared Thomas (Research Manager, Behavioural Sciences, Opus) discussed strategies for “Improving take up of public transport”, which include traveller-friendly design and planning options for cities.

Forum subjects later this year include “Production, protection and adding value” with Dr Armin Werner from Lincoln Agritech, “Big Data, Big Value” with Dr Young from MRINZ on using data to drive better medical practice and patient care, and “New Zealand’s space science” with Dr Greg Bodeker from the new Regional Research Institute CSST (Centre for Space Science Technology).

For a copy of Hamish and Jared’s presentation to The Speaker’s Science Forum, please download the PDF. (7MB)