It seems this is the ideal for this government?

by Fred Too on the BFD

A basic plank of public policy work is cost/benefit analysis. You might not be able to quantify all the costs and benefits of a proposal, but you should certainly be able to identify what they are and give them a weighting. You use these to assess if the benefits are likely to outweigh the costs, or weigh up which option for implementing the proposal is likely to give the greatest net benefit.

But nowadays I keep seeing projects, completed by councils and government using our money, that impose plenty of costs but seem to have little, if any, benefit!

The classic head-scratcher for me lately is the cycle lanes, newly created by taking away car parks or eliminating vehicle lanes. These give a dedicated lane to a few cyclists who appear at peak hours going to and from work. The rest of the time these vast expanses of tarmac sit there barely used at all, while cars whizz by pretty much all day and night.

I have noticed increased congestion in the areas where traffic lanes have been taken for the cyclists. People are wasting more time sitting queued in their cars and the cars are consequently emitting more fumes. There is certainly an opportunity cost – the lost opportunity to be working or doing something more pleasurable than being stuck in traffic. Businesses that have to move things around on these clogged roads certainly incur greater costs.

Some of the car parks taken for cycle lanes reduce the councils’ parking-meter revenue. Fewer parks also mean less sales for the shops located near them. I was told about a women’s premium secondhand clothing shop in Wellington that had seen its revenue plunge after the nearby parks were turned into a cycle lane. The council’s response to complaints by the shop owner was that, overseas, cycle lanes had ‘increased retail spending’. They just don’t want to know the true facts. Shoppers will drive somewhere else, like a mall, where they stand a better chance of finding a park.

So what are the benefits of these cycle lanes? Do more people cycle – maybe a few. Are cyclists any safer – maybe a little, but careful commuting by bike is not dangerous and can never be made completely safe.

Cycle lanes might mean a little less of the evil CO2 emitted if in fact more people cycled – but a fraction less CO2 certainly has next to no benefit as it can’t possibly make a measurable difference to the climate and will barely put a dent in our carbon-reduction pledges. And even if you can quantify these piffling benefits – how do they compare to the very real costs?

Cycling is never going to be practical for anything other than commuting by a small minority of the population. Are we meant use a bike to go shopping, go to sports events, take the kids to their various activities, take the dog out, collect the groceries and go visit friends? I bet all the councillors and town planners pushing cycle lanes onto us don’t jump on their bikes to do all these things!

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