At the end of a very successful NZ Walking conference, Living Street Aotearoa members expressed dismay at the lack of funding announced in the Government Policy Statement committed to improving the walking environment.
Walking has been overlooked in favour of Think Big transport projects for too long.
"We are under-whelmed by the targets and funding" Ms Wade-Brown said in a closing address to the delegates in Auckland.
"We agree with the aim to increase walking, especially for short urban journeys," says Living Streets President, Celia Wade-Brown. "However, a total of 1% per annum growth in walking and cycling is stunningly unambitious. Static funding over the next three years means there is no commitment to a real step change in support for people on foot."
Many Councils and communities are clear what improvements are needed. Programmes, promotion and engineering changes are ready to go with many Councils having Walking Strategies or policies. We are disappointed and mystified that footpath maintenance will receive NO central government funding when there is acknowledgment that there is a huge cost to the health system for trips and falls as well as the transport imperative to get people walking for more urban short trips.
Walking far more trips under 2k is a realistic goal but where's the government support? Walking is part of every public transport trip so good access is a precondition for people to catch the bus or train. At the moment some stations have appallingly unsafe and unattractive approaches.
Overall we have a decline in children walking to school. Lack of physical activity has caused huge health funding problems. 30 minutes exercise a day is easily achieved with a couple of 2km walks.
Cold starts, congestion around schools and safety through natural surveillance are all alleviated by increasing travel choice. At the moment the new Transport Authority seem destined to overlook walking as a true 21st century solution.
Walking is a terrific way to simultaneously address revitalisation of city and town centres, obesity and mental health.
"If New Zealanders want a better set of transport choices, walking must be at the top of the list. To get to a bus stop or train station, we walk. Redesigning sprawl into compact, beautiful walkable centres must be a higher priority than expanding road capacity." says Cr Wade-Brown.
"A projected average of almost $2 billion p.a. on roading could easily be pruned to increase funding for footpath maintenance, safer routes to school, walking maps and signage. That would reduce congestion in a much more cost-effective way" says the Wellington City Councillor. She notes that Wellington is bucking the trend with a reduction in one car-one person commuter trips and puts this down to increasing inner city living, the Safer Roads programme in Wellington and higher fuel prices.
Visiting walking guru, Dan Burden, keynote speaker at this week's Walking Conference, stressed that slowing vehicles is essential for a walking-friendly neighbourhood and that this still allows traffic to flow effectively.
In the updated NZ Transport Strategy - the mode share of walking and cycling should grow to 30% by 2040 and just 1% p.a. to 2015.
However, the Government Position Statement (p18) sets out a funding plan for walking and cycling facilities which does not necessarily show any growth until 2012/13 and suggests ($15-30 m pa for the next 3 years.
For more information on Dan Burden please see www.walkable.com
Celia Wade-Brown President Living Streets Aotearoa
P O Box 25-424, Wellington, New Zealand
home - 04 938 6691, mobile - 027 483 6691