NZTA Survey – Understanding attitudes and perceptions of Cycling & Walking

NZTA recently published a survey with the intention of validating their recent policy focus on investing and promoting cycling and walking as transport modes of choice. In 2014 the government created the Urban Cycleways Fund, followed by the Urban Cycleways Program. The information about the survey is available at Urban New Zealanders’ Attitudes and Perceptions of Cycling. This involved a scientific polling / survey process of over 2000 residents, made up of around 500 from each of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and around 200 from each of Hamilton, Tauranga and Dunedin. The importance of a scientific survey process such as this cannot be underestimated. It enables a counter to be made to the vociferously vocal car lobby which has vehemently opposed the construction of cycleways around New Zealand. Christchurch in particular recently embarked on a cycleways programme costing over $200 million to date.

Here is a summary of some of the key survey results. You can access the full report at the link shown above, which shows all of these results graphically.

Regular modes of transportation nationwide (multi choice)
  • Private/company vehicle 68%
  • Walking 53%
  • Bus 19%
  • Bicycle 12%
  • Train 7%
  • Motorbike/scooter 3%
  • Other 2%
  • E-bike 1%
  • Ferry 1%
  • None of the above 4%
Regional variation in transport modes

This is unsurprising since rail transport is only available in the North Island. Wellington had private vehicle use at 60% and Auckland was the next lowest at 67%. Christchurch had the highest level at 75% which is a key concern given that we have a bus system that should be achieving more to get people out of their cars. This is also reflected in the bus statistics in which Christchurch with 14% was well behind Auckland and Wellington with 26% each.

On the other hand, Christchurch had the highest regional use of cycling (17%) which was comfortably ahead of Auckland (10%) and Wellington (8%). Obviously there is no rail usage possible outside the two North Island main centres, but in both of those, the much higher rate of bus usage shows that it is not just rail that makes up a successful PT system, and that the bus system in those centres serves the public need better.

Walking frequency

72% walk and 63% walk at least once a week.

Cycling frequency

46% have cycled in the last 12 months. 32% cycle at least monthly and 17% cycle at least weekly. Although there is a small percentage drop in the overallĀ  statistic over two years (from 48% down to 46%), there has been a significant increase in the percentage of those cycling at least once a week. Aucklland has the lowest regional percentage of cyclists.

Urban cycling

The percentage who are urban cyclists has risen significantly causing a drop in the percentage who are cycling for recreational purposes.

Regional cycling stats

Auckland has the highest percentage of non riders (60%) while Tauranga has the lowest percentage (48%). Christchurch has 50% which is a good number. Hamilton has the highest percentage of urban riders (40%) and Dunedin the lowest (28%); Christchurch has 36%.

Cyclist demographics
  • Significantly higher percentage of males
  • 40% are under 35 years of age
  • 37% earn more than $100K.
Barriers to cycling
  • Not safe because of car drivers behaviour 52%
  • Not safe cycling in the dark 44%
  • Not enjoyable because of weather 38%
  • Not enough cycle lanes or physically separated routes 35%
  • Always have too much stuff to carry 34%
  • Live too far away for practicality 30%

These numbers vary little by region.

Overall state of cycling
  • Don’t Know 7%
  • [0-4] Poor 22%
  • [5] Fair 16%
  • [6-10] Good 55%

The regional variations saw Auckland have the highest percentage of Poor scores – its total of 27% was double that of Dunedin or Christchurch. There was little variation in Fair scores (13-17%) , and a small variation in Good scores, with Auckland having the lowest (51%) and Dunedin and Tauranga the highest (60%), Christchurch had 57%.

Support for cycling in the community
  • Don’t Know 3%
  • Very unsupportive 7%
  • Unsupportive 5%
  • Neutral 12%
  • Supportive 22%
  • Very supportive 51%

Regional variations gave Auckland the highest percentage of Very unsupportive and Unsupportive combined (16%), most other centres came in at around 10-12% for this measure. This meant the combinations of Supportive and Very Supportive inversely paralleled this trend. Christchurch’s percentage of net Unsupportive was middle of the road at 12%.

Perceptions of cycling infrastructure (percentages of net agreement)
  • Investing in cycle lanes is important: 71%
  • Cycling great way to get around town: 68%
  • Cycling becoming more popular for people to get to work, study or the shops: 57%
  • My town has a well connected cycle network: 39%
  • More people using bicycles is better for drivers: 38%
  • Satisfaction with cycle paths/lanes availability in local community: 37%
  • More/better cycle paths/lanes in local community: 35%
  • Cyclists sufficiently separated from traffic: 22%
Influence of infrastructure on cycling

There is a regional variation; the total net agreement is 49% and actually varies from 45% (Wellington) to 56% (Hamilton).

Overall safety of cycling
  • Net unsafe: 40%
  • Net safe: 38%

Substantial regional variation exists, with Auckland having the lowest safe percentage at 30%, and Hamilton the highest at 49%. Christchurch was middle of the road at 42%.

Perceptions of safety
  • Public road with no cycle lanes: 21%
  • Public road with cycle lanes 61%
  • On footpath 53%
  • On quiet local roads 68%
  • On shared path or cycle path 69%
  • At a park/domain 84%

Little regional variation but Aucklanders more likely to see cycling on a public toad as unsafe regardless of whether it has cycle lanes or not. There is some ambiguity due to the lack of distinction between painted cycle lanes and those with physical barriers.

Overall state of walking

Net supportive 78%. Regionally varies from 72% Tauranga to 86% Dunedin; 77% in Christchurch.

Reasons for walking
  • Keep fitter 76%
  • Fun / enjoy walking 57%
  • Enjoying the weather 47%
  • Cheaper / save money 46%
  • Avoid parking hassle 32%
  • More convenient than driving / PT 24%
Safety barriers
  • Poor weather 38%
  • Unsafe in the dark 34%
  • Too slow 34%
  • Always have too much stuff to carry 29%
  • Live too far away 29%
  • Takes too long 25%


Regular walking

53% walk at least once a week.

Key Findings in relation to PT

The way the survey was conducted is important for countering the vociferous car lobby brigade and the way that they have the supportive ear of many local authority politicians. The greatest concern for Christchurch is the relative level of disinterest by the Christchurch City Council’s elected members in supporting public transport as such; the main focus of many of these members over a lengthy period of time has focused on the political goal of taking over the operation of the city’s public transport system, rather than improving the system with greater infrastructure support. This in turn has flowed through into the prospects of future rail passenger development which has only lukewarm support at a local level. This blog does not support the contention that political control of the PT system in Christchurch, as CCC mayors and members allege, is necessary to ensure better PT infrastructure. Instead, the main reason for the poor level of PT support is an overall trend of pandering to the car lobby. The only serious local government campaign for PT in Christchurch recent years has been CPN’s standing of candidates at the last council elections on a platform of free buses. If CPN have a local government campaign in Christchurch next elections and have a pro-PT policy platform then I certainly will be encouraging people to vote for this.

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