Brake submission to the Inquiry into the Future of New Zealand’s Mobility

Background

Brake is a road safety charity with global interests, and branches in the UK and New Zealand. It approaches road safety and sustainable travel from a vision zero approach. That is to say, the charity considers that all deaths and injuries on roads are unacceptable, and eliminating carbon emissions from transport, which is the largest contributing carbon sector, should be approached with equal zeal.

New Zealand presents particular challenges for mobility.

On the one hand, it is a developed nation with progressive policies in many road safety areas (for example, graduated driver licensing) and a commitment to a Safe Systems approach to road safety by government, meaning that the government is acknowledging that humans make mistakes and is endeavouring to "design out" possibilities for mistakes through investment in road safety infrastructure and the like.

On the other hand, New Zealand is a country with limited funds for road safety or sustainable infrastructure due to a limited population. It also suffers from huge rural areas, many places entirely inaccessible by public transport and with very limited rural networks for bicycle travel, and with an increasingly depleted, previously ambitious, rail network. Combined with a cultural sense that people have a "right to drive" and their freedom and right to the open road should not be impaired, there are definitely political as well as financial challenges in transforming the transport of the country.

However, given the many organisations, ranging from the Cycling Action Network to progressive local authorities, working in the arena of road safety and sustainable transport, and the community-centred approach of our small-population nation, it is reasonable, and appropriate, that New Zealand takes a lead in transforming its transport to be at the cutting edge of good practice for mobility, both in terms of safety and sustainability, but also in terms of fairness and access for all, as well as health for all.

The Brake approach
This submission is driven by a commitment to a vision of a world that is "Safe, Sustainable, Fair and Healthy", in accordance with Brake's vision. Brake campaigns for a world that is:

Safe: Travel doesn't pose a threat to life nor a threat of serious injury.
Sustainable: Travel does not contribute to pollution and global warming.
Healthy: People can engage in active travel, getting around in ways that contribute to health and wellbeing, and without breathing in damaging air pollution from traffic.
Fair: Travel is fair for all. All children and adults have the freedom to move around their communities and get to places they want to be, without fear, threat, risk to health, noise or discomfort, nor unreasonable cost.

The reality is far from this:
Unsafe: Across the globe, 1.2 million people killed annually in road crashes and the figure is expected to rise to 1.8 million by 2030. Children and young people are often the victims; road crashes are the biggest cause of death of young people.
Unsustainable: Motorised road transport contributes about a quarter to a third of the richest nations' CO2 emissions, and emissions are rising in the poorest and middle-income nations.
Unhealthy: A leading cause of obesity in developed nations is sedentary lifestyles, and about 300,000 people die annually globally from respiratory conditions directly attributable to traffic pollution.
Unfair: Many people are inhibited from moving around their communities freely. This particularly affects the poorest people, prevented from travelling to work places and amenities, particularly through lack of public transport and safe routes for people on foot and bicycles.

The result is a world, including in New Zealand, where mobility is impaired, particularly for the poorest, and for children, and particularly for those wishing to choose sustainable and safe transport, in the form of public transport and walking and cycling.

Brake's views on mobility in New Zealand

Brake wishes to make the following key points in relation to New Zealand's question for safe, sustainable, fair and healthy transport as a means to attain mobility for all, which it can expand upon, if asked to do so, at the inquiry.

1. Cycling: New Zealand's traffic-free cycle network, enabling people to travel between homes, schools, places of work and amenities, and between urban centres, is paltry and needs urgently expanding far beyond its current state, as per the actions being taken through the German example and the London example of cycle super highways in urban centres and between urban centres and networks in countries such as the Netherlands. Vehicles and bicycles do not mix. It is not an effective, safe solution to have on-road cycle lanes, only distinguished and separated by road paint.

2. Liveable Cities: New Zealand should be working towards restricting access to cities by private cars, and attaining traffic-free cities, as per the Oslo example and many other progressive cities. Retail and property values increase when cities minimise or exclude traffic, and this is the only way to revolutionise and build mobile, future cities that provide fairness for all people including the disabled, children and the elderly.

3. Speed: While working on 2, New Zealand should immediately impose a 30km / hr speed limit in all urban areas. The default 50 limit is too high for pedestrian safety. This is proven through numerous academic papers and practitioner examples from around the globe. To support this initiative, New Zealand should immediately ramp up enforcement of speed limits through the use of digital speed cameras throughout the country; there is a miniscule number of cameras at present, with only a very small expansion in numbers planned, to service the whole nation, meaning there is a general presumption that speeding is not a serious offence and speeders will not be caught, discouraging use of roads by cyclists.

4. Rail: New Zealand's rail network needs urgent attention as a safe and progressive means of travel that can, in particular, contribute to mobility by ridding our roads of heavy freight. While much of New Zealand's rail network has already been ripped up or passenger services terminated, the rail network that remains should be cherished and expanded rapidly, starting, urgently with key routes enabling the largest numbers of people to be transported by this excellent means of transport and investment in Kiwi Rail to enable urgent expansion of rail freight and reduction in heavy vehicles. Light transit systems in all cities should be a priority, along with electric or otherwise sustainably-powered buses, see this example of the biobus poo bus in the UK. Conversely, New Zealand should not be investing in Roads of National Significance, which simply create more pollution and congestion. Roads equals more vehicles, which results in more casualties and carbon emissions. Road building is not a progressive transport policy.

5. New Zealand should be putting an end to its disgraceful stock of ancient cars, which provide limited crash protection to occupants and are highly polluting, and should be leading the way in requiring the highest standards of safety and emissions, in line with its 'pure' image, including promoting and enabling people to acquire and run, with refuelling stations, electric and fuel cell cars that can, and should be, using New Zealand's sources of renewable power, be powered in entirely sustainable ways. It should start to do this through immediate legislation that provides a fair but limited window of opportunity for people to upgrade to newer cars with a stipulated crash protection standard and emission standard that exceeds other governments' standards. We draw the inquiry's attention to the latest European PIN 30 report on such standards, which provides useful comparative background in relation to the large gap between legislative standards in Europe and best practice.

Supportive reading
In support of this submission and Brake's commitment to safe, sustainable, fair and healthy transport, see these important international documents:

  • Action agenda outcomes from COP21, coordinated by PPMC (Paris Process on Mobility and Climate) involving SLoCaT and others' promotion of transport initiatives
  • The Brasilia Declaration on road safety, November 2015
  • The Sustainable Development Goals, 2015
  • UN General Assembly resolution on road safety 2014
  • Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2010-2020
  • The Children's Declaration for Road Safety (part of the Save Kids' Lives campaign)
  • The UN’s 1989 Convention of Rights for Children

Many thanks for the opportunity to contribute to this important inquiry in New Zealand.

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