How many people are actually cycling in Auckland?

A reader writes in:

As you will be aware, Auckland Transport uses cycle trip recorders and recently put out a report saying there were 3.6m trips in 2017, a 6.2% increase on 2016. The NZH used this in a recent editorial and it often crops up when people advocate the construction of more cycle ways. But what does it actually mean?

3.6m is just under 10,000 a day. But my understanding is the counters don’t discriminate as to direction, so assuming anyone who bikes to work, etc, will also return home, thus passing the same counter twice in a day. So that’s actually 5,000 cyclists a day. (In fact Sunday and Public Holiday numbers should be discounted by some factor as the purpose is not cycle ways for recreational use but to get cars off the roads, but let’s be generous.)

But there are 28 counters in various sections of cycle way so it’s highly likely someone a reasonable distance (eg Te Atahu to the CBD) will pass several counters. So again let’s be very generous, and just halve the figure again which means 2,500 actual cyclists a day.

A 6.2% increase on the previous year means 155 extra cyclists, or 3 a week. (155 x 2 x 2 x 365 = 226,300/3.6m = 6.27%) So all the investment is only getting 3 extra people on a bike a week! Or have I made a big mistake?

If it’s correct, how on earth can AT claim ( “In 2016, 46,000 people, the equivalent of a full Mt Smart Stadium, took up cycling,” or the even more exaggerated claim “In 2017, AT’s Active Modes research showed that 35 per cent of Aucklanders cycled, up from 31 per cent in 2016.” 500,000+ Aucklanders or one in three cycling? It’s a nonsense.

If 46,000 people “took up cycling” the majority would need to buy a bike and there would be bike shops springing up everywhere. There would also be a high annual churn as some people realise it’s not for them. TradeMe currently has 300 street bikes listed for all of Auckland.

I’m not opposed to cycling per se but I am opposed to patently inaccurate information used to justify huge amounts of rate and tax payer expenditure.

It does look like the stats are rather inflated.

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