Hamilton MP wants changes to transport infrastructure to create ‘totally different’ city
Christel Yardley / Stuff
Safer cycling protesters rode from Steele Park to Garden Plaza, where a two-minute “die in” was staged.
The city of Hamilton could look “totally different” in just 20 years – but Hamilton East MP Jamie Strange knows the transport overhaul he is calling for won’t be universally popular.
Strange was speaking at a safer cycling demonstration at Hamilton’s Garden Plaza on Saturday, where he told the crowd of 60-70 that ‘we want to see this totally different city with cycling at the heart of our transportation’ .
He said he hopes this change will happen within the next 20 to 30 years.
“We need to reach out to more cyclists. As a government, we are committed to this.
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He said transport accounts for 20 per cent of emissions and under New Zealand’s Paris Climate Agreement obligations getting more people out of cars would be a better use of money now than to have to buy carbon credits later.
He also said the pending budget would have “climate change at the center of its concerns”.
He conceded, however, that the changes would not be universally popular.
“Some people will be unhappy with the change, but we have to do it.”
Her comments were echoed by Hamilton City Councilors Sarah Thomson and Maxine van Oosten.
“There are changes coming and some of them won’t appeal to some people in the community,” van Oosten said.
She said 86% of travel in Hamilton was by car, “the highest of New Zealand’s five major cities”.
She said Hamilton City Council is “committed to improving transportation choices” and that its 10-year plan will include investments for bike lanes.
“We want to provide city-wide cycling networks,” she said.
Thomson also agreed that there would be a pushback.
“Before funding, that’s the biggest challenge.”
She said she wanted to see a national strategy to get more people on two wheels, which she described as a “nationwide response”.
“We need a government-led response to this, it’s not enough to leave it to the councils,” she said.
“We have to go much faster than we are.”
Thomson also urged people to sign a petition calling on Transport Minister Michael Woods to make cycling safer in New Zealand.
However, cycling was not the only focus of the protest, as wheelchair user Maurice Flynn also gave a speech calling for greater accessibility for all.
He said people with access issues have often “given up being part of the community”.
“Poor infrastructure means weak community association,” he said.
“I think it’s time we did things differently for our city.”