The headline said it all.
Stats NZ has released 2018 census data on New Zealanders’ commuting habits and, guess what, we love a motorised polluter. “Car streets ahead for travel to work and education” was the heading. It should have been “cars rule, all other options drool”.
New cycleways are under construction across Auckland and major cycling projects have recently been completed in Christchurch and Wellington. If cycling advocates had their way, New Zealand would follow the Netherlands, where a quarter of the population cycles every day. Car use would decline and cycling and public transport use would rise. It all sounds good and a healthy option for the lives of our children and children’s children, but according to the census data, we’re not quite ready for it.
We just love cars!
Here are the important numbers and notes:
A comfortable 57.8% of employed New Zealanders over the age of 15 drive a *car, van or truck to work. That’s 1,412,994 vehicles. That’s so many cars (and vans and trucks).
291,135 people working from home
The second most popular commuting option in New Zealand is to not commute at all. Can’t drive a car to the office if you don’t have an office. I thought ‘working from home’ meant ‘I’m hungover and would like to work horizontally today’ but it appears to be a legitimate working environment for exactly 291,135 people. The planet thanks you.
449,604 student car* passengers
Nearly half of all students in New Zealand, how do you say it, catch a ride to school. Bloody lazy millennials and Gen Zers, piggy backing on their boomer parents’ hard work yet again.
“Walking or jogging”
Every day, 127,350 workers “walk or jog” to work and 235,842 students “walk or jog” to school. Walk or jog. Those two really ought to be separate options in future censuses – and the plural of census really ought to be censi – because walking and jogging couldn’t be more different. Walking to work appeals to all. It’s a lovely time getting fresh air and vitamin D. Jogging to work is horrible and for people who can handle greeting their colleagues while drying their hair with a threadbare towel.
Wellington loves public transport?
Despite being a city known for having terrible public transport infrastructure (and for having residents whose personalities are defined by their public transport grievances), the hippies in the capital just can’t get enough of buses. Even when a worrying number fail to show up at all. Wellington has the highest percentage of commuters that take public transport. It’s admirable, but nobody tell them.
Not that many bikes
Of the nearly 2.5 million workers in New Zealand, only 47,811 cycle to work as their main means of travel. It’s impressive that so much anger and debate surrounds 1.9% of commuters. Mike Hosking and Ryan Bridge need not worry. New Zealanders may say they love to cycle and love to live on a planet that’s not on fire and drowning at the same time, but really we still love cars. And in a fight, a car could literally kill a cyclist. There’s no contest.
What wasn’t noted was how many of the 1.4 million cars (and vans and trucks) were electric or hybrid vehicles. Perhaps it was deliberately left out to leave room for hope. Maybe we really are on our way to becoming a sustainable transport paradise. Maybe we don’t actually want to marry our cars. But in the meantime, I’ll get the veil and flowers ready.