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  • Writer's pictureIan Wells

Amazingly bike Lanes generate jobs

Updated: Dec 3, 2018

Christchurch City Council, as I write this(Oct 2017), is deciding whether to make the bike lanes on St Asaph Street safer for all, or to add 53 new car parking places because some business owners feel they are losing business due to lack of on street parking. 

I argue that more safe bikeways are better for business and better for jobs than street parking.

Ease of transport into the CBD is of course important for CBD health and important for all of us who want an urban, not suburban life.

It is also obvious  that one  more cyclist on the road means one less car which means less congestion and easier travel times for all.

But what about business? Jobs and income are important.

My argument about the business case for bike lanes  starts and ends with Amazon.

First, let's look at our CBD businesses and property  owners. All across USA, brick and mortar stores are closing, due to competition from Amazon and online shopping. This is happening in New Zealand too. Already 16% of all sales are online. The trend will continue due to economics, online realtors don't have to own store front property or pay so many staff per sale. Real estate (stores) is about to be eclipsed by transport (deliveries). The USA expects to lose 10% of retail type jobs in the next 5 years, according to Forbes magazine. This implies also property and real estate will become vacant. No wonder property owners in Christchurch are concerned.  But this pressure has  nothing to do with  on street parking. It has all to do with the economics of tech-driven change.

Its pretty obvious that the trend (accelerating) for retail is away from real-estate investment to investment in information systems and in transport (deliveries).

So with reducing retail space in the CBD, what jobs will replace it? Where are they going to come from?  Tech is an obvious choice. The Tech industry in Christchurch is already employing 9% of the total workforce ( 14,000 people), contributing $2.4billion to the local economy , generating $1Billion work of exports each year, and is the fastest growing sector of our local economy, according to ChristchurchNZ. And, for a city like Christchurch with a carbon neutral goal, information work is sustainable - infinite information ( such as code, movies, books, financial info, etc) can be generated consuming  very few resources. And many information industry jobs pay well.

However, Christchurch is in a wicked competition worldwide for tech talent. Talent will leave here if better situations appear overseas. Talent will be drawn here if we offer better than other locations.

Exactly why would someone come to Christchurch to work in the information industry?  What is the profile of a city that that the next generation of workers is looking for?  Luckily, Amazon has an answer. Recently Amazon posted an RFP for a US city to host their second world headquarters ( up to 50,000 jobs, 33 buildings) .

Their RFP describes the city that meets their needs ( as a competitive, information driven company ) and the type of city that would be attractive to the skilled workforce they are looking for.

The type of city that Amazon is looking for is in an urban setting, supports sustainability, has university, convenient international airports, mass transit, lack of congestion, recreation opportunities, creative options for connectivity ( love it), etc, and, right there in the RFP, bikeways. Parking is not mentioned. On street parking is not mentioned.  This is the type of city Christchurch needs to be to compete and attract talent. Christchurch City Council is doing a good job of getting there - Christchurch would score quite well on the Amazon RFP - but we must be brave enough to stay the course and get ahead of our competition.

As a Canterbury Tech exec member, I fully support Canterbury Tech's and ChristchurchNZ's goal of attracting top talent to Christchurch.

If we want well paying, competitive jobs for the next generation workforce, we need a big & continued  commitment to safe bikeways. Bikeways, not street parking,  protects our jobs and our children's' jobs. And gives us a wonderful city to be proud of.

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