News | 7 August 2020
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Money to get more of us moving

With spring less than a month away, Wellington City Council is challenging workplaces to get more staff walking, jogging and biking – and reaping the rewards active commuting offers.

To help, it has a new active transport workplace fund that businesses and organisations can apply to if they need a little assistance to reduce barriers or inspire staff to give it a go.

Deputy Mayor Sarah Free, portfolio leader for walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure, says more than 28,000 people already commute on foot or by bike but the Council is keen to encourage and share creative and practical ways to get even more Wellingtonians making the switch. The fund is a part of that.

“Wellington is full of creative people and businesses and we hope this fund will be a catalyst for great ideas – some that may rely on a little bit of financial assistance and some that won’t. We want people to start the conversation, understand more about how their staff and workmates get to work, and what the barriers may be for those who would like to try more active modes of travel,” she says.

"We'll be collecting information on great ideas and sharing them with others, so ratepayers will get good value for the dollars spent.

“Vehicle travel makes up 35 percent of Wellington’s emissions so changing the way we travel is a practical thing we can do that’s good for the planet and the city,” she says. “Plus, there are lots of other great reasons to consider walking or riding some of the daily commute.”

Incorporating exercise into the daily commute is one of the most effective ways to make enduring improvements to physical activity levels, health and well-being. It reduces the risk of a range of health issues, from heart disease and depression to type-two diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity.

University of Otago research has shown that New Zealanders who walk or bike to their main activity each day have a 76 percent higher chance of achieving the Ministry of Health physical activity guidelines than those who drive cars.

For busy people, it can be the perfect way to get places and exercise at the same time.

Transport costs are typically the third highest household expense after housing and food, so walking, running or biking some or all the way to work can be a good way to cut costs. With less chance of getting stuck in traffic, it’s also a great way to know exactly how long your daily commute will take.

The 2018 Census showed just over 19 percent of Wellington City residents commute on foot. This is a significantly higher percentage than any of the other big cities, and compares with 5.5 percent nationwide.

The numbers biking is also on the increase. Four percent now bike to work, double the nationwide average, and the second highest of the big cities after Christchurch which has 5.6 percent.

Deputy Mayor Free says the city’s population is growing, which means we collectively need to make a big shift to public transport, walking and cycling.

“A contestable fund like this is a great and fair way to get better value from funding that has already been set aside to encourage these kinds of changes. It widens the pool of ideas and possibilities, and gives power to people who are keen to make things happen.”

Mayor Andy Foster says Wellington is already setting the pace when it comes to walking and jogging to work, but bringing creative thinking to some of the remaining barriers should mean we can do even better. Initiatives might include staff challenges or events designed to get more people walking or biking more often, a change to premises like a ramp, shower or lockers, a bike that staff could trial, or an app that helps get people moving.

"It’s my goal that we will be one of the most walkable, cycle-friendly and liveable cities anywhere in the world – we have the potential to do this.”

Applications to the new fund can be made at any time through the Council’s online funding portal and will be considered each month. A total of $50,000 is available this financial year. Priority will be given to applications from businesses or organisations that are willing to part or match-fund the initiative or programme they are requesting funding for, and those already doing other things to encourage a shift to active transport.

Applications will need to include a comprehensive project plan showing how the initiative will be monitored and evaluated. Businesses applying must also be in the Wellington City area.