Doctors call for investment in real cycling facilities

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council is calling on Councils to create real cycling facilities on key commuter routes. Yesterday’s coroner’s inquest into the tragic death of British nurse Jane Bishop on Tamaki Drive highlighted the dangerous infrastructure widespread in our cities.

Whether or not the crash investigators decide that the road layout at the site of Jane Bishop’s death contributed to her death, the road layout in all New Zealand cities increases the risk of cycling death and injury every day. Successive national and local governments have failed to acknowledge the important and legitimate role of cycling as a mode of travel. They have also failed to create an environment that is safe, based on accepted international best practice.

Inadequate investment in cycling and poorly developed cycling infrastructure continues despite the well-documented health gains from cycling. “Creating environments that encourage safe everyday cycling in cities is one of the important steps local governments can take to address climate change while benefiting health”, says Dr Macmillan. She adds: “As well as building healthy exercise back into people’s lives it is also a very low cost form of transport, which helps create a fairer society.”

The spoiler is New Zealand’s shameful cyclist injury rate – which is currently the subject of the joint coroner’ inquiry being held around the country.

“Jane Bishop’s tragic death was not an ‘accident’, brought on by unfortunate circumstances, as argued at the hearing”, she said. Nor was it confined to a case of personal error, as was also argued. Her death was preventable, like all the deaths being investigated in this inquiry.”

“The bottom line”, says Dr Macmillan “is that we need a significant investment in safe road design and cycle facilities now, and that issues such as high visibility clothing and cyclist education are peripheral.”


OraTaiao:The NZ Climate & Health Council

Media liaison – Dr Alex Macmillan 021 167 7095 [email protected] Other contacts

Dr Rhys Jones
Co-convenor, OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council Tel. 09 923 6278
Mob. 021 411 743
[email protected]

Dr Scott Metcalfe
Co-convenor, OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council Mob. 021 2010 440
[email protected]

Background notes

Dr Macmillan is a public health medicine specialist. She is an Executive Board and founding member of OraTaiao:The NZ Climate and Health Council.

About cycling and health

Reducing transport-related emissions through increasing active and public transport modes can bring about substantial health co-benefits including reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, respiratory disease, and motor vehicle injuries, and improvements in mental health (Hosking et al, 20111).

A comparative health risk assessment of different transport modalities in London concluded that shifting commuters from private motor vehicles to active travel modalities would reduce heart disease and stroke by 10–20%, as well as reducing the incidence of cancer (12–13%), dementia (8%), and depression (5%) (Woodcock et al, 20092).

University of Auckland research has outlined how shifting 5% of vehicle kilometres to cycling would reduce vehicle travel in New Zealand by approximately 223 million kilometres each year, save about 22 million litres of fuel and reduce transport-related greenhouse emissions by 0.4% (Lindsay et al, 20113). The health effects of this would include avoiding approximately 116 deaths annually as a result of increased physical activity, six fewer deaths due to local air pollution from vehicle emissions, and an additional five cyclist fatalities from road crashes.

About OraTaiao:The New Zealand Climate & Health Council
OraTaiao:The New Zealand Climate and Health Council is an incorporated society comprising over

150 senior doctors and other health professionals concerned about climate change impacts on health and health services.

Leading medical bodies throughout the world are saying that politicians must heed health effects of climate change, doctors must speak out, and doctors demand their politicians be decisive, listen to the clear facts and act now. OraTaiao:The New Zealand Climate and Health Climate is part of this international movement. It has published a number of articles about climate change and health in peer-reviewed medical journals, which can be found on its website

The Council’s messages include:

  • Climate change is a real and urgent threat to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.

  • New Zealand must be an active partner in global cooperation to reduce atmospheric

    greenhouse gas emissions to 350ppm CO2-equivalents by:

    • ♦  rapidly halving our own emissions by 20204;

    • ♦  paying our fair share of international investment in a global future.

  • New Zealand can, and must, respond to climate change in ways that improve population health, accord with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, create a more equitable, just and resilient society, and promote a healthier economy within ecological resource limits.


  1. Transport sector. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2011. benefits_climate_change_mitigation/en/index.html

  2. Woodcock J, Edwards P, Tonne C, Armstrong B G, Ashiru O, Banister D, et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: urban land transport. Lancet 2009;374(9705), 1930- 1943.

  3. Lindsay G, Macmillan A, Woodward A. Moving urban trips from cars to bicycles: impact on health and emissions. Aust NZ J Public Health 2011:35(1), 54-60.

  4. Metcalfe S, Woodward A, Macmillan A, et al; for the New Zealand Climate and Health group. Why New Zealand must rapidly halve its greenhouse gas emissions [Special Article]. NZ Med J. 2009;122(1304):72–95.