Wellington Scoop

All-new CBD biking networks – Cycle Aware’s proposal to LGWM

Cycle Aware Wellington has told the LGWM planners that it wants a higher priority for public transport and active transport than for driving. Here is its submission:

We were disappointed to see the LGWM scenarios are ‘more or less change’ options instead of a range of different approaches and priorities.

We shouldn’t have to suffer More Roads to earn decent biking. Indeed any improvements to arterial roads will just feed more traffic into the CBD’s other streets, making biking worse and offsetting the ‘biking bonus’ of the expensive roading schemes. BUT! LGWM can mix and match aspects of the scenarios.

FIT and Congestion Free Wellington have proposed a ‘Scenario A+’: LGWM’s scenario A plus light rail to link major destinations AND introduce congestion charging. Good stuff: high-quality public transport through the CBD makes a good ‘carrot’ to encourage behaviour change. To build ridership, it must have full priority over other traffic. Congestion charging is the stick to match.

Rather than loosening its belt, Wellington can give road priority to tradies and others who need to drive through the CBD at busy times. Just a few percent reduction in driving would make every day a ‘school holiday dream commute’.

Our overall preference is Scenario A plus light rail and congestion charging measures and increased focus and detail for the cycling infrastructure. We do not support scenarios B, C, and D.

Add a downtown biking network of protected cycleways

LGWM mentions improving biking, but doesn’t set out an inspiring plan. We want an obvious, all-new CBD biking network with a consistently high level of service. A grid of north-south and east-west connections that:

● don’t mix with traffic (sharing with buses can be OK for access but doesn’t give a good level of comfort for key routes)
● don’t rely on the waterfront (great for cruising but not a proper transport link)
● feel more efficient than main motor traffic routes (less waiting) so you get the benefits of concentrating bike traffic where it’s best catered for.

Some CBD streets are narrow; others nice and wide. Narrow streets aren’t necessarily a problem for biking when you have a good plan of which streets are prioritised for which modes of transport.

A proper network approach should decide which CBD streets to prioritise for biking.

We set out some ideas in this submission for a primary and secondary biking network for the CBD. The focus here is on the CBD – other links like Berhampore-Newtown-CBD will play an important role too.

Other transport decisions (such as concepts in scenarios B-D) could create their own opportunities, opening up new corridors or reducing the volume of traffic on busy roads to open up biking possibilities. Where projects from LGWM mean a new corridor is created, or an existing corridor deprioritised, please take the opportunity to provide good bike infrastructure as part of the change.

Primary network

Here are some obvious candidates for the primary network (key routes with protected bike lanes; could be 1-way, 2x 1-way, or 2-way):

● Kent and Cambridge Terrace/ Adelaide Road
● The Quays
● Taranaki St
● Featherston & Victoria St (Featherston St could hold a 2-way protected bike lane, freeing up Lambton Quay for access, walking and public transport; Victoria and upper Willis Sts complement each other and a variety of configurations of the two streets could work)
● Oriental Parade and Evans Bay
● a connection from the Mt Vic Tunnel to Cobham Drive.

Secondary network

Here are some candidates for the secondary network (supporting routes with protected bike lanes or traffic reduction and calming):

● Willis St
● Courtenay Place and Dixon Street
● Tory Street
● The Terrace
● links to Massey and Victoria universities
● connections to the primary network and the waterfront
● links to suburbs: Brooklyn, Aro Valley (inc access to Polhill mtb tracks).

Make biking links using quieter traffic-calmed streets

Managing traffic speeds and volumes on specific other streets would provide quieter biking links to complement the main biking grid.

Scenario A mentions managing speeds, but traffic volumes need to be low as well to share comfortably – probably too low for most CBD streets to work well as key routes. Unless you remove through-traffic from some side roads while allowing access.

For example, during the construction of Pukeahu war memorial, upper Tory Street was a quiet bike-friendly street. Now it’s back to a rat run. Do we really need through-traffic driving through the park?

Provide safe, quick ways to cross SH1 and other arterial roads.

Most walking or biking trips into or out of the CBD involve a long wait to cross SH1 or the quays’ arterial roads (remember how the urban motorway was supposed to free up traffic there?). For a short trip, a couple of peak time waits can double your journey time. Long waits sever communities, and encourage risky crossing by people who are in a hurry.

Walk/bike underpasses would speed up crossings and extend connections beyond the CBD to connect to the main suburban routes. Compared to road underpasses, walk/bike underpasses are smaller and much cheaper. And they are lower effort to use and less exposed than bridges.

Candidate spots:
● Cobham Drive
● Wellington Road
● Vivian Street
● Karo Drive at Taranaki, Victoria and Willis.

In other places, crossing-signal timing changes beyond today’s motor-prioritising guidelines could reduce the worst-case waiting times.

Make a bigger deal about how walking and biking can contribute to transport and placemaking

Improving cycling infrastructure could make a huge difference to how people get around Wellington. To recognise and measure the benefits of mode shift to biking and walking, they should be quantified in scenario comparisons – not just how many people are biking as a ‘nice thing’, but the transport and health contributions that makes too. We’d also love to see more in the scenarios about how different the CBD will feel and how much nicer a place it could be to, well, be in.

More commitment and detail on biking and walking, and models that better recognise induced demand, would help make the case for a thriving Wellington that isn’t choked in traffic.


  1. luke, 31. January 2018, 19:18

    Missing a link along Thorndon Quay to the end of the existing Ngauranga cycleway.

  2. Dave B, 31. January 2018, 20:06

    Luke – the council tried to get this missing section in but ran into opposition. Ended up in the too-hard basket.

  3. CC, 31. January 2018, 22:00

    On the subject of the missing link along Thorndon Quay – if it existed, would cyclists use it then feed on to the expensive new Old Hutt Road cycle lane rather than using the road and holding up the vehicular traffic flow?

  4. TrevorH, 1. February 2018, 9:30

    Auckland has seen the light and is reducing planned spending on cycleways by 90 percent in its ten year budget from 2019. Empirical evidence has shown cycleways are scarcely used, they destroy businesses reliant on roadside access and they are a major source of congestion. It should only take another ten years for Wellington to wise up.

  5. Citizen Joe, 1. February 2018, 11:06

    TrevorH, Have a look at this link which assesses the use of Auckland cycleways. It shows there has been growth in cyclist numbers across the network overall between 2013 and 2016 but much higher growth on cycleway routes.

    1) Among the 15 routes that have not been improved between 2013 and 2016, cyclist numbers grew relatively modestly (+16%)

    2) Growth in cyclist numbers on routes that were improved eg Nelson Street and Quay Street was consistently higher with cyclist numbers doubling (+101%).

    So Auckland cycleways have been successful in increasing cycling numbers. I guess it depends on what you want your city to be like – full of cyclists or full of cars.

  6. Dave B, 1. February 2018, 11:58

    There has to be something wrong with a transport system that can only function if parking is permitted on roads which are in many cases unsuited to it. On-street parking is not only the bug-bear of cyclists and cycleways, but also of traffic seeking to use the road as a legitimate thoroughfare. On-street parking reduces the width available for moving traffic and adds a significant level of hazard for all other users.

    If roadside businesses cannot function without inappropriate provision of parking, then perhaps such businesses are inappropriately located themselves. Parking and businesses are not permitted on motorways for obvious reasons, but too much is taken for granted and compromised in regard to how other roads are used.

  7. CPH, 1. February 2018, 17:55

    Dave B – Just to offer the contrary viewpoint, on-street parking has a valuable traffic calming measure that I think you’re ignoring. You’re correct that cars parked on the street cause narrowing of the road, but the narrowness also causes drivers to reduce their speed. This is the purpose of traffic calming islands and the like, which are engineered for that purpose. Drivers don’t much care whether the road is narrow because engineers have decided it’s safer if they slow down and have put in a concrete curb extension, or because other drivers have parked their cars on the side of the road; the effect is the same. But I care quite a lot about it as a ratepayer, because the concrete traffic calming measure costs me money, while the metal traffic calming measure put in by my fellow drivers pays the council $5 an hour for the privilege!

  8. Dave B, 2. February 2018, 19:40

    CPH, I agree in principle with what you say in regard to the traffic-calming effect of on-street parked vehicles, but whether the overall outcome will be beneficial or not very-much depends on the street. On quiet suburban streets the effect may well be positive. However on narrow, busy streets it can be a dangerous shambles (e.g. upper Adelaide Road).

    From a cyclist’s perspective, anything that forces them into the path of higher-speed moving traffic is bad news. Unless the road is very wide, parked cars will do just this, particularly given the need for cyclists to ride clear of the “door zone”. Some types of planned traffic-calming measures also push cyclists into a zone of conflict with traffic.

    When riding along a typical busy street, the last thing cyclists need is to be frequently pushed out into an overtaking traffic-stream where they will be both vulnerable and create a hold-up. Getting rid of parking in these situations greatly reduces stress and risk. If traffic speeds need reducing, there are better ways of achieving this than allowing hazardous parking.