Wellington Scoop

Our unstoppable bike boom

cycling commuters
Photo by Bennett and Slater via twitter

by Patrick Morgan of Cycle Wellington
There’s no doubt that cycling is on the up. Wellingtonians are biking more and more, with numbers doubling in the past decade. E-bikes flatten hills, defeat headwinds, and help you go further. For those who don’t mind getting a work-out, low gears make every hill possible.

Volunteers are digging mountain bike trails all over the place. Most buses have bike racks, and you can take your bike on trains and ferries at no cost. Cycle Trails are popular as domestic tourism booms.

Bikes mean business. Bike shops did a roaring trade during 2020 as people rediscovered cycling. A hot item is a cargo bike that can haul your kids and groceries. Families are getting rid of cars and making more trips by bike.

People of all ages love the convenience, speed, affordability and sheer joy of riding bikes.

In response, Wellington has been building bike lanes, adding bike parking, setting safe speed limits and supporting programmes like Bikes in Schools that get more kids riding, more often. Employers are installing secure bike parking and encouraging staff and customers to use bikes.

Are we moving fast enough and getting it right first time? Hell no, but momentum is building faster than a biker zooming down Brooklyn hill.

However, I accept that change is hard, and scepticism endures. But luckily, opponents of cycling are running out of excuses.

That’s why the Government, councils, and businesses are investing in cycling like never before. The Climate Change Commission has called for the doubling of cycling by 2035. I reckon we need to be more ambitious, to realise the carbon-crushing potential of cycling.

If you want to get on your bike, help is at hand.

Yesterday marked the start of Bike Month, where you can log your rides at the Aotearoa Bike Challenge and win stuff by competing against your friends and workmates.

Need to sharpen your skills? Take a free Pedal Ready course.

Want your kids to ride more? Visit a school with a Bikes in Schools track , or explore the great trails in our region like the Remutaka Cycle Trail, Makara Peak, Te Ara Whareroa, Te Ara Tawa, or the Hutt River Trail.

More and more people are embracing the joy and freedom as we bike to the future.

“Get on your bikes and ride!” – Freddie Mercury


  1. Claire, 2. February 2021, 8:48

    Good article Patrick. I use a lot of Public transport so will be happy once that improves.
    I have never been a cyclist. And am not likely to be, in everyday life. But I believe electric motorcycles are coming that would tempt me. It’s not about change but everyone choosing their own method to get around and reduce emissions.I am still not convinced about the growth of cycling as I see very few people on cycleways even on a holiday. I am not against cycling but the cost has to match the supposed growth.

  2. Rich, 2. February 2021, 10:37

    Thanks Patrick, for the positive attitude and your contribution to cycling in Wellington. It’s great to see the progress being made. More and more people are cycling and the amount of ebikes I see on the roads has exploded. My work provides excellent bike parking facilities, including charging of ebikes, and on most days they are fully utilised.

    I don’t understand the polarisation around ‘cycling’. If you don’t want to cycle, then don’t. But for those who do, build the infrastructure and it will at the same time speed up those who want to drive, win win. The biggest impediment for cycling is not the weather or hills, those are easily overcome. Instead it is a lack of infrastructure (people want to feel safe while cycling).

  3. Ms Green, 2. February 2021, 10:53

    Hello Claire. Electric motorbikes are great – silent and efficient. So are motor scooters – they need very very little petrol. But both, like bikes, without dedicated lanes, are exposed to dangerous traffic. So far the only dedicated ways for personal movement are roads and footpaths (but even the latter is being eroded).
    Bikes are only part of a climate change and mobility solution. (E-cars are not – for several reasons.)
    It is our attitude that is the problem. What is urgent and what do we value most? At present it is being symbiotically attached to cars. Did our Covid Lockdown experience teach us nothing about our environment, climate change, how we move around our city and what needs to change?

  4. Claire, 2. February 2021, 11:48

    Ms Green: motorbike riders don’t need lanes, the idea is to have the power to get out of the way. Scooters are a bit underpowered but the 100CC ones are great.
    The UK will stop making petrol cars in 2035 and also Europe and Japan. It will then be difficult to get them. During lock down, emissions dropped by 40% as fewer cars were on the road. Cycles are fine for those who enthuse over them. But they are not going to be universal.

  5. Andrew, 2. February 2021, 12:11

    If only more cyclists would use the cycleways the Council has built instead of using the road. Almost every day I see cyclists on Oriental Parade instead of on the cyclepath.

  6. Colourful Language, 2. February 2021, 12:43

    I see the latest quest is to eliminate free parking on public holidays. Look, it’s cool that you want to cycle but why punish motorists.

  7. Dave B, 2. February 2021, 13:08

    @ Andrew. The problem with the Oriental Parade cyclepath is that it is largely shared with pedestrians and commonly obstructed by people meandering about. I have no problem with this, and bikes blend in well as long as they are ridden slowly and deferentially. But if a cyclist wants to get somewhere quickly the road offers a much faster option. That is why you still see cyclists on the road, and having a 40Km/h speed limit means that the danger from traffic is much reduced. A proper cycle-path along here is probably not needed, and the one we have provides a safe environment for recreation, families and slow-paced activities rather than serious cycling.
    If you want to see a well-used cycleway go and look at the one along the Hutt Road and Thorndon Quay in the rush hour. A bicycle counter at Kaiwharawhara regularly displays over 1000 passes per day.

  8. Joanne, 2. February 2021, 14:22

    I live in Holloway Rd and in this past year have seen a huge growth in the use of mountain bikes in particular up and down our road. The only problem is that most of these mountain bikers who want to ride the trails that begin in Holloway Rd get there by car with sometimes as few as 1 or as many as 4 bikes on the back of their cars and 4WD vehicles. These people park their motor vehicles up and down our street which is narrow and has little parking even for those who live here. As someone who is disabled I find the attitude of these ‘bikers’ pretty abysmal as I often have to struggle to find a park close enough to my home for me to get there unaided. Don’t expect me to agree with this sunny picture of people happily reducing emissions as long as I am unable to find a carpark in my street.

  9. TrevorH, 2. February 2021, 16:04

    “Two wheels good, four wheels bad”. “All road users are equal but some are more equal than others.”

  10. Dave B, 2. February 2021, 17:41

    @ Joanne, as you point out, the problem you face is not really about cyclists, but about cyclists who insist on coming by car to go mountain-biking. Perhaps better to frame the problem as a problem of cars, where they park, and the amount of space they take up. This problem follows cars wherever they go and is agnostic to the claimed purposes of their journeys. For you the problem is the cars of mountain-bikers compounded with a narrow street that was built before the era of mass car-ownership. But problems like this are replicated all over the place, with perhaps the only variation being the excuse used to justify why the car is necessary.
    We absolutely have to look at reducing car-use in general. Those mountain bikers don’t need to bring their cars, at least not right up to the start of the track. And I suspect many car journeys do not need to be made or could be modified in some way to reduce their impact. Deterring frivolous or unnecessary vehicle journeys has to be a major plank of transport policy going forward. We have created a nightmare for ourselves by allowing motor vehicles to become so numerous and pervasive, without regard as to how necessary much of their use really is. Replacement of car-trips by cycling is certainly part of the solution.

  11. luke, 3. February 2021, 11:04

    I cannot wait for the Ngauranga Petone cycleway. That will be the beginning of an actual useful network linking up some of the cycle infrastructure to make a few journeys viable for those of us who don’t want to share roads with cars and trucks doing 100km/h.

  12. Claire, 3. February 2021, 11:22

    Yes we do need to drop our emissions but there are other ways. Cycling does not suit everyone. When I see double bikes with little kids on board, I feel that is a major risk. So if anyone wants to preach about it there will be push back. It’s a bit like me saying get off your bike. That wouldn’t be appropriate.

  13. Steve, 5. February 2021, 8:34

    Yes @Claire, there is a short-term risk taking kids to school. There are far more risks from children not getting exercise.
    Very few people are debilitated by cycling accidents. Far more are debilitated by factors relating to lack of exercise.

  14. Geoff, 5. February 2021, 13:04

    Seeing more people cycling is great, but it’s not going to be for everyone. I leave my bike at home when it’s too windy or there are big hills where I’m going – an ebike would be nice but it’s hard to justify the expense.

    More cycleways are great, but the council seem to have mostly focused on easy wins, rather than need – some of the most dangerous parts of the city (e.g. through Newtown) are still waiting. There needs to be a bit of realism in the planning too – a cycleway up Constable Street is going to result in the loss of a lot of parks for residents, and Wilson Street is safe enough already (they just need some way to get up it from Riddiford to Daniell St).

  15. Simon, 6. February 2021, 22:07

    The facts around cycling in Wellington need to be made clear. Based on council data, cycling grew at 5.9% p.a. in the 2000’s, but only 3.7% in the 2010’s. The rate of growth is slowing as you would expect as penetration rates increase. Indeed between Nov ’18 and ’19 (which could be weather related) inbound cycle trips declined by 7%.
    And the numbers remain small – around 6% of commuters bike to work in Wellington according to the council (vs 2% nationally). Even if cycling doubled by 2035, there would still be more people commuting by car and public transport into Wellington City than there are today given the expected population growth.

  16. Sarah Morgan-Brown, 11. February 2021, 16:07

    Aro Street is a bottlelneck heading west because of the cyclists (who are great and good to see) but it is uphill and the choice is hang left and run the risk of being ‘doored’ or ride out a bit and risk being hit by an oncoming bus over the centre line. Those cycling into town are as fast as the cars and don’t slow the traffic. It would make sense to move the parking to the north side of the road to enable cars to pass cyclists on the western journey and reduce the risk of cyclists being ‘doored’.

    As Patrick has pointed out before, cyclists mean money for businesses and there was a plea for all cyclists to tell shop owners they came by bike. Why then has a dairy along the Rongotai Road cycle lane gone out of business?

  17. Dave B, 11. February 2021, 19:37

    @ Sarah Morgan-Brown, you raise a good point: That if cyclists can keep up with the flow of motor-traffic (e.g. downhill), then they can easily distance themselves from parked cars and the “dooring” hazard without holding the traffic up. But where they cannot achieve traffic speeds, this is where they end-up caught between the hazards of doors flying open and the hazards of being in the path of faster traffic. So you are dead right. Much better to have a cycle-lane free of parked cars in the uphill direction.
    However a word of caution: When cycling downhill at higher speeds past parked cars, the consequences of getting “doored” are much more serious if it does happen. So be sure to “claim the lane” and give those parked cars a wide berth.
    It’s a jungle out there!

  18. Andrew, 11. February 2021, 21:04

    Joanne, I frequently ride my bike up Holloway Rd during week days and I think the majority of the extra cars (apart from the weekend perhaps) are people who park and then walk to work. The same thing is happening up Ohiro Road. They’ll try and squeeze their car into any space available…

  19. Mike, 12. February 2021, 12:49

    When I see double bikes with little kids on board, I feel that humanity might actually have a chance.

  20. Andy Mellon, 12. February 2021, 13:53

    The Petone – Ngauranga cycleway will make a huge difference, but to be honest, the part of my commute that I’m most reluctant to cycle is the section up Tinakori Road. I always feel that I’m holding drivers up as the road is so narrow and that with the parking, there’s a high risk of a door being opened on me. As such, I only usually cycle in January when there’s vastly fewer cars on the road. Petone to Ngauranga will make my cycle commute vastly better, but still doesn’t solve the cycle-car conflicts on sections such as Tinakori.

  21. Andrew Bartlett, 12. February 2021, 16:45

    When I see double bikes with little kids on board, or an adult continuing on into the office on a long-tail or cargo bike, I see a morning routine that simply wasn’t possible without a car just a decade ago.

    It was unusual even five years ago when I had kids in a bike trailer. Not it is routine.

    It makes me smile.

  22. Claire, 12. February 2021, 17:30

    I think double biking is incredibly irresponsible. The kids have no choice and could be killed. I would ask people to think hard about it.

  23. Dave B, 12. February 2021, 19:27

    I think going by car and taking kids by car is incredibly irresponsible. Just look at how many people are continually killed and injured by that mode of transport that we consider so normal and acceptable.

  24. Mike Mellor, 12. February 2021, 20:55

    I think double biking – on a bike designed for it, and wearing helmets – is incredibly responsible compared with taking kids inside a heavy unstimulating metal box with poorer internal air quality than the outside and which produces emissions, and causes much more damage than a bike can do. I agree, people should indeed think hard about it.

    Walking is very good for kids, too.

  25. Claire, 12. February 2021, 21:43

    Mike cars are safer for little kids in an accident. Imagine the damage to them if hit by a car or truck on a bike.

  26. Mike Mellor, 13. February 2021, 9:00

    Claire – exactly, it’s nearly always the vehicle that causes the damage (hardly surprising when they’re fast and heavy), and not just in crashes. Advocating that people don’t use a mode of transport that has little (if any) negative consequences when the probable alternative has lots of them, actually makes roads more dangerous.

    And by the way, the chances of being involved in a crash on any particular journey are very low, offset by the large health benefits of using a bike.

    As you so rightly say, people should think hard about it!

  27. Troposphere, 13. February 2021, 9:15

    Im with you Claire, it always scares me when I see kids dangling off the back of a cargo bike. I’d dispute the clean air claim. Imagine cycling your kids behind one of the old diesel belching buses plying wellington, breathing in particulates. No thanks.

  28. Claire, 13. February 2021, 9:55

    Mike I am not advocating against cycling. Just for not taking tiny children on them.
    Accidents do happen and I would rather be in a car with kids than on a cargo bike.

  29. Dave B, 16. February 2021, 17:41

    @ Claire. Don’t be lulled into thinking that cars are safe! Try Googling “children killed in car crash NZ” to see just what is going on out there. And then add in all the children who are not in cars but still get killed or injured by them – mown down crossing roads, in driveways, even on footpaths.
    The more people (including children) who go by bike and the fewer who go by car, the safer and healthier we will all be. Just ask the Dutch.

  30. Claire, 16. February 2021, 18:49

    Dave common sense will tell you that small kids are going to be maimed or killed if hit by a car if they are on a bike.
    If they are in a car and hit by a car they are more protected. Neither are ideal, but I know where I would like kids under my watch. I have no problem with cycling but carrying small children on cargo bikes is asking for a problem.

  31. Mike Mellor, 16. February 2021, 22:31

    Claire: what Dave B says, plus this, is a classic example of the tragedy of the commons, where what appears to be good for an individual (but not necessarily so, as Dave points out) makes things worse for everyone. Every extra vehicle on the road costs the community overall, every additional bike benefits the community overall. It’s a tragedy that “the system” encourages us to to the opposite.