Wellington cycleways: mostly in the future

Andy Foster has provided a big dossier of information for Wellington cyclists, in response to the question “why isn’t there more evidence of progress for cycling under a green mayor?” The Karori councillor agrees that Wellington doesn’t yet have an adequate, safe cycling network. And he says a mistake was probably made in committing all of the first financing to a cycleway project which most people will never see.

He’s talking about the 5 km Tawa – Porirua cycleway/walkway, now being completed at a cost of $4m.

The problem is that for most people they probably won’t see that, because most of us don’t live in or cycle through Tawa/Porirua, and therefore they naturally wonder what Council is doing. Ideally what we should have done is to advance two projects simultaneously, albeit slower, and that is probably our mistake.

The “why isn’t there more progress” question was asked by Maximus on the Wellington blog eyeofthefish. The response from Councillor Foster (who is the council’s portfolio leader for public transport and roads) says that after Tawa is completed in the new year, the next new cycle route will be from Island Bay to the Central City. But work isn’t likely to start till 2014-15.

The number two priority for the next three years is the big gap between Petone and Ngauranga, which has been identified as a problem since 2010. The city council was pleased when Transport Agency support for this cycleway project was announced, but Andy Foster admits “I am nervous that they seem to be looking for reasons not to fund it.”

Indeed, the Agency is moving at a snail’s pace on this project. It will be requesting tenders for investigation next year, it hopes to have options in 2014, and it expects to have chosen one of them in 2015. The Agency’s announcement doesn’t specify any date for building the cycleway, though it’s supported by all the region’s councils. Compare this stance with its enthusiasm for pressing on with a flyover at the Basin Reserve, in the face of increasing opposition.

Andy Foster explains that Wellington didn’t have any Walking and Cycling Policies till 2008. At the time the budget for cycling was only $70,000. In June 2009 he was successful in getting a 9-6 vote to support lifting the budget for the ‘basics’ (cycle racks, cycle friendly grates, advanced stop boxes, lane markings etc) to $225,000, and putting in funding to develop a strategic cycle network. That is now $1 million per annum. Importantly in both instances this included NZTA’s 53% contribution. That is the same as for local roading.

He adds:

The first challenge was getting Transport Agency funding support. In November 2008 we had just had a change of Government. Labour had said that if a project was in a Council’s properly developed and consulted on Cycling or Walking Policy, then it would get funding. National abruptly changed the rules completely, focusing very heavily on ‘Roads of National Significance’. Fully 40% of spending on transport (all modes, all roads, safety, policing, planning) over the next decade is intended by Government to be on RONS, which collectively represent about 0.5% of the national network. Most other aspects of transport suffered and are going to continue to suffer, both in terms of the amount of money allocated in the Government’s Policy Statement, and also in how hard it is proving to access what funding there is. RONS projects basically automatically get funding because they are considered to have ‘high strategic fit’, regardless of whether the transport case is good, bad or indifferent.

Andy Foster also lists city council decisions which have been popular with cyclists, including creating a morning peak clearway on Thorndon Quay, a trial cycle route up through the Botanic Gardens (Met Office to Cable Car), and approval of uphill cycling on the Birdwood Street footpath into Karori for reasons of safety. He also mentions that he and the mayor have supported a regional tourism cycleway which Positively Wellington Tourism is now championing with the Hutt and Wairarapa Councils. “We are quietly hopeful of an announcement soon that the route using the Hutt River Trail, Rimutaka Incline and Western Lake Road will be approved.”

His comments can be read in full here.

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Cyclists give their annual awards, including for the Tawa cycleway


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