Wellington Scoop

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.

Read also
Cyclists give their annual awards, including for the Tawa cycleway


  1. Sridhar, 5. December 2012, 13:34

    I agree with Andy. With an organisation like NZTA that has got all its priorities upside down, there is only so much the council can do. At least there has been some progress within the limited budgetary constraints, compared to the previous councils. If there was more funding available, this council would definitely have done more to promote cycling in the city.

    The other unfortunate story is, the council is having to spend a lot of energy to tell NZTA why its Basin Reserve plan is flawed and useless, and that leaves little time to pursue development of cycling infrastructure.

  2. Brent C, 5. December 2012, 22:46

    There is lots of low hanging fruit that the Wellington City Council could pick, such as cycle lanes and improved road markings. Cities such as Palmerston North, Hastings and Gisborne all contain on-road cycle lanes and cycle markings. Wellington has huge potential for cycling due to its size and density, but no one has given it a chance. We need to look to cities such as New York for inspiration. It doesn’t cost millions of dollars to paint a couple of cycle lanes!

  3. erentz, 6. December 2012, 10:15

    Sridhar’s comment raises some things I don’t want to let slide. Pushing the blame onto NZTA, as Andy and Sridhar have done, is a big no-no. Brent C is absolutely correct. Bike lanes, sharrows, and bike boxes (known as advanced stop lines in the car oriented language preferred in this country), are ridiculously cheap and easy to deploy. The NZTA doesn’t need to be asked to fund this at all. It’s not difficult to stripe a cycle lane once you decide to do it. They just striped 1.15 miles (1.85 km) of two-way protected bike lane in downtown Chicago in one day.

    Putting such emphasis on the great harbour way is distracting. The Council is fully capable of working with GWRC and NZTA to make this happen while doing other things. It should not use this as an excuse to avoid working on the cheap low hanging fruit all around the CBD and surrounding suburbs (including Kilbirnie and Miramar). Doing this will generate far more trips by bike than a Petone to Ngauranga cycle way. And more importantly it will raise the profile of cycling so that in future more expensive projects will have more support.

  4. Lindsay, 6. December 2012, 10:57

    The key word seems to be “protected.” I’ve seen the bike lanes that have been created on the long avenues in New York City. They have low barriers to separate cyclists from cars and buses. And we all know about cities where bike lanes have been created on the pedestrians’ side of parked cars – another way of protecting cyclists. The inference from Andy is that council processes move far too slowly. Or not at all – see Paul Eagle’s complaint about roadworks in John Street, and the strange response from staff.

  5. Sridhar, 11. December 2012, 9:41

    @erentz. Who else do you think pays for major cycleways? Are you saying that the Great Harbour Way is on hold not because of NZTA funding but due to something else? The council has only a small budget of its own for minor works, essentially to maintain existing infrastructure.

    Maybe you need to get yourself up to date with the way these fundings work. The way it works in Chicago is not the same way it works here.

  6. erentz, 12. December 2012, 10:36

    Sridhar: I’m guessing you didn’t read my comment properly. I think it is pretty clear I said that the Great Harbour Way is just one project, and blaming the lack of progress elsewhere in the city on the hold up with NZTA funding for that one project is a no-no. Or are you saying that WCC is incapable of painting signs and lines on any other city streets while waiting for funding to come through from NZTA for the Great Harbour Way? And are you saying that to paint any signs and lines on city streets requires approval from someone at NZTA? That the City Council’s $250 million plus budget, for which a large chunk goes towards road maintenance, is very small and can’t fund such things, but can fund silly statues and other rubbish? If the WCC had the will to improve cycling in the city, it could do so quickly and fairly cheaply, it doesn’t need to chase after only the gold plated intercity cycleway style projects.