Wellington Scoop

“We’re not doing well with cycling,” says mayor of NZ’s most dangerous cycling city

Report by Amanda Witherell for Cycling Advocates Network
The capital’s first public forum on cycling drew 180 people off their bikes and into the Wellington City Council chambers, overflowing its capacity. Sporting cycle shorts beneath her mayoral robes, Celia Wade-Brown addressed the crowd.

“We compare ourselves to Copenhagen and Portland, but we’re not doing really well with cycling. Wellington is now the most dangerous place in New Zealand to ride,” she said. “We want to know your priorities. We will act on them. We can make things happen faster than they’re happening now.”

Even with a cycling mayor, seven other city councillors in the room and elections a few months away, some attendees questioned whether there is the political will to meet the demands of cyclists, who have doubled in numbers over the past six years.

“As cyclists, we aim too low,” said Jill Ford, a Newtown resident. “We have to get strategic in terms of councillors. There’s obviously some roadblock in this council. Even Auckland is better. I was recently in Sydney and they have cycle lanes and few people there cycle. What’s wrong with Wellington?”

Jason Morgan, Wellington region investment advisor for NZTA, was there with a bike helmet under his arm, and said it was good to see Wellington get proactive. “A lot of cities have these types of forums. They tend to be very effective at an operational level, where they action some of the discussion. This one was more of a political level,” he said. “We make these low level targets, 25 percent over 40 years isn’t much, but a third of all trips – that requires transformation and political courage.”

Lauding recent improvements to the cycle network consumed the first part of the forum, with Paul Barker, council’s safe and sustainable transport manager, providing details on the $3million Tawa Pathway, installation of cycle-friendly grates, and more signage.

However, some of the achievements raised eyebrows in the audience, such as calling the 17 km section of the Great Harbour Way from Balaena Bay around Miramar peninsula “complete”, and the installation of advanced stop boxes without feeder lanes, which one person called “self-defeating.”

Barker announced the results of three feasibility studies for the city’s next major cycling project, which revealed that the Island Bay to CBD route, using Adelaide Rd, had a better funding profile than the the South Coast portion of the Great Harbour Way, or the route from Ngauranga to the CBD.

“Island Bay is the one we’re going to proceed with,” he said, after the forum. “It hits so many key points, and timing wise it works with the flyover.”

To gather more specific information, attendees were split up into groups of 10 based on geographic location, and asked to discuss three major questions: What are the big issues and barriers, citywide and in your area? What does the ideal city look like in 2040? What are the priorities?

Though the details varied, the overall demands were similar, no matter where people lived: more cycle lanes safe enough for kids to use, better permeability into the CBD, less on-street parking on main roads, 20-30 percent travel mode share by 2040, and more money spent on cycling improvements.

Mayor Wade-Brown shared a similar vision for 2040, but stopped short of saying how much funding could be put toward it. “When I think about it, those strategic routes from each point of the compass are complete and there’s a far better network in the CBD and more people cycling,” she said. “The aim of 20 to 30 percent mode share is very achievable and a good idea.”

Richard Hocken, Senior Sergeant and district road policing prevention manager, liaises often with the cycling community and said of the forum, “It’s all good but it’s going to cost money one way or another and that’s at a political level.”

Asked if Wellington’s poor safety record made a compelling case for spending more money, he said, “Yes, but I’m a realist. How much?”

Read also:
Slow, slow, slow: the Transport Agency avoids building the harbour cycleway


  1. Driver, 3. May 2013, 16:03

    A vision for 2040? Is that the fastest that the cycling mayor can achieve any improvements?

  2. Justin Lester, 3. May 2013, 16:15

    Here are some points I noted from the group feedback and individual comments at the forum. To these I’ll add my own insights:

    · There is a call for a transformational change in the way Wellington prioritises cycling across the city.
    · Cycling as a commuter form of transport and leisure activity is growing significantly.
    · Wellington is officially the most dangerous town or city in New Zealand to cycle. This needs to change. Urgently.
    · Our current funding model favours motor vehicles and road maintenance and more emphasis needs to be placed on cycling to help address the current imbalance.
    · There is a need to separate cyclists and vehicles and this should also be a priority, be it via cycling lanes on existing roads or dedicated cycling lanes where space is sufficient.
    · An increased level of investment is necessary to speed up cycling safety improvements, provide additional staff to focus on cycling improvements and future planning of cycling networks.
    · Clearways need to be prioritised over on-street parking during peak hours.
    · Upgrade and extend leisure cycling routes, not only commuter routes, even where this means it will not attract NZTA funding.

    To help implement these changes I believe Wellington City Council needs to undertake the following:

    · Commit to $5 million investment every year for the next 5 years (an increase of $4 million a year on the approximate $1 million per annum we spend currently).
    · Commit to implementing the Southern Cycling Corridor into the CBD.
    · Commit to implementing the Ngauranga to the CBD Cycling Corridor.
    · Commit to the urgent roll out of safety projects in the CBD and along arterial routes that are currently in the planning stages.
    · Continue to implement the safer speed limits throughout the CBD and suburban centres
    · Recognise the need for the transformational change in the way we currently prioritise cycling.

  3. Ron Beernink, 3. May 2013, 17:01

    The council did say that they need to update their Cycling Strategy. It is the opportunity for them to put forward a cohesive vision for the future (and lets make that 2015-2020, not 2040), that shows a commitment to making cycling and walking safe. Plus a strategy / plan that shows the guts and determination to make this happen.

    They did a fantastic job at establishing the Karori wildlife sanctuary, which is bringing endangered birds back to Wellington, and will be a great asset for generations to come, and is already enjoyed by people of all ages. Lets do the same for a safe cycling environment.

  4. Kim P, 3. May 2013, 18:03

    I would love to ride a bike into the city and back to the burbs but it is HARDLY SAFE !!!! I see so many narrow misses everyday from my window bus ride, it is craziness, the bikers are a hazard to people on the roads

  5. Geoff, 3. May 2013, 19:49

    @Kim P. Wrong. Bikers are not a hazard to people, generally. Motor vehicles are a hazard to people – fact!

  6. lindsay, 4. May 2013, 18:09

    Why doesn’t Jason Morgan advise the Transport Agency to expedite actual investment and construction of the cycleway from Petone to Ngauranga, instead of only investigations of investigations.

  7. Celia WB, 4. May 2013, 18:30

    Amanda asked what our vision was for 2040 – and 20 to 30% mode share would be good before then. Certainly will complete Rawa work next financial year and a number of elected members are working on more rapid improvements.