Two speeds for building cycleways

by Lindsay Shelton
The Wellington City Council is at last starting to show signs that it will move faster to build new cycleways. If it can sustain its new enthusiasm for action, work could begin next year on a cycleway from Island Bay to the CBD.

Everyone will welcome this morning’s announcement that the council plans to triple its cycling budget. Not only cyclists will welcome new cycleways. Motorists too should be pleased with the idea that their vehicles can be separated from the cyclists.

Not that separated cycleways are at the top of the council’s list. It has released five cycleway options, only one of which shows physical separation. Public consultation should quickly get rid of the other four.

Everyone knows that separated cycleways are best. In September, the lovecycling campaigners spoke out in favour of them, even reminding us that they’re proven to be good for business.

Though the council is starting to move faster, speeds are slower at the Transport Agency, which is lethargically in charge of creating an adequate cycleway between Wellington and Hutt City, along the Hutt Road. Last year it carried out a survey of 700 cyclists. No surprise that three-quarters of the responses said they wanted an off-road cycleway. But since then, the best it could do was to plan an “investigation.”

In the cautious words of the Agency’s Jenny Chetwynd in June: “We’re keeping an open mind about the best solution and we will be seeking and listening to the views of cyclists as part of this investigation before we make any decisions.”

The Transport Agency has been procrastinating since 2010, when the Ngauranga Triangle Study recommended a project to “close the gap” in the cycling route between Ngauranga and Petone. After this year’s investigation, they hope to have “options” next year. But they’re not aiming to have a finalised plan till 2015. At the earliest, it doesn’t seem that construction could start till 2016. Six years after the need was identified.

The Agency needs to try harder and move faster. Just as the city council is now trying to do. During last year’s election campaign, Andy Foster gave us the history of the council’s historic under-spending on cycleways. Councillors should be embarrassed that as little as $70,000 was allocated five years ago.

The popularity of cycling has grown in Wellington in spite of neglect from the council. Let’s expect that things are now going to change, and fast.

April 2013: Cyclists’ wishlist

November 2010: Mayor launches Great Harbour Way



  1. Simon Morton, 4. December 2013, 21:17

    The Wgtn to Hutt route is a joke, a major barrier to more cyclists and so simple to resolve.[via Twitter]

  2. Driver, 5. December 2013, 7:52

    The Transport Agency can move fast when it wants to – as with the sudden decision to put Buckle Street underground. It should be moving equally fast to build an safe and separated cycleway between Petone and Ngauranga.

  3. The Dutch cycling experts advising Christchurch advocate establishing overall design principles that ensure safe, direct, comfortable, coherent and attractive routes. While each principle is important, “safety should come first” they say, something that is supported by network design, legislation and speed restrictions in the Netherlands.

  4. None of the pictured designs is ideal. Best is option #4, the separated 2-way lane. It’s ok for mid-block but suboptimal at intersections, where around 50% of crashes occur.
    The evidence is compelling – physically separated lanes are the most effective in getting more people cycling and protecting people on bikes from vehicles.
    This can be summarised in two words: go Dutch.

  5. Peter Kennedy, 5. December 2013, 15:08

    Patrick, the Council brought out consultants, and I had to ask why? You and Will have shown we don’t need to spend money on fluff when we have ready made experts here. I look forward to your comments. Sensible, logical, and timely. Thanks

  6. Hi Peter, if you mean the 2 Dutch experts, this was at no cost to ratepayers. They were in NZ to advise Chch on the rebuild, and their costs were met by the Dutch Embassy. I understand our Mayor arranged this. To me that sounds like a smart move. Getting the Dutch to pay for anything is a coup. Thanks to our clog-wearing salty liquorice-eating friends!

  7. Paul Bruce, 5. December 2013, 21:45

    Early in 2009, Fran Wilde and I convened a meeting of all the agencies, including NZTA, Ontrack, KiwiRail, WCC, HCC and the Police. All agreed on the urgency of a safe cycleway from the Hutt to Wellington. So nearly 6 years on, we finally have two options for a new upgraded Hutt/Wellington cycleway, one between the road and rail, and the other on the seaward side. Both involve some movement of the rail tracks near Petone, and infill (referred to as reclamation!) amounting to about 200,000 cubic metres (Transmission Gully will involve the movement of 3 million cubic metres of rock and soil).

    The briefing indicated that the infill material could come from spoil from a new Petone to Grenada road planned 2019/20 – another 6 years on, doubling the wait. However, a cycle path could be constructed within the next year or so, if we obtained the fill from the nearby HoroKiwi Quarry.

    The Hutt/Wellington cycleway is a well overdue project – a missing connector between the two major cities of our Region. It must be put ahead of any new roads, Transmission Gully included. A 10 time increase of commuter cyclists would take cars off SH2, reduce congestion, improve safety, lower greenhouse emissions and at the same time, improve the resilience of the transport corridor from storm sea surges (swells).

    NZTA have now taken on board the extra co-benefits that would come from utilising the path as a seawall, providing the extra protection from sea level rise/increased intensity of storm surges resulting from climate change. We can thus have both mitigation and adaptation! But that doesnt seem to have made any difference to NZTA, and the project still seems to be tied in with the Petone to Grenada road planned for 6 years time. Our top decision makers are still living in the 20th century! Please write to GWRC Chair Fran Wilde (and myself) requesting that the project get top priority.

  8. syrannose, 6. December 2013, 8:04

    As an avid ‘former’ cyclist, danger never played into riding or not. Here’s this citizen’s take.

    I rode a 10 speed bike on a daily basis in Portland, Oregon and Oxford, England for 10 years in each location, and a year each in The Hague and Amsterdam in Holland. I clocked up 10-15 km daily. I stopped riding when I moved to Wellington because the hills are simply too high, making the sweat factor impossible for almost anyone working. Realistically, what is the percentage of working people riding bikes? Realistically, what is the maximum percentage of working people who will ever do this in Wellington?

    Holland, Oxford and Christchurch are relatively flat. Wellington’s bicycle traffic is relatively low now and bound to be relatively low over the long term simply because of all the hills. The roading on those hills is already some of the poorest, most cramped anywhere in the world. Think about it, you want more bikes and cars fighting for space up there?

    The Dutch model doesn’t equate to here at all, so why use their system as a template. The Dutch have the highest concentrations of population inside totally flat cities with highly developed mass transit already in place working in tandem with major roading systems already in place. They are a rich country and can afford it all.

    What is the template for a hilly city? Say San Francisco or Seattle? Get real. The more anti-car Wellington becomes, the less people shop in CBD, driving commerce to malls. Does the probable low use of bicycles justify the large expenditure of rate payer funding? Does the slowing of traffic and narrowing of lanes, to navigate around empty bike lanes and buses, really increase commerce in the city or not? Does the slowing of traffic increase pollution or not? The more WCC continues to raise rates, the more jobs and population Wellington loses. Who is left to pay for it all? All these things are connected. Rates go up and when they become unaffordable, the people who pay them leave town for friendlier environments. That’s how cities die.

  9. Traveller, 6. December 2013, 8:19

    Re those hilly city comments.
    Cyclists riding from Petone through Ngauranga to the CBD don’t face any hills at all. Cyclists riding from Island Bay to the CBD have to cope with a few gentle slopes, but no real hills. Each of those routes is long overdue for a dedicated separated cycleway.

  10. syrahnose, 6. December 2013, 8:21

    “A 10 time increase of commuter cyclists would take cars off SH2, reduce congestion, improve safety, lower greenhouse emissions …”

    Hmmm…Where’s some cost/benefit analysis? Real stats would be helpful. What is the average use per day spread over 365 days a year now on this road? How many people bike in bad weather, especially through serious rain and wind? How many on a good day? Ten times increase over what amount of time? From 2 per day average to 20 on a good day? And when is this cost genuinely justified given funds are so short and basic infrastructure is so primitive? If New Zealand doubled its population it might be able to justify a first world infrastructure on all fronts.

  11. Simon Kennett, 6. December 2013, 9:02

    You can compare hilly Wellington to hilly Bristol where cycling makes up 12% of mode share. We’re currently at about 4%. At the rate of increase Wellington has had over the last 25 years, we’ll hit 10% mode share in another 20-30 years – that’s with almost no change to the roading environment. Build some decent infrastructure and the rate of increase is bound to improve. Don’t forget that we have reasonably dense urban form thanks to development being constricted by the harbour and Outer Green Belt; we have a few flat suburbs; and we have many people living in hills that offer ‘no-sweat’ rides into work. As for cycle lanes potentially slowing down traffic – that’s not the case when we compare a cycle lane with a strip of on-street parking that drivers are frequently reversing into or out of. All traffic causes congestion – single occupancy motor vehicles the worst of all. And if people are giving up on shopping in the CBD, it’s because of all the traffic slowly circulating looking for a ‘free’ car park. We can’t afford not to get more people coming into Wellington by public transport, on foot and by bike.

  12. Paul Bruce, 6. December 2013, 9:03

    More on hilly comments:

    One can ride from Wellington airport to Upper Hutt without having to go over any major hills There is a lot of evidence of large suppressed demand due to the lack of a high quality segregated cycle way between Hutt and Wellington. But of course we are not talking about 50% cycling as in Copenhagen, but 10 or 20%, leaving the rest on public transport and other private cars which can work efficiently when shared.

    I cycled from my Brooklyn home to the Kelburn-located MetService for 39 years, and for the last 6 years to the CBD. There is a huge advantage in cycling, as one can get anywhere in the Wellington CBD within 10 minutes. The return is not really a big deal with gears, and you also have the choice of riding or walking through the beautiful Central Park. That route could be improved significantly by providing a safe segregated cycle lane along Willis Street connecting to an uphill cycle crawler lane separated from traffic along Brooklyn Road.

  13. Alastair, 6. December 2013, 9:33

    Cycling has increased hugely in the time I’ve lived in Wellington. In the late 70s if I saw another cyclist, we’d usually stop and have a chat. Now bicycles often outnumber cars in a rush hour Willis St block. As several people have pointed out, the Wellington CBD is pretty flat. Mountain bike gearing has made Wellington hills less of a challenge, and the narrow roads keep traffic speeds down, making cycling less challenging.

  14. Matt, 6. December 2013, 10:17

    A lot of Miramar, Kilbirnie, Rongotai and Lyall Bay can be reached on completely flat routes. It’s only gentle to the Aro Valley, Island Bay, Berhampore and Newtown. Plus all the Hutt Valley. There are flattish routes to Karori and, once you’re up the hill, even the northern suburbs have cycleable routes.

    ie much of Wellington is accessible on bicycle. So the hills argument usually boils down to personal laziness, and it’s just an argument to not fund cycling infrastructure adequately. There is huge demand for safer cycle infrastructure, and the few naysayers can and should be ignored.

  15. Michael, 6. December 2013, 11:51

    Sorry, Syrahnose, but your comments just don’t apply to large ommunities of people living on the south coast – Miramar, Seatoun, Lyall Bay, Kilbirnie, Island Bay. I’ll add Newtown and B’pore too as they are suburbs through which I have commuted. These are all suburbs with dense populations and a number of flat accessible routes to cycle to town.

    I have cycled to work from the south coast, in a suit, almost every weekday for 15 years. I am not “sporty” nor part of the Lycra brigade. I just prefer getting on the bike to the car or the bus. There has been a noticeable and significant increase of people like me over my time and many more would join if the infrastructure was in place.

    Full separation of cycling and traffic is what people like us need. The main reason that people I speak to don’t cycle is because of the risk of having an accident.

    You ask about statistics and cost-benefit analysis but all that work has been done now if you care to look for it – both internationally and in Wellington. There is also a lot of community support for better cycling options. You don’t have to join us. But given your experience you already know how good regular cycling can be. So why not support it, and get back on your bike!

  16. Rosamund, 6. December 2013, 13:37

    As there are more walkers than cyclists, surely the priority should be to create footpaths before cycle-ways.

    There are no footpaths from Cobham Drive to Scorching Bay and neither is their one from Breaker Bay to Eve Bay, nor is there one from the bottom of Onslow Road almost to Homebush. Many rural routes eg: Takapu Road, Makara Road are without any footpaths at all.

    Lets paint footpaths on roads before painting cyclepaths.

  17. Michael, 6. December 2013, 16:46

    Many cyclists would support those projects Rosamund. But public cycle ways have been consistently underfunded so it is great to see new cycle ways finally happening. Why do you need to phrase it as an either / or? Surely if you support walking, you can see the benefit in supporting cycling too.

  18. erentz, 7. December 2013, 14:40

    Great. One thing Wellington needs to do with its narrow hilly streets is to paint sharrows on downhill side with signs like you see in more progressive cities that TELL motorists the cyclist is right to occupy the full lane. And on the uphill sides stripe a bike lane please.

    On the expensive projects, widening Adelaide Road is a must if we’re to adequately provide for both cycle lanes, existing traffic, and a dedicated transit ROW.

  19. John Shaw, 9. December 2013, 7:36

    Get to the point here people – the main problems affecting cycling safety are:

    1/ many drivers with negative attitudes to smaller vehicles & other road users perceived as being in their way.
    2/ many drivers with considerable lack of driving skills.
    3/ many drivers being selfishly unwilling to obey basic road user rules.
    4/ many pedestrians with similar selfishness & lack of skills.
    5/ some cyclists are seen as not obeying rules, giving drivers and pedestrians cause to see cyclists in general as a group not worth supporting.

    > resolving these issues has no major capital expense, but needs serious (& previously unseen) political willingness to fix. How can we support the changes required? Yes, specific cycling pathways should be publicly funded but without working through these attitude issues we can have all the cycle-friendly separated paths we want but still be doored or run over as soon as we ride back on to a public road!


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