Don’t stop the cycleways

by Lindsay Shelton
The plan for better, safer cycleways is one that should be welcomed by everyone. Yet the city council is in danger of allowing its key project to be derailed by endless complications.

Plans to triple the amount of council spending on cycleways were announced two weeks ago. The city’s cycling budget for 2014/15 is to be increased from $1.3 million to $4.3 million, an increase of 230 per cent, focusing on “delivering strategic cycling routes and improving cycle safety city-wide.” Sounds good.

Celia Wade-Brown said the funding boost would be transformative for Wellington. Yay!

More details were announced on Tuesday, when the council said it was seeking “clever thinking, compromise, and creative solutions” and was starting work to plan improvements to the cycleway from Island Bay to the city. Compromise? Was this a sign that things weren’t going to be easy?

Patrick Morgan of the Cycling Advocates Network sounded an alarm after attending this week’s council meeting where the plans were discussed:

I was underwhelmed by aspects of the staff’s presentation. While it was good to see the detail, I have some concerns:
It was framed as a cycling vs parking decision. Not helpful.
The benefits of quality cycleways were undersold.
Demand for on-street parking was presented as a given.
Councillors were cautioned that this was a hard, complex problem which would take ages.
What we end up with in Island Bay will determine the level of service of future cycling routes. Do we want more paint-on lanes in the car door zone, or quality protected lanes? Re-allocating road space from parking to safe cycling is a good choice. How do we demonstrate to all councillors that we have their backs on this?

And today the “hard complex problem” was converted into one of the DomPost’s alarmist headlines: Safe cycling plan faces big blowout. Katie Chapman, echoing the view of conservative council staff, writes that the Island Bay to CBD plans have “already had a spoke thrown in their wheel because of the extra costs involved in replacing roadside parking spaces that would be lost to cycling lanes.”

A crisis before consultation has even begun?

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown needs to move fast and take over leadership of the cycleway planning before the best intentions are derailed. As any cyclist will tell you, it’s taken years to get to this position. As anyone will tell you who has seen cycleways in cities all over the world, Wellington is years behind the times on this issue.

A Wellington.Scoop reader commented yesterday:

The cycle lane should a) take the flattest route from Island Bay to Newtown and b) be separated out from traffic. These two features should be non-negotiable. If NZ’s old school traffic engineers aren’t able to cope with the above they should be replaced with people who can. Hire from abroad if necessary.

As this is a new kind of project, political leadership is important. I’d like to see one councilor step up and become the public face of cycling in Wellington just as Len Brown was with the city rail link in Auckland. As it’s a new territory, Wellingtonians will need a lot of hand-holding. Celia Wade-Brown? Justin Lester?

And even before the DomPost’s attempt to de-fuse the momentum of cycleway planning, Ross Clark sounded a warning:

Getting councillors to see the benefits of removing on-street parking, indeed *any* sort of parking, is akin to pushing water up hill. I have no idea how you get round this sort of mindset.

So let’s expect leadership. The mayor, as a committed and expert cyclist, is best fitted to take on this role. Her comments reported this morning are a pointer towards what must be done:

She knew from personal experience that cycling in the ‘door zone’ along Adelaide Road was not much fun. Whichever option the council eventually settled on, it was likely some existing parking would be sacrificed.

And a mayoral under-statement:

Wellington is not good enough for cyclists yet.

She may be bruised from her defeat on the flyover issue, but she should ensure that cycleways stay on track and don’t get detoured into years of unconstructive and unnecessary delays.



  1. Hambone, 19. December 2013, 13:44

    As if the mayor is going to make a big song and dance about a cycle way. She only just won the last election and will want to save her political capital for her light rail baby.

  2. Cr Paul Bruce, 19. December 2013, 16:36

    The most costly proposal, at $10m for 4km of top quality cycle path, is only 10% of the $100m Basin Flyover! Why should the WCC be defensive about raising ten million for a high quality safe cycle way, when hundreds of millions are locked into spending on new roads that have no clear economic rationale?

    Mayor Celia has only just been elected on a platform of opening up our roads to other modes. European countries began this process 20 to 30 years ago – it is now time for Wellington to show the rest of NZ the way to go.

  3. Driver, 19. December 2013, 17:50

    I’ll be glad when parking is removed from some of our narrow streets such as Adelaide Road. It’s not only cyclists who’ll benefit. It’s motorists, too. (No more broken side mirrors.)

  4. Watcher, 19. December 2013, 18:02

    Driver, if you cannot negotiate the narrow streets of Wellington without clipping parked cars, perhaps you need a refresher in driving lessons. Personally I’d be worried about sharing the road with you if I was cycling along the same roadway.

  5. Driver, 19. December 2013, 20:45

    Watcher: I am happy to say I have never clipped a parked car or a side mirror, but I have seen many broken side mirrors in streets such as the narrow part of Adelaide Road. Wise car owners fold their mirror against the door to avoid the danger.

  6. syranose, 20. December 2013, 8:19

    Where are all those people going to park on Adelaide Road who need to get to their homes? How many are disabled or old and infirm? It’s pretty obvious that parking there is at a premium for a reason: high density occupation. How many people walk or bus into town who live along Adelaide Rd vs cycle? To live real lives, a lot of those people need cars to shop and carry friends and family from time to time.

  7. Colourful Newtownian, 20. December 2013, 9:10

    One candidate, who is now a councillor, said that people could walk the 5 or 10 minutes from their parked cars to their homes. He was standing in a Ward he didn’t live in, and like so many candidates, was out of touch with the realities of the day to day living hardships faced by many on struggle street.

  8. Tony Randle, 20. December 2013, 11:58

    It also must be remembered that the WCC Urban Development Strategy for for Adelaide Road:
    provides for more residential development (to accommodate approximately 1,550 more people by 2026)”
    and this is just for the northern end of this road . . .

    The council may expect all these additional residents to take public transport but the experience to date is a majority will drive and so parking along this road needs to increase, not decrease.

  9. Kara Lipski, 20. December 2013, 13:39

    Simple solution for cycle ways on hills . . . . . re-designate the existing uphill (and marked) parking lanes to uphill cycle lanes e.g Crawford Rd from Childers to Constable which is mainly used by visitors to the area.

  10. Albert Tatlock, 20. December 2013, 21:26

    Tony R. lives in an alternative universe! More people = more parking? Get real, if more people are going to be living in shoe boxes they need to get on a bike or a bus to work in 2031 and not hog space most of the day with a car parked on finite tar seal.

  11. Kent Duston, 22. December 2013, 9:20

    Syranose and Tony Randle – Parking your car on the street is a privilege, not a human right. If you want a safe and convenient place to park, then buy or rent a car park … if you can afford to buy, maintain, warrant, register and insure a car whilst living close to town, then another few dollars a day to park it doesn’t seem onerous.

    The convenience of car drivers should not come before the safety of cyclists.

  12. Esjay, 22. December 2013, 19:16

    Wellington is a hilly area where thousands of residents reside. I would love to travel by cycle to my destination but the problem is that I cannot travel up hill on my return without outside assistance. Perhaps some of the $4 million council expenditure can be devoted toward providing escalators to latch onto for all cyclists who live on hillsides. Better still let’s flatten out all the Wellington hills to resemble Christchurch with wide roads, purpose built as a truly flat cycle city.


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