by Lindsay Shelton
The new census figures showing an extraordinary increase in the number of Wellingtonians walking and cycling to work (and a decline in the numbers who are driving) couldn’t have come at a better time.
They’ve given new encouragement to the groups which are arguing why a flyover at the Basin Reserve is unnecessary.
And they ought to be be giving a push to the city council, which is moving slowly towards its aim of creating the first of its “priority” cycleways. (When does consultation start? How long does it last? How long will it take to consider the different viewpoints? How long before a new cycleway is actually built?)
The 2013 statistics compare our habits with figures from the last census in 2006. They show a 73 per cent increase in the number of Wellington city residents who are cycling to work – and a 3 percent drop in the number of people travelling by car. The big increase in cycling is more than enough to encourage the council to make some real progress on new cycleways.
The number of people choosing to walk or jog to work has also increased. The numbers are up by almost 16 percent – from 15,696 to 18,183.
But for Wellington public transport, no increase in travellers. The numbers have remained about the same. Just under 14 percent – 14,565 Wellington City residents – said they were going work by bus last year, and 3 per cent, just over 3000, were catching a train.
Mayor Wade-Brown is correct when she says:
The stagnation in bus and public transport journeys to work needs to be addressed by improved services and I urge the Regional Council to take a more strategic view on fare increases.
The damage has already been done, of course, with a majority of regional councillors voting for more fare increases. The arguments against increasing fares have been persuasively summarised by Paul Bruce, but only three other councillors were willing to support him.
The city council can’t pass the buck, however, about cycleways. In December the mayor said it was a priority to build a new cycleway between Island Bay and the CBD. But “priority” doesn’t mean that the cycleway will be appearing any time soon. In the mayor’s words:
” … there are different routes and design options to consider. I’m looking forward to a wide-ranging public engagement on what works best … Many potential cyclists want to commute to the CBD or just cycle to the next suburb but are nervous of fast and large vehicles. We want cycling to be a choice for adventure tourism, everyday commuting and gentle leisure.”
With further qualifications from Andy Foster:
Staff have done a lot of work this year on the logistics and costs of improving the route from the southern suburbs and it is likely to be the next major cycling project we commit to. We have also got information from cyclists through this year’s Cycle Forum, from Cycle Aware Wellington, and from having cyclists out on the street with helmet cameras identifying problems and opportunities across 19 other key routes into and across the city. We have a list of over 300 opportunities and problems to work through.
Things move faster outside the council. On Monday night, Newtown residents will be able to see detailed plans for the cycleway that seems to have the council so confused. The plans have been prepared by a community design team which proposes:
Instead of having allocated cycle strips on either side of the road, the design team is proposing a cycle-way that completely separates cyclists and motorists. The safe cycle-way will essentially be an extension of the footpath, allowing cyclists to travel in opposite directions along the same path, much like cycle-ways in Europe. The proposed cycle-way would flow through Island Bay, Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook to the waterfront.
Even the Transport Agency should be paying attention to the new census statistics, as it moves at a snail’s pace towards building a proper cycleway between Petone and Ngauranga. Just how slowly can a government agency move? The need for the cycleway was identified in 2010, and two years later the Agency ran focus groups with cyclists. But plans won’t be finalised till next year – five years after the need was first established.