Wellington Scoop

Learning about super cycleways from Birmingham


by Glen Smith
The picture above comes from proposals in Birmingham where ‘six cycle lane schemes have been scrapped in favour of two segregated superhighways.’ A local councillor explained that “this is a real change in direction. We had individuals and groups telling us we are not delivering the right infrastructure which makes people feel safe using it. And we will get better results by providing high-quality, high-capacity cycle routes.”

This approach is sensible. Cycling has a poor safety record mainly due to perceived and real issues around conflict with road traffic, and safety is repeatedly identified as the greatest barrier to cycling uptake. Full segregation from road traffic where possible is the ideal.

In addition we are currently experiencing a rapid evolution in electric bike technology resulting in higher speeds, and making fitness and flatness of route less of a barrier. Just as motoring has evolved from cars led by a man with a flag mixing with pedestrians, through ordinary urban roads and finally to high speed motorways and superhighways, so we should be planning for the future of cycling.

Consultation is open until Tuesday on the ‘Newtown’ section of Wellington’s proposed cycle network. This area includes section 2 of the planned Island Bay cycleway (Wakefield Park to John Street).

Options for this section have been quite extensively examined including the excellent report by Opus in 2013 . I suggest that readers view the options outlined. Also I won’t go over the compelling arguments in favour of higher investment in cycle infrastructure which have been widely discussed. Instead I would like to present an option for a high quality, almost fully segregated, predominantly off road dual cycle route from Wakefield Park to John Street.

The cycle option recommended in the Opus report from Island Bay to the CBD is a direct Adelaide Road route (option 2-a, section 7-2-2 page 45). However this route entails

“Removal of on-street residential parking throughout (Image 1). The parking take required is dependent on the facility to be provided and road widths along the route. For example:
– If you provide a cycle lane in each direction this would result in the removal of parking on both sides of the carriageway.
– A shared path on one side would remove parking on one side only. For most of the route the existing footway width can be included as part of the 3-4m wide shared path;
– Two-way Copenhagen lanes are likely to involve parking removal on both sides because it would be separated from pedestrians. The 3m+ required for the lanes therefore would need to come from the carriageway unless the footway widths are reduced.”

The removal of on-street parking on either one or both sides of an existing road could well be justified on the basis of the large overall space allocated to motor vehicles (around 30% of total space in a city) compared to the tiny space allocated to cycling (almost zero). However for individual residents in an area such as this where there is commonly no off-street parking and only limited on-street parking this will cause major problems and would justifiably to lead protests similar to those that have accompanied the Parade cycleway (where in contrast almost all parking was preserved). All options for avoiding this should be explored.

The Red Design: Architects – Urban Activation Lab report (https://newtownresidents.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/newtown_-safecycleway_design_report.pdf) highlighted the importance of limiting removal of on street parking and stated “With street parking displacement being a likely barrier to public support for the cycleway, it makes sense to find a solution that preserves parking..”

Unfortunately other on-road options (Rintoul Street and Hanson Street) are no better. Wellington is a compact city and most space is already allocated. Retrofitting a high quality continuous cycleway is a challenging target.

However I don’t believe all options have been explored and in this article I present an option for a high quality, almost fully dedicated predominantly off-road corridor. It would be more expensive, requiring greater construction and earthwork costs along with lighting and likely security surveillance. However this is still likely to be cheaper than the construction costs commonly associated with similar new road capacity. Given the high benefits routinely identified with cycleway construction in almost all research overseas, it would likely still have a positive benefit/cost ratio and these benefits would continue to accrue throughout this century and beyond.


This is an overview of the proposed route. It is around 400m longer than a direct Adelaide Road route but, being almost fully segregated, would likely be faster. It reaching a peak elevation slightly higher than an Adelaide Road route (depending on the length of the proposed cycle tunnel in Macalister Park) but would have a more even gradient profile.


From Wakefield Park it would exit west on a benched graded track before crossing golf course land to reach Stanley Street. To preserve parking while providing corridor width for the cycleway, Stanley Street would become one way requiring residents to ‘go round the block’. This approach has been successfully used overseas. In northern Stanley Street an up sloping over bridge would provide an even profile while preserving car parking underneath for the Berhampore Kindergarten.


Earthworks across Macalister park, including a short dual cycle tunnel under the peak of the hill to reduce peak elevation, would provide an even gradient.

From northern Hanson Street the cycleway would cut behind Rugby League Park stadium to reach the Show Buildings.


The Show Buildings existing carpark entrance off Hall St would be closed and the current exit made bidirectional. The cycleway would pass to the east of the Show Buildings to reach John Street and there join the Newtown Cycleway to travel along northern Adelaide Road.

At the Basin the Newtown/ Island Bay cycleways would join the Eastern Cycleway that exits the new stacked multipurpose (rail/ road/ cycle/ pedestrian) second Mt Victoria Tunnel before continuing across the CBD.

In response to congestion, pollution, climate change and concerns about healthy lifestyle, cycling is increasing rapidly across the developed world. Amsterdam now reports that over 40% of downtown trips are by cycle, surpassing car trips. With modern electric bike technology to overcome Wellington’s hilly terrain there is no reason that we shouldn’t be able to match these overseas figures. However this will require a network of high quality, preferably dedicated and wherever possible segregated cycleways to provide a safe cycling environment for all cyclist from children up to the elderly. The current cycleway review presents the opportunity to work towards this goal.

A very high quality continuation of the current Island Bay cycleway from Wakefield to John Street (section 2) is very achievable. I would encourage the WCC, Regional Council and NZTA to take a ‘do it once and do it right’ approach and work towards a cycleway that will serve Island Bay residents throughout this century and beyond.

If you support a cycleway of this quality please register your support via the City Council site before the closing date for submissions tomorrow.


  1. luke, 16. July 2018, 15:03

    Need something like this to get more people cycling. Once numbers are up, can look to take onstreet parking for more cycleways as more cyclists equals more mandate. Wakefield Park already has a path, just needs joining up at Dee St end and better seal.

  2. Jonny Utzone, 16. July 2018, 17:27

    Hey that male cyclist gets about! Apparently he’s appeared on artist impressions of London cycleways and also NYC. Can’t artists be a little more artistic? How about a local waiter transporting tiffin meals?

    In 2016, the two Birmingham cycleways totalled 8.5 kms and were costed at $NZ 25 million or $NZ 3 million per km. By April 2018, 2.5 kms was costing NZ$29 million or $18 million per km. Getting close to Island Bay costs?

    And don’t breath in whilst you cycle down those central reservations as you will be inhaling the diesel emissions from the A38 traffic right alongside. Not good. But they are utilising an old tram space. I guess trams/Light Rail is too expensive to bring back?

  3. Glen Smith, 16. July 2018, 22:52

    Jonny Utzone, It would be interesting for the WCC/GWRC/NZTA to do some costings for this route and a benefit cost analysis – that is outside my area of expertise. It is likely to be cheaper than equivalent roading capacity. Peter Nunns, an Auckland economist, looked at the increasing cost of road construction ( https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2017/08/01/escalating-costs-building-roads/) and found that roading projects in Auckland are now commonly over $40m per lane kilometer. This is for a maximum capacity of around 1800-2000 cars per hour per 3.5m wide lane. In contrast a 3.5m wide cycle corridor can house two lanes each 1.5m wide with a capacity up to 3500 bicycles per hour per lane – ie. 7000 in total (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352146515001301). Of course neutral objective analysis has never been a part of NZTA or GWRC decision making – the BCR for the $100m ‘Smart’ motorway to nowhere is so appalling they won’t disclose it.
    Taking Transmission Gully as an example of a project that involves large amounts of earthwork (a stunning 9 million cubic metres I think is the new estimate, the earthwork involved here is tiny in comparison and structures are trivial and lightweight in comparison over hilly terrain) the cost is estimated at $850m or around $8 million per lane kilometer. The length of this proposed cycleway is around 2.5km. If it could be built at a similar cost (which the NZTA clearly feels is okay to justify building road capacity) that would give around $20m to play with. Ample I am sure.

  4. Ross Clark, 16. July 2018, 23:51

    My guess is that cycleways really only work well when they are completely separated from car traffic. In the UK we have a good network of cycleways, built on old railway formation, and they are well-used.

  5. glenn, 17. July 2018, 6:45

    I think it’s about time cyclists had to be registered, the same as every other road user, so they can start contributing to this waste of public money.

  6. Neil Douglas, 17. July 2018, 9:35

    Glen, The total cost of building Transmission Gully will be over $3 billion. The $850 million is an economist’s number that will never see the light of day.

    The construction cost in dollars of the day including all agency costs (i.e. planning, linking to other roads, signing) is the meaningful number the public understands. And that is over $3 billion.

    But the Dominion Post continues to publish the discounted cost (costs discounted at 8% a year) of future payments to the concession company of $850 million and calls it ‘the cost of building Transmission Gully’. Despite my letters to the DomPost they continue to give this wrong impression so I assume it is deliberate ploy to mis-convey the true build cost of the project .

    By the way at $3 billion Transmission Gully works out at about $125 million per km.

  7. luke, 17. July 2018, 10:03

    What concerns me is the cost of maintenance of the old road (currently paid for by the tax payer) following the opening of the gully road which following revocation will be picked up by the ratepayer. Is there any guarantee the seal on tmg will be any better than the new kapiti road?

  8. Kerry, 17. July 2018, 11:14

    glenn, you have it the wrong way round. The reason why cyclists need separate provision is that drivers have repeatedly shown that they are incapable of avoiding cyclists, or even seeing cyclists.
    The benefits of cycling are even greater than Glen gives.
    — On a people-capacity basis, a 3.5 m cycle lane has five to ten times the people-capacity of a car lane (Global Street Design Guide). Cycle lanes reduce motor-vehicle congestion far more effectively than far more costly motor vehicle lanes.
    — Cycle-friendly cities have better ‘quality of life’ rankings; for a start, cyclists very rarely kill pedestrians.
    — Cycles are cheaper than cars, and the surplus is spent locally.
    — A 2014 survey showed that 76% of Wellingtonians would ‘consider’ cycling if it was safe.
    But the really big benefit is health: cyclists get enough exercise. Other health benefits include reduced pollution, fewer crashes and less stress.

  9. glenn, 17. July 2018, 12:53

    I really don’t care what it costs Neil, it should have been built 20 odd years ago. The motoring public have contributed through petrol taxes to fund it, cyclists should have to do the same for cycle ways.

  10. Glen Smith, 17. July 2018, 16:13

    glenn. You seem to be suffering from the common delusion that motorists subsidise cyclists and public transport when the opposite is true. Car use is one of the most subsidised activities we undertake on a daily basis, largely due to the unpaid ‘external’ costs associate with car driving.
    Astid Jacob et al (2006) in an Auckland based transport cost analysis concluded that ‘.. private transport generates 28 times more external cost than public transport. The internal cost assessment showed that total revenues collected did not even cover 50% of total transport cost. The research has shown that not only are the external costs of vehicle transport high, but that contrary to popular belief the total costs of private transport are subsidised by public transport users’ (https://www.niwa.co.nz/sites/niwa.co.nz/files/import/attachments/chc2006_6.pdf). If you disagree with this conclusion could you outline which details of the research methodology you feel are faulty.
    This is not a small amount. The authors concluded that ‘ private transport is subsidised 4.7 cents per person per kilometre more than public transport’. No comparison was made with cycling but cycling is lkely even less subsidised. Given this, what do you feel is the purpose of the cost of a bureaucracy for registering cyclists? Is it so you can identify individual cyclists so that you can return the subsidy money they have paid? If you no longer want to bludge pff other people and want to pay your own way (rather than just 50% the research calculated) then a better method would be a fuel tax or a targeted congestion tax.

    Neil. Thanks for that costing – I also was deceived by the misinformation (I thought that figure was too low). The $125m per km is presumably for 4 lanes so would come down around $29m per lane km, more in line with the other figures in Peter Nunn´s article. If we take a 3.5m wide dual cycleway as having the same capacity as a 3.5m wide road lane (rather than the five to 10 times capacity identified by Kerry) then we would still have around $72m if the cycleway were subsidised to the same degree as Transmission Gully. Should build a gold plated cycleway for that. And put the other two thirds in the bank.

  11. Neil Douglas, 17. July 2018, 17:00

    Glenn, I pay petrol excise too and I didn’t want it wasted on Transmission Gully. Let’s say 25,000 vehicles a day use it which is 9 million a year (a ridiculously high figure mind you as it is 100% of SH1 traffic volume at Paraparaumu). Transmission Gully is 28kms long so you’d use 2.8 Litres of petrol and let’s say you pay 50c of excise. That’s $1.40 per trip. It would take 234 years to pay the $3 billion construction cost from fuel excise.

  12. Kerry, 17. July 2018, 20:11

    Nice one

  13. TrevorH, 18. July 2018, 8:20

    Moving to Birmingham would seem to be the best option for all concerned. Or Amsterdam, Copenhagen etc.

  14. glenn, 18. July 2018, 15:57

    @glen, actually I´m not suffering from any delusion, I subsidise cyclists and public transport from the fact as a ratepayer/taxpayer my taxes in part go towards maintaining public transport/cycleways. Cyclists use an asset, in part funded by ratepayers/taxpayers and anyone who pays rego/road users etc. They should also be liable to part fund it as well. Why is it cyclists appear to be so special that they require the majority ( and anyway you slice it, you are a minority), to stump up the cash to fund their transport option.

    @neil, if this road had been constructed when it was first mooted, it would be substantially less, thank the bleeding heart tree huggers for that. Besides, make it a toll road, it’s still way better than what we have at present.

  15. Neil Douglas, 18. July 2018, 21:19

    Glenn – it would be economically superior to toll the existing coastal road to encourage people to use Transmission Gully (particularly heavy trucks) but I can’t see that happening. NZTA will probably reduce the speed limit to 80kph on the SH instead.

    And the folk of Porirua will have to fork out more in rates to maintain the existing highway when TG becomes the State Highway.

  16. Glen Smith, 19. July 2018, 0:18

    Glenn. Did you read the research article? Or any research at all? Ever? Just claiming that you subsidise cyclists doesn’t make it true. Where is your analysis or any objective evidence for that claim?
    The article’s analysis is clearcut. In 2001 in Auckland society collected $687.3m in levies/rates/taxes which went towards supporting the transport system. However transport imposed a far higher cost on society and there was $736.3m additional unpaid costs which were passed onto society and paid by everybody. Almost all of this ($711m) was a subsidy paid by society (including all the cyclists) to support people’s car use.
    It would be nice if you recognized this rather than claiming the opposite, and if some of this huge amount paid by cyclists could actually go towards providing some cycling infrastructure.

  17. Andrew, 19. July 2018, 8:31

    Glenn, so when I ride a bike all of a sudden my contributions via rates, prov tax and RUC etc do not count?

  18. luke, 19. July 2018, 10:19

    I dont drive yet my rates go towards local roads maintenance. This is an outrage.

  19. Andrew Bartlett, 19. July 2018, 10:42

    Andrew, yes. As a simple example by choosing to ride a bike you reduce the amount needed from your contributions via income tax for health care etc. In turn, when multiplied across all of society, reducing driving will reduce the other taxes needed to cover these costs.

    This is what externalities are about, costs that are incurred by society but not fairly attributed to the user.

    Finally, things like rates, income tax etc are levied across all of society but disproportionately fund road infrastructure for cars and the health costs and transport inefficiency incurred from car use. The few taxes that are marginal (eg RUC, fuel tax) do not come close to funding the marginal cost of this use.

    Those who ride bikes would be overjoyed if infrastructure for people on bikes were funded not at subsidy, but even at what you might regard as ‘equal’ or ‘fair’.

  20. John, 19. July 2018, 10:44

    It appears @glenn is arguing that since he doesn’t use either public transport or a bicycle, his rates and taxes should not be used to pay for these modes.

    On the other hand, I prefer to choose the travel methods that meet my needs for a particular trip — sometimes taking the bus or train, sometimes driving, sometimes walking or cycling. I often use more than one travel mode within a single trip. Having transport options that are easy, accessible, and flexible is part of what makes Wellington a great place to live.

    Unlike @glenn, I value the freedom to choose the methods of travel that best meet my needs. It appears from his comments that only people like him are entitled to have their travel subsidised by the community at large.

    The most cost-effective way to improve @glenn’s experience as a driver is to invest in improving public transport, walking and cycling. When people switch to these modes, they de-congest the roads, moving more people without more road space.

  21. Paul, 19. July 2018, 11:50

    “safety is repeatedly identified as the greatest barrier to cycling uptake” really? In Wellington you’ll find that Geography and weather are also significant barriers that a cycleway won’t change.

    But Glenn’s design is the best I’ve seen yet, without the public opposition you will get from removing the carparks along Adelaide Road. Chances of our council planners taking any notice …..

  22. Andrew Bartlett, 19. July 2018, 20:47

    Paul, Perhaps you are right, and weather and geography are significant barriers, but safely is the variable that we have the most direct change over, and which as a society we most benefit from if we change. I know you would like to argue that as these are such insurmountable obstacles that no effort should be put to improve safely, as it ‘wont help’, but I will note this.

    I’ve been crunching the numbers on the bikethere.org.nz website, where the new electronic counter data is being uploaded monthly. The Hutt Road counters see an average of 476 trips each work day (std dev 115), and 151 on each weekend day (std dev 44).

    But what is more interesting is that while the numbers do change day to day, 70 or 80km/h southerly wind gusts only knock it back to 350 trips (19 Jun) and 450 trips (26 Jun). Wellingtonians on bikes are hardy creatures in the face of weather and topography, but are just a soft-bodied as the rest of us in collision with the front of an SUV.

    Those already riding should be given a sporting chance at a safe ride hope to dinner with their family really, and those who are not riding should be given the opportunity to try without having to first learn how to mix with 60km/hr traffic while avoiding the door zone.

  23. luke, 20. July 2018, 8:38

    weather and topography are bogus anyway, copenghagen is not known for its amazing weather and ebikes have the potential to eliminate the hills. Also the Hutt to Wellington is pretty well flat.

  24. Neil Douglas, 20. July 2018, 9:15

    Andrew B, thanks for alerting me to the bike count numbers. It´s a bit early to make conclusions about the impact of weather on cycling because there is only two months of data for May and June provided on the web site. I would have thought there would be lots more cyclists in the summer months when the days are longer and the sun is shining so I’ll be having a look at the statistics again in a few months.

  25. glenn, 24. July 2018, 11:34

    @neil, you know thats not correct. If TMG becomes a toll road, ( and it probably will), NZTA are bound to have an alternative, so people have an option, whether to pay or not. Porirua wouldn’t be liable.
    @glen, your research is 17 years old, hardly relevant today. Whether you like it or not, roading is a necessity, that everyone needs
    @luke, you would be outraged if an ambulance couldn’t attend your needs if required.
    @john, I never implied i was unhappy funding public transport.I might not use it but don’t begrudge contributing.
    Every mode of transport is required to be registered, to help fund the upkeep. Why is it that cyclists think that as they pay rates etc, that abdicates their responsibility to help fund there cycle ways.
    E-bikes can do the same speeds, as a basic motor scooter, around town; could you explain, glen, why they shouldn’t be registered?