Wellington Scoop

The cycleway that hasn’t been built – how slow can they go?

by Lindsay Shelton
Back in 2008, the need for an off-road cycleway between Petone and Ngauranga was being described as “urgent.” The urgency was clear because a prominent cyclist had been killed at the Petone roundabout. We had a reminder of the urgency this week, when another cyclist was injured.

In the six years since the fatality, progress towards building the urgently needed cycleway has been negligible.

In 2010, two years after the cyclist’s death, a “Ngauranga Triangle Study” recommended the need for a project to “close the gap” in the cycling route between Ngauranga and Petone.

In March 2011, all the regional mayors supported the need for an offroad cycleway:

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said that it would be a major step forward to bridging the gap in the Great Harbour Way. Jenny Chetwynd, Regional Director of the New Zealand Transport Agency, agreed to report back to the next Regional Transport Committee meeting on whether it was possible to move its construction forward.

A month later, Regional Council chair Fran Wilde said

“The lack of a decent cycling facility on this stretch of SH2, which is used by a large number of cyclists each day, sticks out like a sore thumb in our regional cycling network. It’s generally agreed that a need for such a facility is long overdue.”

There may have been general agreement in 2011, but the Transport Agency didn’t move till November 2012, when it said that in 2013 it would “soon” begin investigating options, with the aim of creating a safe and efficient cycleway. This wasn’t to be an actual investigation, however. The plan was only to request tenders for proposals for the cost and scope of work required to investigate the project.

The slow-moving Agency – no doubt distracted by dreams of a Basin Reserve flyover – said it expected “to engage with the community on the cycleway’s features once we have detailed options for the route by 2014.”

By June last year (five years after the cyclist’s death) there hadn’t been much progress. Investigations hadn’t started. But the Agency kept talking. It said it would

soon begin formal investigations into a potential facility to help cyclists travel more safely between the two cities. The investigation aims to identify what facilities are needed to make the bike ride between Hutt and Wellington safer and easier.

Investigations may now have started, but the bike ride continues to be unsafe. After a cyclist was knocked off his bike and injured this week, he told wellington.scoop that his accident was 50-60 metres before the Petone overbridge:

The problem i had was that the car came into the cycle lane and hit me off my bike as he wasn’t concentrating on the road and was looking down at something.

And why is the cycle lane not separated from other traffic? Another cyclist told us how this has happened.

The existing offroad cycleway ends near Horokiwi, which is about 1km south of the Petone overbridge. Anyone foolish enough to use it heading north would end up having to ride up the side of the Hutt Road cycling against traffic. This sad state of affairs is the result of the Transport Agency scrapping the last km of the cycle path in order to increase the number of southbound lanes from two to three on the Hutt Road south of the overbridge.

More than three years ago, when all the mayors had agreed on the need for an off-road cycleway, Regional Councillor (and enthusiastic cyclist) Paul Bruce gave a persuasive explanation of why it is needed:

“This cycle project addresses primarily the inadequate level of service to pedestrians and cyclists that has existed for most of the last century. A 2010 survey indicated that about 450 cyclists used the median strip on the Hutt Road, and this can be compared to the 42,000 vehicle movements on that stretch, all moving at 100km/hr.

“Leading US cycle advocate Gil Penalosa would not find this surprising, as he maintains that only 1 per cent “kamikaze cyclists” will use a state highway with no cycling infrastructure. According to Penalosa, the provision of a protected cycle way connecting major centres will lead to an increase of 10 to 30 per cent of cycle commuters.”

Does the next move have to be left to the slow-moving Transport Agency? Or will Fran Wilde (who has the reputation of getting what she wants) and the regional mayors show a stronger determination to make faster progress towards construction of a cycleway that everyone agrees has been urgently needed since 2008.

August 2012: New cycleway was expected by next year
October 2012: Survey of cyclists