Wellington Scoop

Two cycling cities – will Wellington catch up with Auckland?

cycleway PM and Len
On their bikes: John Key and Len Brown. Photo: Len Brown. Click here for a larger image.

A turning point for cycling in Auckland. That’s the new Grafton Gully cycleway that was opened this weekend, completing a 15km cycling route from west Auckland to the CBD and on to the waterfront. Setting an example for Wellington, where not even the first stage of the cycleway from Island Bay to the CBD has been started.

We’ve known for ages that cycling is increasing in Wellington; it has doubled since the 2006 census.

More than a year ago Andy Foster described planning efforts that were aiming to create new cycleways in Wellington. And almost 18 months ago, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown recognised that the situation was serious. She told 180 people at a Wellington cycling forum:

We’re not doing really well with cycling. Wellington is now the most dangerous place in New Zealand to ride. We want to know your priorities. We will act on them. We can make things happen faster than they’re happening now.

Since then, things have indeed been happening faster … but in Auckland, not in Wellington.

The Prime Minister cut the ribbon for the new Grafton Gully cycleway yesterday, alongside mayor Len Brown and Cycle Action’s Barb Cuthbert. John Key said the Transport Agency were ahead of the politicians on cycling issues. Something which is not the case in Wellington, where the Petone to Ngauranga cycleway seems to be as far away as ever, in spite of all our politicians agreeing that it’s urgent.

“Working together as one, we can construct world class cycling infrastructure for Auckland that is safe and efficient, increases the popularity of cycling, and helps take the pressure off congestion,” said the Transport Agency’s regional director for Auckland, Ernst Zollner, who spoke at yesterday’s opening ceremony.

The new Grafton Gully cycleway completes an almost entirely off-road cycle route from Te Atatu in West Auckland, to the city centre and waterfront. The concrete cycleway follows the general motorway alignment in Grafton Gully, starting from Upper Queen Street, and connecting to a cycleway on Beach Road.

One feature which Wellington should be copying: on part of the Grafton Road cycleway, vehicle lanes have been reduced to make room for cyclists and pedestrians.

cycleway beach road
Photo: Cycle Action Auckland

And where the new cycleway reaches Beach Road, a barrier protects cyclists from vehicles. Cyclists are asking for a similar barrier on the cycleway from Island Bay … if and when.

There’s been substantial collaboration in Auckland – the City Council built a shared pathway for cyclists and walkers on Upper Queen Street, the Transport Agency built the 1.9 kilometre-long Grafton Gully section, and the 630 metre-long protected cycleway along Beach Road was developed by Auckland Transport. The total cost of all three projects was almost $19.5m – Transport Agency $15.4m, Auckland Transport $3.15m, Auckland Council $900,000.

Here in Wellington, the city council is in charge of building the cycleway from Island Bay into the CBD. Maybe the first stage will be started next year? The Transport Agency is responsible for building the Ngauranga to Petone cycleway, which has been urgent since 2008. On this one, there’s no start date in sight. Some of the Agency’s Auckland staff should be brought down to Wellington, to get things moving.

Transport Agency: Planning 1000km of cycling routes in Auckland