Wellington Scoop

Is the Island Bay cycleway doomed?

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has been trying to put a good spin on the recent consultant’s report into the Island Bay cycleway fiasco – “we have learnt from Island Bay … need to listen more”. But couched in the considered and cautious language of consultants is a damning story of political chaos, organizational mistakes and community dismay.

Displaying good political reflexes, the council had a positive press release all set to go the moment the report arrived – in PR-speak it’s called “getting out in front of the story”. The report arrived only a few days before a long weekend, when the rest of Wellington was more looking forward to getting away on holiday rather than dissecting the latest council debacle.

And if you’d taken the time to read the press release, you’d think the council merely had to listen harder and things would be tickety-boo:

“We are already doing things better – in conjunction with the community – and I look forward to working with Central Government on a more collaborative approach to cycleway design,” [Andy Foster] says.

The consultants were less sanguine:

Establish a process for refreshing and recommissioning the programme … Establish an approach and process for a review of Island Bay’s cycleway. This needs to be done with the community.

Translated from consultant-speak, this means one thing and one thing only: you’ve made a mess, so you need to go back and try again.

And there’s good reason to do so. The report is critical of many aspects of the council’s approach, from the rushed timelines to the poor planning framework to the ineffective governance and lackluster communications. You have to look hard into the report to find a single item that the consultants thought the council had executed well, even if they did acknowledge that the council had good intentions in pursing more cycleways in the city:

Without exception, all those we spoke to were supportive of cycleways being part of an integrated transport network and that cycling was a key part of Wellington being one of the most liveable cities in the world.

But that’s pretty much where the good news ended. The report details how the council rushed at the project to meet budget timelines, and the harder it pushed the more its mandate from the community evaporated:

There is a community perception that the cycleway in Island Bay is a poor solution and that it was delivered without proper community engagement and consultation. This perception has “spilled over” to other planned projects. This has caused a loss of general community support and a subsequent erosion of the WCC’s “license to operate”

Once the community sentiment turned, the political support evaporated and gridlock ensued – followed by comments from Bill English:

“Lack of money is not a problem for the bottlenecks in Wellington’s city infrastructure,” he said. “There are large projects happening north of Wellington … and they’re all going ahead. The projects in Wellington city that could achieve those things aren’t going ahead, because the city comes to the conclusion that it doesn’t want them.”

Which was said in the context of the Basin Reserve flyover, and with a very political agenda in mind. But as the consultant’s report noted, the debacle in Island Bay has eroded Ministerial confidence that the city can actually get its act together. Even if Wellington decides it only wants cycleways and no more roads, it needs to convince the government (via the NZ Transport Agency) to stump up a fair bit of the cash – and it can only do so by delivering projects it can demonstrate the city wants, with community support, on time and within budget. The Island Bay cycleway has so far failed every single one of those tests.

And then there’s this gem:

There are options to undertake improvements to existing routes and infrastructure that are potentially less contentious but which nevertheless would contribute to WCC’s programme and overall network (e.g. Cobham Drive connection)

The report describes this sort of improvement as a “quick win” and seems to ponder why straightforward and uncontentious cycle projects weren’t pursued instead of Island Bay … we can only join the hordes of Wellingtonians who will be quick to observe that the mayor doesn’t live down the end of Cobham Drive.

To its credit, the council does seem to be trying harder with the Hutt Road and Eastern corridors cycleways. But the question is: how much much confidence in the cause of cycleways has been lost – in our communities, around the council table, and at the Beehive?


  1. Andrew, 5. June 2016, 8:30

    It might be time to build something great for once, rather than a half arsed solution like Karo Drive. Make the Petone to Wellington foot/cycle path entirely on the shoreline. Half of it will be, so why kill the experience south of Ngauranga.

  2. Alex Dyer, 5. June 2016, 11:10

    The Parade is an attractive as a ‘quick win’ cycleway, so quick in fact that it’s already done! Unfortunately there are a huge dose of political attacks on the mayor in the horrid anti cycling rhetoric from what is now obviously an anti cycling community. The anti cycling ‘residents assn.’ wouldn’t have lasted 2 weeks without Paul Eagle’s eagle-eyed spotting of a political sideshow for him to attack with.

    The best finding from this project has been informing us all on the poor level of understanding and support for cycling infrastructure that is not just painting lines in doorzones like we had before. As an everyday cyclist and Dad with kids learning to ride their bikes, I am impressed with what this council have achieved in this term against huge politically and uncompromisingly motivated opposition. I can now ride with my 6yr old daughter from Dee St to the beach and back with much greater safety and consideration thanks to the cyceway design.

    I am dismayed by the unbalanced of reporting of opinions from our anti cycling neighbours, – as if they represent all of us. Island Bay has rightly attracted an ugly reputation thanks to this new vocal minority. Thankfully, that’s just what they are, in the minority, but appallingly their agenda is persevering. What is most disturbing about their communications is that very little of it is actually constructive. They are providing little input into a positive future for cycleways in Wellington and have a great amount to say about issues they face like maneuvering motorised vehicles and parking positioning aesthetics. I don’t see much evidence of support for cycling. There is always the claim that they ‘support cycling, but’, yet the changes being sought are anything but.

  3. Concerned Wellingtonian, 5. June 2016, 11:55

    How will Celia get to work for the next four months?

  4. Ryan Brown, 5. June 2016, 21:26

    @wAlex Dyer, let me help you out here (yours truly, an observer from Berhampore):
    “The Parade is an attractive as a ‘quick win’
    It used to be attractive, yes, but Island Bay is now everything but attractive.And a ‘quick win’? Hardly, the Government has just forced WCC to review it.

    2. “Unfortunately there are a huge dose of political attacks on the mayor”

    And rightfully so, it was her political legacy. I prefer the terms coined by Cr Paul Eagle: “Bedroom to Boardroom” or “cycle way to nowhere”. They often say the truth hurts!

    3. “The anti cycling ‘residents assn.’ wouldn’t have lasted 2 weeks without Paul Eagle’s eagle-eyed spotting of a political sideshow for him to attack with.”

    You mean the Island Bay Residents’ Association? Oh, they were set up after WCC refused to listen to the local people. But WCC listen to residents’ associations – and they usually lose against well organised ones which is what we’ve seen here. As for Cr Paul Eagle, well for starters, he lives in Island Bay, ie. the southern ward, unlike his Green counterpart Cr David Lee. And how could you attack a city councillor that does something rare: reflects the views of their community at the council table? A political sideshow you say? Um, I don’t think so. Note to Mayor: next time you want to win a community over, contact your Island Bay neighbour, Cr Eagle.

    4. “The best finding from this project has been informing us all on the poor level of understanding and support for cycling infrastructure that is not just painting lines in doorzones like we had before.”

    And you can thank WCC for that. But I guess when the council officers are simply delivering something that the Mayor and Cr Andy Foster want (versus the local people), then this is what you get.

    5. “As an everyday cyclist and Dad with kids learning to ride their bikes”

    Most used to use the footpath – many still do despite the new design. You don’t need a “children’s cycle way” to do this.

    6. “I am impressed with what this council have achieved in this term against huge politically and uncompromisingly motivated opposition.”

    And you can thank your cycling advocate mates at CAW and CAN. They’ve taken cycling back decades with the arrogance they’ve shown. And remember what the NZTA report says: “Consultation with communities over cycleways must be thorough and it must be genuine.” Maybe put that on the agenda at the next CAW and CAN meetings:

    7. “I am dismayed by the unbalanced of reporting of opinions from our anti cycling neighbours”.

    Let’s be real here. Your 1,800 plus neighbours in Island Bay don’t want the Mayor’s cycleway. You and a few others do. Unbalanced. Yes it is.

    8. “Island Bay has rightly attracted an ugly reputation thanks to this new vocal minority. Thankfully, that’s just what they are, in the minority”

    This is the comment that made me laugh loudest. The reality is most people who want the cycle way are new to Island Bay and are wealthy Greenies who want, want, want and are used to paying to get what they want. I’m sorry, money and a former Green Party but now Independent Mayor can’t buy you a cycle way that few want. The majority haven’t been vocal until now. Thankfully, even the Government can see sense.

    And my last piece of advice @Alex: contact your neighbours to help develop a common sense solution (tip: we don’t live in Copenhagen or Portland).

  5. Michael Gibson, 6. June 2016, 8:48

    ‘The Mayor & Cr Foster usually lose to Residents’ Associations.’ Ryan Brown is correct in saying this but he does not say that this costs the Council a fortune in legal costs fighting the objections of these local Residents’ Associations.
    In my suburb of Northland our local Residents’ Association won both in the High Court & in the Environment Court when they led the charge to rezone residential land for commercial purposes. And now the Council moans about Wellington being short if housing!
    In each case it was a “we would like it on our back-door” operation but I am not at all sorry that the Mayor might be losing her local cycle-way & that Cr Foster has not got the maxi-supermarket where he would rather go shopping than see nice houses being built in keeping with their actual surroundings.

  6. Ron Beernink (Cycle Aware Wellington) chair), 6. June 2016, 12:30

    That headline should read “Chance to let children and less confident older people cycle to the Island Bay shops and beach doomed?”. Because that is what we are risking by forcing the Council to ‘rip up the cycleway’. Yes, the Council did get it badly wrong with its process and aspects of the design need fixing. But that doesn’t make the original intent wrong. Let’s work together to make the cycle way work, because it is an important community asset.

  7. Curtis Antony Nixon, 6. June 2016, 12:38

    Great comment Alex. You dealt with all the pseudo-criticisms that the politically-based commenters wheel out to attack the cycle way. For example you are quite right that children need to have a safe path to cycle on that is off the footpath and the road. My daughter has only just started to bike from Island Bay to Berhampore School since the cycleway was built. It was too dangerous for her to do so previously.

    Ryan, Now that the Labour and Green parties have come to an understanding to work together towards getting rid of the Natz don’t you think you should pull back from your unreasonable and illogical propagandistic stance. Even P.Eagle seems to have gone quiet on the cycleway, as per party orders no doubt.

  8. Diarmaid, 6. June 2016, 15:13

    Performing a review on the IBCW is surely just good practice. The report specifically mentioned that it had no opinion on the design of the cycleway, and a review is likely to highlight the shortcomings WCC made by refusing to continue it through the shopping area and maximising onstreet parking.
    Fundamentally though Wellington is at a crossroads and needs to start a conversation about the type of city it wants to be. The getwellymoving website is a tentative start, but there needs to be more discussion about the need for onstreet parking on arterials roads like The Parade. Bill English is perfectly entitled to weigh in with his opinion that the private economic benefits justify wrecking swathes of the city with urban motorways and private car promotion. Others like myself might suggest that the public health and environmental benefits of a more balanced outlook are more important. The point is that the discussion needs to happen now before a commitment is made.
    I personally don’t agree that the Island Bay community has an ugly reputation, but I will say this- the moderation of the anti-IBCW Facebook page leaves a lot to be desired. Too many vitriolic anticycling, aggressive anti-WCC and frankly racist comments are allowed.

  9. Lulu Belle, 6. June 2016, 19:10

    I’m a big fan of the Get Rid of the IBCW Facebook page. It has provided a forum for those that are against the crazy IBCW design a place to share their thoughts and comments. An amazing array of writers post to that page providing information that has been previously hidden.

  10. Ms D. Meanor, 6. June 2016, 20:24

    Totally agree with Andrew’s view of the shoreline cycle path. CWB and the Councillors should have taken this on first.

    And Ryan, what a great response to Alex, For too long the backroom dealings between the cycling lobbyists and WCC have been allowed to go on unchecked. And if you read the report with an open mind you’ll realise that there is a call for total transparency and independence from this thinking and approach, which has simply served to hurt the cycleway agenda across the Wellington region.

    What Ron et al ignore is that there is NO anti-cyclist or cycleway agenda in Island Bay. We all want a cycleway but it has to be one that works for ALL road users and not just cyclists. And that’s what CAW, CAN and the IBCW’s Regan Dooley can’t acknowledge. And (Diarmaid) as for moderation of the Get Rid of the IBCW page, I have to say that’s a little rich when you consider the Cycle Aware Wellington (CAW) page is no better, and IMHO it’s worse! Remember that the #GetRidoftheIBCW page wasn’t even there 6 months ago… so what happened for people to come out so strongly against this cycleway design? Let me tell you… it was the need for balance!

    Lastly there are no racist comments on the GetRidof page… unless you are counting the calling out of white-privilege views by cycling advocates and MAMIL, or a description of the cyclist profile which is white middle-aged, higher income male and females – perhaps you should check your privilege.

  11. Pam, 7. June 2016, 8:49

    Totes agree with Lulu. The GetRidof page gave many of us a voice when we were being drowned out on cycling advocate pages.I’m a big fan of cycling and feel that the GetRidof page is one of the few where you can express your true feelings without the guilt trip from sanctimonious, self righteous cyclists wrapped in spandex.

  12. Ben, 7. June 2016, 10:09

    I absolutely agree with your statement Diarmaid that “Fundamentally though Wellington is at a crossroads and needs to start a conversation about the type of city it wants to be”.
    WCC needs to start clear and transparent consultation with the Wellington public to learn and implement how we want our city to grow. Then they need to work out a clear and comprehensive plan and STICK TO IT!. Instead they seem to jump from one ambitious project to another with no real cohesion.
    For too long WCC has forced their point of view on the public and all that happens is the kind of resentment we see in Island bay. If they had taken the time to consult properly in Island Bay and get people on board I am sure the end result would have been so much better.

  13. Curtis Antony Nixon, 7. June 2016, 10:32

    It’s pretty funny when people contradict their statements in the same comment – ” . . .there is NO anti-cyclist or cycleway agenda in Island Bay. We all want a cycleway . . .” versus ” #GetRidoftheIBCW page “. How is the ‘Get Rid ofthe IBCW’ not anti-cycleway. I’m confused?

    And ” there are no racist comments on the GetRidof page… unless you are counting the calling out of white-privilege view”. Yes Ms D, white is a race so statements around white privilege are racist insults.

  14. Diarmaid Coffey, 7. June 2016, 12:15

    Look at the page! The stickered thread calls the mayor slimey and cunning and a Bloody Pom. Previously people have asked for her to be tarred and feathered… Most of it is xenophobic rather than racist it’s true, but stuff like calling David Lee a ‘sly prick’ crosses the line in my opinion. The sad thing is that in among all that there are more valid worries being lost.

  15. Ryan Brown, 7. June 2016, 12:53

    I’m a Berhampore resident watching from the sidelines. Rise above it all guys. My main message is “time to move on and find a solution that works for the Island Bay community and is multi-modal in approach”. Suggest you all read the report for starters: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/review-of-wellington-city-councils-urban-cycleways-programme I’m a cyclist too, yes, I ride to work everyday. Every day (but sometimes catch the 4 or 32 express bus home). I own a car. Two of them in our family of 4 (that means I have a wife and 2 kids). No I’m not a criminal for owning a car, one is a van. And I walk. Lots. Sometimes to work but just during summer.

    Can I make some bold suggestions:

    • Stop attacking each other
    • Stop worrying about first world problems like a cycle way
    • Whoever runs the IBCW and Get Rid of IBCW Facebook pages: take them down.
    • Whoever runs the IBCW Twitter account and website: Take them down.
    • Re-open a Facebook page and Twitter account and call it: BETTER ISLAND BAY (and do it in partnership with the residents’ association)
    • Ask for help: contact the people involved in the Vogelmorn Precinct Group and ask them to design a participatory process with purpose of UNITING everyone.

    Go on, be bold! Good luck.

  16. Paul, 7. June 2016, 14:59

    @Ryan, great riposte to the myopic views of the cycling lobby.

  17. Philippa Hawk, 7. June 2016, 18:06

    The quality of debate about the Island Bay Cycle Path is very noticeable when you look at both the Get Rid of the Island Bay Cycle Way and the Island Bay Cycle Way Facebook pages. One spends most of its time attacking individuals and inventing spurious arguments. The other is balanced and considered and wants what’s best for young and old people.

    I’m reminded of the Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman whose life’s work was anchored in studies showing that people are irrational. They are prone to cognitive biases and “systematic errors in thinking”, made worse by chronic over-confidence in their own judgment.

    Separated cycle paths like Island Bay are one of the main ways to encourage women and children to ride (something of utmost importance to a liveable city). The reason they are so important was made very clear in the Near Miss Study from the UK where they found a person commuting on a bicycle is likely to have a near miss with a potentially catastrophic outcome once a week and have a driver be deliberately aggressive once a month.

    Cycling is a relatively safe activity both here and in the UK, but those who say that the Parade always was safe to cycle are missing the point. It not only has to be safe, it has to feel safe. Cyclists have the right to feel as safe as those that drive a car and the way to do this is to provide physical separation from dangerous vehicles.

  18. Andrew, 7. June 2016, 18:57

    It may be true that having physical separation is needed, however the IBCW provides this only in sections. From a pedestrian point of view, the removal of the buffer has made the road more dangerous for people crossing. Give and take?

  19. Philippa Hawk, 7. June 2016, 20:53

    The safety review is out at the end of the month. If they’re doing a semi serious job of it, they should look at the safety of all participants. Pedestrians, people on bikes and motor vehicles. If the apparent road width is a safety issue, that won’t bode well for the rest of Wellington’s roads, most of which are narrower. But there is a move around the world to put streets on a “road diet”; as wide roads encourage higher traffic speeds; something correlated with a higher rate of traffic injuries.

    A narrower road is a shorter distance for pedestrians to cross and a narrow road tends to slow traffic, both of which make it safer for pedestrians. Perhaps if pedestrians are finding it unsafe then instituting a 30 kph speed limit might be something to consider to enhance their safety (although in a recent Police operation in Christchurch, they found the 30 kph limit was being routinely ignored).

    If the cycling lane being separated in sections is a safety issue; then perhaps a remedy is to modify it to be continuous. In a similar way; if the parked cars are a hazard then perhaps the solution is to remove them, after all there are no direct fees being paid to park private property on public land – land owned by the public for the use of all the public to move from one place to another (and the NZTA definition of a road doesn’t include being used as a car park).

  20. The City is Ours, 7. June 2016, 21:23

    Island Bay cycle way doomed? We will find out when WCC produces the safety audit post construction. The Accessibility Advisory Group is waiting to hear from Paul Barker so they to can do their own. After all, they opposed the final plans.

  21. Robert, 8. June 2016, 12:26

    In my view the priority for cycleways and walkway developments is in Legget’s borough of Porirua and in its richer territory to the North and its twin Kapiti City which is full of the rich, ex school teachers, alternative and marginal lifers, ideal territory for cycleways along the coast. Even the walkway, cycleway between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki is very narrow and underveloped and capable of significant widening without enormous expense.
    Legget appears the favoured Wellington alternative for the English faction. Bill English is wrong about everything, his southern political strategy of dairy expansion on the never in Southland and South Canterbury is mainly politically and socially motivated but in my view and experience having originally grown up in those areas, they were fundamentally destroyed by the Douglas /Elworthy action of 84/85 which resulted in unlimted change and money for the middle classes to live on the never never but also ended any point for the deep south as the talented exited in the mid and late 1980s and destroyed what was worthwhile and human in those societies and the remaining marginalised farming class and their supporters of the dairy type are hardly worth supporting.

  22. Ross Clark, 8. June 2016, 22:59

    Looking at this and without an especial axe to grind. This whole business highlights that despite all our rhetoric about cycling, using public transport more and so on … people really like their cars, really like to drive, and really like better roads.

    Where I live now (Scotland) a local cycleway project looks likely to die a death because local shopowners are paranoid at the thought of losing carparking along the route. Perhaps with good reason.

  23. SG, 9. June 2016, 10:12

    Actually RC, that conventional wisdom is not backed up by evidence. For example, one of the main reasons the Basin Flyover didn’t happen was because car trip projections from Newtown didn’t match population growth the way the NZTA thought they would. In fact, they slackened off, as people were gravitating towards public transport, walking and cycling.

    Similarly, US vehicle-miles traveled per capita on the highway system is also slackening off, and has been for some time. Please excuse the not very official looking link, but I didn’t want to spend ages hunting this graph down: https://gailtheactuary.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/us-vehicle-miles-traveled.png

    So while I absolutely agree that cars are an important part of transport, as are trucks and tradie vans, I do not agree with this bandied-about conventional wisdom that “people really like their cars and really like to drive,” because the evidence show that in fact they do not.

  24. Diarmaid Coffey, 9. June 2016, 12:22

    As soon as proper alternatives to car travel are offered, it turns out people like their cars a lot less than expected. You don’t get cars and roads without all the congestion, pollution, inactivity inducing and parking problems, despite what the car ads would have you believe.