The WCC keeps on keepin’ on with the Cycling Policy

The green stuff is just a small example of the changes since 2008.

After reading Simon’s comment on a recent post that the Wellington City Council has a policy NOT to promote cycling until it’s safer to cycle in Wellington, I fired off an “oh really?” email to our WCC councillors.  I asked for clarification on the policy.  I received two responses. One from the Mayor, which made me feel giggly and heard.  Not only did she refer to the recent vote to double the strategic biking and walking budget, she also reminded me that she promotes cycling by example.

The second response was from Councillor Andy Foster, another regular cyclist, who agreed to let me reprint his email in full.  Though he starts out with an ambivalent answer to the original question, “Is it the policy of the WCC to not promote cycling until it perceives that cycle safety is improved,” I thought the remainder of his email demonstrated a decent commitment to improving the cycling infrastructure in Wellington and serves as a nice update following the implementation of the 2008 Cycling Policy

.  Here’s his unedited response:

 

‘Sort of’ is probably the best answer.

I’ve taken this from the city’s first ever Cycling Policy (adopted November 2008). The policy focus is on making cycling safer and more convenient. It was felt that promoting cycling without making it significantly safer would not be a sensible, and probably not a moral position to take.

However the policy says “… one of the objectives of this policy concentrates on reducing cycling casualties. Making cycling safer and more convenient is expected to increase its popularity. If successful, future plans will then be able to set targets for increasing cycling numbers.”

We actually deliberately added into the policy the expectation that improving safety and convenience would increase cycling numbers. We felt this was much better than just ‘promoting cycling.’ That is particularly the case as Wellington has the highest number of cycle casualties as a proportion of total road death and injury in the country. So safety is critical. I think you could characterise our approach as being ‘actions speak louder than words’. It is better to make cycling safer and more convenient and see it grow as a result of doing that, rather than just encourage people to cycle on unchanged unsafe networks.

In terms of actions subsequent to the policy being passed, we’ve increased the budget for cycling (and walking) from what was a desultory level. There are two budget areas – a strategic routes budget and a budget for smaller projects dispersed through the city.

In terms of actions post the 2008 policy (so last 2 ½ years)

  • The $4 million Tawa – Porirua Stream walkway-cycleway project is well underway.
  • This year we also put in a morning peak clearway on Thorndon Quay, and green cycle markings across all the driveways along the Hutt Road cycleway. These are two particularly high cycle volume, but also high risk routes.
  • A large number of advanced stop boxes have been installed.
  • More cycle friendly grates are being installed.
  • There are new cycle routes through the Botanic Gardens (Met Office to Cable Car), Birdwood St (entrance to Karori), and fixing the gap at Balaena Bay.
  • Speed limit reductions have been approved for several suburban centres and for the Golden Mile (30kph) and for Oriental Bay and the Miramar north coast road (both 40kph)
  • We bid unsuccessfully for one of John Key’s tourism cycle routes (the concept isn’t by any means dead though)
  • We’ve advocated for the Great Harbour Way (Pencarrow right round the Harbour and ending at Owhiro Bay – 70 kms in length)

I may have missed a few.

Cycling is definitely growing.  Cordon counts at a range of points coming into the city are up between 200% and 400% over the last decade (obviously vary from point to point) Making it safer and more pleasant will undoubtedly further increase growth.

This morning as part of the 2011/12 budget discussions councillors supported my amendment (seconded by Cr Pepperell who’s specific responsibilities include cycling) to increase the budget for the strategic cycling and walking network from $500,000 p.a. to $ 1 million p.a. contingent on NZTA funding their share of the increase. (so Council’s input would rise from $250,000 to $500,000 provided NZTA also lifts their contribution from the $250,000 to $500,000. Those numbers are approximate as in fact Councils pay 47% and NZTA 53% of approved projects).

Assuming NZTA comes to the party, the result will be to accelerate the Tawa project, and be able to undertake feasibility/design work on future major projects so that we can then apply for other projects which could include Great Harbour Way south of Ngauranga Gorge and round the bays, Hutt Road, Island Bay to City, Middleton Road.

In a follow-up, he emphasized that he’s very happy to say that Council supports cycling, which, really, is a good place to start. And if the NZTA comes through with its share of the budget increase for cycling and walking, the increase in the budget, and the projects it will fund, is definitely something to celebrate.

So, thank you Councillor Foster and everyone else who stood with you.  We’ll see you out on the roads.

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3 thoughts on “The WCC keeps on keepin’ on with the Cycling Policy

  1. Simon Kennett

    It’s awesome that we have a council willing to double it’s cycling budget from $250,000 to $500,000 (that’s almost as much as the $650,000 feasability study for the Kilbirnie deep water pool, a project which would include a $5,900,000 car park) and the example Celia, Andy and many of the other Councillors set is excellent. And I agree that promoting cycling without making it significantly safer would not be moral. But I wonder, exactly how safe does cycling have to be before Wellington City would consider promoting cycling (as a matter of policy)? As safe as driving perhaps? How safe is that mode in an age where sedentary lifestyles are a major contributor to our leading causes of death and mobidity.

    So long as the health benefits far outweigh the safety risks, I believe it is reasonable (and moral) to work on reducing cycling casualties AND promoting cycling at the same time. It doesn’t need to be WCC doing the promotion, of course. Promotions by the cycling community and industry may be more effective. NZTA plays it’s part with Bike Wise and School Travel Plan resources. But I hope that when the Cycling Policy is revised, WCC will decide to promote cycling as a part of a greener, more vibrant city (as well as investing in a LOT more safe cycling infrastructure).

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    1. Simon Kennett

      Edit – Claire tells me that Council voted last week to reverse their decision on funding the deep water pool – democracy alive and well in Wellington! Feel free to swap that funding example out with $5.7 mill for the Zoo or $3.2 mill for capital expenditure on the walking network (which is already very well developed). I’m not saying the Zoo or footpaths aren’t important – I love them both.

      Glen – unfortunately we haven’t seen the safety-in-numbers effect here yet, but we’re hoping it’ll kick in real soon. It may be that cycling is suffering ‘growing pains’ due to the rapid growth in the numbers of inexperienced cyclists. That will pass, sooner or later, one way or another.

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  2. Glen K

    Um, have people not heard of “safety in numbers”? All the evidence (NZ and overseas research) clearly shows that the risk per cyclist reduces as each extra cyclist joins the ride. So you don’t have to wait until it is safer before promoting cycling – getting more people cycling will do it for you! This improvement in safety is particularly noticeable at low levels of cycling like in Wellington. Add in some extra investment in cycling provision and that safety improvement will be even better. And as Simon points out, the health benefits far outweigh the safety costs anyway (again, lots of research evidence) so you’re likely to be extending your life by biking, not shortening it.

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