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.