Wellington Cycling Framework: progress or procrastination?

How the Framework might be applied - an indicative view of a future Aro Cycleway
How the Framework might be applied – an indicative view of a future Aro Cycleway

On 21 April, a rally of over 350 people who cycle demanded that WCC “get on with it” and start building cycling infrastructure. On 30 April, Council will debate the Wellington Cycling Framework, the “master plan” for developing cycling in Wellington. Is this the start of the progress that the rally demanded, or is it another exercise in procrastination?

The Framework certainly makes all the right noises, and is an excellent planning document. Four types of cycle route are proposed: quiet roads, shared vehicle & bike zones, protected cycle lanes, and alternative routes through, for example, parks and reserves (it’s not clear whether Council policy will change to allow eBikes on these routes).

The Framework recognises that constructing protected cycleways involves some politically hard decisions.  “On-Street parking will be removed in some locations…WCC gives priority to safety, pedestrians, cycling facilities, bus stops, bus lanes, and traffic flow over other uses”

Part of the Cycling Framework network map
Part of the Cycling Framework network map

The network map follows the London Tube map style, and could result in us following the pink “Kelburn” route to get to the University, or the green “Aro route” to the Aro Valley (the colour is very appropriate given the traditional party vote at Aro Valley polling station). This is reminiscent of the coloured routes that cris-cross the Italian city of Bolzano, renowned for its 29% cycling mode share.

Bolzano cycleway - straight ahead on the yellow route to the CBD, left on the green route to the Roncolo castle.
Bolzano cycleway – straight ahead on the yellow route to the CBD, left on the green route to the Roncolo castle.

An interesting delivery method is proposed – the implementation will be outsourced to an “Alliance” of firms chosen through a tendering process. If a cycleway project fits the parameters of the Framework, it will go ahead without reference to Council. If the Alliance has good expertise in cycleway design (for example by using specialist cycling engineers such as Via Strada) this could be very successful, and could keep Councillors at arms length from the nitty gritty of cycleway implementation. A similar model has resulted in impressive progress in Auckland, where cycleway design is the responsibility of Auckland Transport, rather than the Council directly.

The “elephant on the cyclepath” is the Island Bay to CBD cycleway. The Framework doesn’t mention it, instead setting as priorities the northern route (Ngauranga – Thorndon Quay), the CBD, and the Eastern route. Urban Cycleway Programme funding has been requested for these. It would be a shame, after all the work that has gone into Island Bay to CBD, if it goes on the back burner.

The 30 April Council meeting will provisionally approve the Framework, and there will be consultation, partly using the same web platform as the Long Term Plan. Given that the LTP consultation showed that 90% of respondents supported the development of a cycling network, and 80% saw it as a high priority, it’s not clear that further consultation is necessary.

The June Council meeting will decide on final approval for the Framework, and may also set priorities for specific routes, so work on these can get going as soon as possible.

So is this progress or procrastination? Depressingly, the 30 April Council meeting is asked to approve a number of actions (“Agree the draft framework”, etc…), none of which involve building anything. However there’s certainly a will to get fast delivery of at least some cycle facilities so that Wellington gains credibility as a cycling city. With funding from the Urban Cycleway Programme and the National Land Transport Fund, WCC could potentially be spending a million dollars a month on cycle facilities over the next few years. But progress will only happen if people who cycle keep up the pressure on WCC. Write to your ward councillor now, and tell them you want the Framework not just approved, but implemented.