We have the money – do we have the vision?

Wellington CBD Cycleways – an achievable vision?

Following hard on WCC’s approval of the Cycling Framework, and the Island Bay Cycleway, the Government announceed another $296 million to be spent across the country under the Urban Cycleways Programme, bringing the total expenditure, including contributions from the National Land Transport Fund and local government, to $333 million. $53.32 million is to be spent in the Wellington Region.

There are good reasons for this largess. By making cycling an attractive transport choice, we reduce fossil fuel emissions and urban congestion, and promote health lifestyles. This benefits people who need to drive cars, as well as people who bike. In Wellington we have a real chance of implementing a vision of a “cycling capital”.   As NZTA notes, “Since 2006, the number of people commuting by bike in the capital has almost doubled”. Wellington’s narrow streets and steep hills have traditionally been barriers to cycling. But narrow streets make for cycle friendly speeds. Mountain bike gearing and eBikes have made hills much less of a problem.

City Councilors bought into this vision when they unanimously approved the Cycling Framework. But as the vote on the Island Bay Cycleway showed, actually implementing this vision is not easy.

Constructing cycleways almost certainly means change for people and businesses along the routes. Parking is affected, and people may have to keep an eye out for cyclists as they cross a kerbside bike lane to get to their car. But no street environment is static. In my own street, we no longer have easy access to on street parking. This isn’t because of cycleways, but because our neighbors have acquired multiple cars per household,  and commuters take advantage of the free parking within walking distance of the CBD.

The challenge for our City Councillors is to see the bigger vision of Wellington as the Cycling Capital of the South Pacific, and spend the Urban Cycleways money on projects that ultimately will benefit all of us, even if this means short term change for some.