Hutt Road Improvements: a longer wait for the right outcomes

Last Friday the Council confirmed via a press release that it is now looking to implement the Hutt Road improvements in stages.  The key reason: to give time to sort alternative solutions for the car parking.  This is a hard pill to swallow for the many cyclists and walkers on this major commuter route, who have to wait many years and were initially given the hope of an urgent start on getting a proper width separated cycling and walking paths built.

Each day there are frustrations and close shaves as people on bikes and on foot navigate a shared path that is far too narrow and with many obstacles blocking the way.  Then there is the daily danger of avoiding cars and trucks coming in and out of the many business yards or car parks along that route.  The high accident rate speaks for itself.

These problems will only get worse with the steady increase of people biking, including on electric bikes.  Action is needed urgently.  The good news is that the Council is looking to start work as soon as possible on removing the lamp posts, shifting the bus stop by Winchester Street, and improving the path surface.  Each of the business driveways will also be made safer.  But for now the route will remain as a three metre wide shared path, and car parks will not yet be removed from the path.  This is clearly disappointing, and the fear is that the Council will not deliver on the full proposed design for the Hutt Road improvements.

Committee members of Cycle Aware Wellington, Cycle Action Network and Hutt Cycling Network got together over the weekend to discuss this latest turn of events.   It was agreed to support the proposed staged approach, but with clear commitment and a timeline from the Council to complete all stages of the project.  Only once all stages are delivered, will we see the benefits of separated walking and cycling paths, that ensures better safety and comfort for everyone.

It is good to see that the Council has listened to the concerns raised by the various parties through the consultation process and is taking action.  This includes finding an alternative option for the many people who currently park along the route to walk or cycle into town. And avoiding significant impacts on the businesses along the Hutt Road.  This needs time to do it right.

In the meantime, everyone using the route can also do their bit; showing consideration and care for each other as cyclists and walkers continue to share the narrow path.  This means that people on bikes need to keep their speed down, give pedestrians room when passing, use bike bells, and in particular keep an eye out for children by the Day care centre.

Motorists also need to do their bit.  Blocking or parking over the shared path is not acceptable.  The good thing is that over the last couple of years we have seen an improvement in motorists’ awareness of cyclists along this route; treating them with more respect.  Most drivers wait patiently to let cyclists pass.  There will still be times when motorists make mistakes.  All of us make mistakes.  Even with a properly improved Hutt Road, this cannot be avoided altogether.

Let’s make this work and be patient while we give the Council the extra time to find a solution that works for the everyone.

Ron Beernink, Chairman Cycle Aware Wellington