Eastern Suburbs Cycleways – Cycle Aware Wellington submission

Response from WCC Submissions

Key points of our submission:

  • A link to Newtown is sorely missing
  • Minor improvements can make a big difference
  • We’d rather see something new than an upgrade of what’s already working okay
  • Please do not create more shared paths
  • Fix obvious gaps in existing infrastructure, no matter what
  • A safe way to cross Cobham Drive should not swallow the whole budget
  • Slow zones and quiet streets could make cycling safer without affecting parking
  • Improving intersections can make things feel safer
  • Use space creatively rather than using the same approach everywhere
  • We recommend doing some trials to see what works

Email to cycling@wcc.govt.nz

Well done on a great process for investigating options for safer cycling in the Eastern Suburbs. We’re pleased that you’ve involved the community from the start, and got local business owners on board. We hope this approach will make implementing the project relatively easy when it comes to the construction stage.

Your process has revealed that there are many possible options for making cycling safer in the Eastern Suburbs, but no obvious winner. This project addresses a very wide area, and clearly cannot transform it all at once. Consequently, it’s hard for us to advocate strongly for one corridor or route over another. Instead, we’ve collected our most pressing thoughts and ideas about the project in general.

A link to Newtown is sorely missing

We understand that your process for deciding on possible routes eliminated the route to the CBD via the bays (too expensive) and the route to Newtown (too hilly). But we feel that creating meaningful links between other parts of the future network is an essential first step. Encouraging local trips (including school travel) is really important, but across-town links are essential to encourage work commuting and help reduce car congestion at peak times. Creating safe cycling in the Eastern Suburbs with no safe link to the rest of the future network seems shortsighted.

There’s already a sort-of cycle route around the bays to the CBD (by no means perfect, but something that can be upgraded in time), but no safe link between the Eastern Suburbs and Newtown. At the initial reference group meetings, the desired destinations included Newtown, the hospital, and the schools around the Basin Reserve.

We therefore feel that this project must create this link to Newtown — we recommend via Crawford Road, Coromandel Street, and Wilson Street. Crawford Road is not as steep as Grafton Gully in Auckland, which has seen a big uptake by cyclists.

Minor improvements can make a big difference

Something visible and iconic that we can be proud of (for example Auckland’s pink path or Wellington’s Great Harbour Way) would be great, but minor improvements are also really important. For example, on the Hataitai side of the Mount Victoria Tunnel, a tiny little bump to slow car traffic makes it feel a lot safer for cyclists.

A huge amount of small tweaks, as part of ordinary works, can cumulatively and cheaply make cycling safer. Yes, we want our cake and to eat it too. We’re burning enough calories, after all — we’re biking!

We’d rather see something new than an upgrade of what’s already working okay

For example, as part of the Cobham option, you suggest widening the existing Cobham Drive shared path or creating a two-way cycleway and a footpath. We support this in theory (and expect it to be essential in future once many more people are cycling). However, at this stage we’d prefer to see you spend the money on changes elsewhere to make cycling safer across a much wider area.

Please do not create more shared paths

We’re dismayed to see you suggest the possibility of more shared paths. While these can work in places, especially where the number of walkers or bikers (or both) is very low, in general they are not a good solution for either party.

In a few places (for example, along Cobham Drive, which has relatively few walkers) shared paths might be acceptable in the short term. But please do not start building more, unless you can very clearly and effectively separate the two types of user. People walking and people biking need to be separated. Just look at Wellington Waterfront to see the conflict that occurs when walkers and bikers are forced to share limited space.

Fix obvious gaps in existing infrastructure, no matter what

Some great biking and walking infrastructure already exists in the Eastern Suburbs, such as the Leonie Gill Pathway and the tunnel under the airport. No matter what route you decide to develop for this project, it makes sense to also fix the missing links between these pieces of infrastructure.

A safe way to cross Cobham Drive should not swallow the whole budget

We agree that a bridge or tunnel to cross Cobham Drive is needed to link Miramar to Kilbirnie more directly. But please don’t let this swallow the whole budget. This alone will not create the desired uptake in cycling. Cobham Drive is managed by NZTA, so perhaps NZTA could pay for the bridge or tunnel across it.

Slow zones and quiet streets could make cycling safer without affecting parking

Arterial routes with heavy traffic need separation between cycling, driving, and walking. But on more minor roads, other treatments can create a similar sensation of safety without affecting parking.

Slow zones (30km or less)

Put slow zones where they make sense. Outside schools and shops. At destinations, like Kilbirnie Park, playgrounds, Lyall Bay Beach. Make them organic and effective. Make them desirable places for people to be. Add plants, seating, and artworks. Have ‘gated’ entrances which signal ‘this bit of road is different’. Look to Lambton Quay, Allen, Blair, and Lower Cuba Streets for places where you’ve done this well already.

An effective slow zone on Lambton Quay. Pedestrians feel safe here, even with a high volume of buses


Quiet streets

Creating a ‘quiet street’ means allowing access from either end by all traffic, but only allowing through-traffic for people walking and biking. Residents can still easily access and park their cars outside their houses, but the street is no longer used as a thoroughfare to other places, thereby reducing overall traffic.


Through traffic for walkers and bikers only at Puriri St, Lower Hutt.

In the Eastern Suburbs, this treatment could work really well on streets like:

  • Hobart or Chelsea
  • Miro and Kauri
  • Strathavon
  • Te Whiti, Yule, and Ross
  • Freyberg, Endeavour, and Cockburn
  • Ludlam and Burnham.

Improving intersections can make things feel safer

Make roundabouts safer

Roundabouts are awful for people on bikes, since motor vehicles are not encouraged to slow down. While experienced cyclists can ‘take the lane’ through a roundabout, this is daunting for the ‘interested but concerned’ cyclists that the cycleways project hopes to attract.

Let’s make roundabouts safer. This could be a gradual transition — every time work needs doing, you redesign the roundabout to lower speeds. Evidence shows that when you increase the angles at roundabouts, you lower speeds and make them safer. Make it a mission to redesign all Wellington roundabouts to the ‘European’ style.

Make priority clear

Side streets should be used only by people who need to use them, rather than through-routes. Make it less desirable to take ‘shortcuts’ through them by installing ramps on the entrance of side streets. This slows down turning traffic, adds height to give better visibility, and changes the feel of the street into quiet neighbourhood streets / cul-de-sacs where pedestrians and cyclists have priority over motorists. Good (but old) examples of where you’ve already done this are Cockburn and Cruickshank Streets. Even better is Vivaldistraat, Den Bosch, Holland.


Caution and a slow speed are clearly needed when leaving Vivaldistraat.

Add more pedestrian crossings

Pedestrian crossings increase safety for pedestrians, of course, but for cyclists as well. They slow traffic and make people driving more aware of having to look out for others. Pedestrian crossings should be moved away from intersections, for a start (for example, at Wha St and Childers Terrace).

Use space creatively rather than using the same approach everywhere

There are many ways to design safe cycling routes. Build safer communities and the cycling will follow.

Use ‘access’ roads parallel to arterial roads

In this scenario, the arterial road carries two-way motor traffic and buses. The ‘service’ road has parking, very slow motor traffic, and bike priority. Places where this might work are Rongotai Road and Kilbirnie Crescent. Examples where this is already working are Arthur Street (the service lane off Karo Drive), or Pettelaarseweg, Netherlands (see below).


A slow and safe access road beside Pettelaarseweg.

Use one-way streets

One-way streets reduce potential conflict between cars and bikes without affecting parking. You could trial a street with a cycle lane on either side but only one-way motor traffic.


A proposed contra-flow bike lane on one-way Glenwood Avenue in Edgewater, Chicago.

Use green space where it exists

Potential for this exists along Kilbirnie Park and Miramar Golf Course/Scots College. And also along the coastal routes. But make them safe (busy/visible and well lit).

Put in lights only where needed

Really only at the Miramar cutting (Shelley Bay Road/Miramar Ave intersection).

Where there are lights, make the lanes work better for cyclists. A perfect example of what not to do is the John Street lights (see below), where the left lane should be left turn only. Instead, cyclists are forced to play a guessing game with motorists who aren’t sure if they should signal or not. Simplify things. One lane = one direction.


Right turning traffic should use the right lane only at the John Street intersection.

We recommend doing some trials to see what works

New York trialled roading changes with great success. Try something new and see if it works. Promise to put it back if it doesn’t. Don’t spend huge amounts on it — use cones or water drums to temporarily change the road layout. Leave it for a month, or six, get feedback, then adapt and make some permanent changes.

A final note about what Cycle Aware Wellington wants

Cycle Aware Wellington isn’t fixated on kerbside bike lanes. We believe that each area and road needs to be carefully thought through, with a design that suits it without inconveniencing too many people. We’ll sometimes (possibly often) advocate removing some parking to ensure cyclists’ safety. But we also understand the need for compromise to reduce the impact of roading changes on other road users.

We’re also not about ‘bikes before all else’. We’re about transport choice. An argument bound to come up is that some Eastern Suburbs roads are already reasonably safe, but that’s not the point. The point is that they don’t feel safe, so people choose not to bike. If more people choose to bike, it’ll reduce congestion and have awesome health and environmental impacts, meaning benefits for everyone.