Hutt Road – what parking needs to change?

Hutt Road at Kaiwharawhara, 1955 (EP/1955/0379-F, Turnbull Library)

The Hutt Road cycling and walking path is one of the most heavily used cycle routes into and out of Wellington, despite also having a high crash rate. WCC has decided on a staged approach to improving the path, in particular immediate “removal or rearrangement of particularly hazardous or obstructive parking particularly where it obstructs visibility of and from business entrances”. CAW set up an online survey to get your views on which parking is particularly hazardous or obstructive to cycling and walking. We got 129 responses, 72%  from people who biked the route, 20% who walked, and 8% “other”, mostly people who both walk and bike, though a small number used the area for parking. 66% used the route regularly. The survey showed photos of areas along the route, and asked whether the parking needed to be removed or rearranged immediately, could wait for full implementation of the cycleway/walkway, or could stay as is. As with all surveys of this kind, the respondents are self selecting, but the responses provide useful guidance on what concerns cyclists and walkers.

The three areas that got the highest response for “remove immediately” were:

Jeff Gray BMW

Angle parking at Jeff Gray Mini, 138 Hutt Rd (60 %)

Angle parking by Storage One

Angle parking by Storage One, 172 Hutt Rd (57 %)

on verge by airflowe

Verge parking by Aotea overbridge (57 %)

These choices aren’t surprising – angle parking is a problem for people biking, even on roads, let alone footpaths. The verge parking at Aotea overbridge is probably illegal (I gather the nearby business has repeatedly asked for these cars to be ticketed, without result). But the numbers are only part of the story. For many locations, people said that parks close to entrances should be removed immediately, for example at Carters, 176 Hutt Rd, “Some park too close to the gates dangerously reducing visibility of traffic leaving Carters”.

Parking around the childcare centres was highlighted. “parking customers here turn over quickly as they drop off/pickup children” “Young children sometimes run into the cycleway”. While those of us who have done our time dropping off kids at daycare can sympathise, clearly for the safety of these businesses’ young customers, as well as cyclists, there needs to be dropoff parking away from the path.

Many respondents recognised that the scheduled removal of poles from the route will improve the path. However this is definitely a first step, and doesn’t remove the need to remove parking from the route.

Spotlight car park

The area around Spotlight, where car parking has been allowed on the road reserve, and the exit has poor visibility of cyclists coming over the Kaiwharawhara Stream bridge, was a concern, and it’s good that WCC is planning to address these issues immediately. “too narrow as a shared space, too busy. Distracted pedestrians.” “Main problem here is the visibility around the parking exit, especially for cycle traffic heading North. Neither driver or cyclist have good sightlines.” “worst Pinch point along the whole road… Pedestrians and cyclists entering this path from Ngaio gorge”

Although the path is known to be dangerous, it was disturbing how many respondents specifically mentioned crashes “I have personally ended up in hospital because of car movements on the (supposedly protected) cycle lane”

The current path brings cyclists and walkers into conflict “Walking down there is intimidating and it’s not due to the presence of cars. It’s common to have a cyclist yell at you because often they refuse to slow down to adjust to hazards.”

There seemed to be a strong opinion that “Most of these cars parked on the footpath are Wellington workers who walk/cycle into the city”. WCC is planning to survey parking to determine the extent of commuter parking, and business related parking. Although neither of these purposes justifies footpath parking in other areas of the city.

“ENFORCE parking rules” was one comment, and it’s clear that this seems to be lacking. Apart from the verge parking at Aotea overbridge already mentioned, cars commonly park over yellow lines near entrances.

parking on Yellow Lines by Craft House
Car obscuring entrance by Craft House

Parking on the path is not a static problem. The 1955 picture at the head of this post shows few parked cars. Over the years technically illegal parking appears to have been tolerated, and become the norm. Parking seems to be spreading north, for example at Caltex “Cars parking here are a relatively new phenomena”. The WCC Cycling Framework makes it clear that “The movement of traffic [which includes bicycles] will take priority over on-street parking”. The Hutt Road Cycling and Walking path cannot be compromised by technically illegal footpath parking, and WCC needs to move rapidly on its staged approach to improving the path.