Tailwinds and Trackstands: Councillors’ cycling votes


Coming into October’s local body elections, we want to know how candidates stand on cycling. In this post, I’ll look at how Councilors standing for re-election voted on cycling issues during the past term. In following posts, we’ll be looking at the responses to a cycling questionnaire that has gone to all WCC and GWRC candidates.

Despite the impression of discord that sometimes emanates from Council, in practice Councillors try to reach a consensus, and often amend resolutions so that a unanimous decision can be made. This is nice for democracy, but makes it a bit harder to figure out where people really stand. Going back through the minutes of the Transport and Urban Development Committee of the Council, and the Council itself, I found 9 non-unanimous votes on cycling related issues, which enable us to get an idea of Councillors’ positions on cycling. I’ve only included the Councillors who are standing – Councillors Ahipene-Mercer, Peck, and Mayor Wade-Brown are not standing again.

It’s not quite fair to characterise any Councillors as “anti” cycling. All Councillors are in favour of cycling, voting unanimously for the Cycling Framework, for example. But some councilors vote against specific projects, such as the Island Bay cycleway. They would argue that this was because they objected to that particular project, rather than because they were against cycling. For example, Jo Coughlan voted against the Hutt Road improvements because she wants to see a route along the shore. Nicola Young says she voted against the Island Bay cycleway because she felt development should start in the CBD. And to be fair she did organise some nice bikestands outside the Aro Valley community centre.

Bike stands at Aro Community Centre

So rather than labelling votes as pro or anti cycling, I’ve characterised votes as “tailwind” if they progressed cycling; “trackstand” if they tended to perpetuate the status quo.

The votes were:

2014-05-20 TUDC: Agree to option 2 cycle lanes next to footpath for IB cycleway… Yes=Tailwind: Foster, Lee, Lester, Pannett; No=Trackstand: Coughlan, Woolf, Young.
2014-08-27 Council: Decisions on IB Cycleway to be by full Council. Yes=Trackstand: Coughlan, Eagle, Marsh, Ritchie, Young; No=Tailwind: Foster, Free, Lee, Lester, Pannett, Sparrow, Woolf
2014-08-27 Council. CBD Safer Speeds. Yes=Tailwind: Foster, Free, Lee, Lester, Pannett, No=Trackstand: Coughlan, Eagle, Marsh, Ritchie, Sparrow, Woolf, Young.
2014-12-03 TUDC. Note, rather than agree, IB cycleway goes ahead. Yes=Trackstand: Coughlan, Woolf, Young, No=Tailwind: Foster, Lee, Lester, Pannett
2014-12-03 TUDC Note serious safety concerns with design of IB Cycleway. Yes=Trackstand: Coughlan, Woolf, Young, No=Tailwind: Foster, Lee, Lester, Pannett
2014-12-03 TUDC Agree decision on IB cycleway wait for external safety review. Yes=Trackstand: Coughlan, Woolf, Young, No=Tailwind: Foster, Lee, Lester, Pannett
2015-04-30 Council Agree to support routes in Cycleway Plan. Yes=Tailwind: Foster, Free, Lee, Lester, Pannett, Ritchie, Sparrow, Woolf, No=Trackstand: Coughlan, Eagle, Marsh, Young.
2015-06-24 Council Proceed with IB cycleway. Yes=Tailwind: Foster, Free, Lee, Lester, Pannett, No=Trackstand: Coughlan, Eagle, Marsh, Woolf, Young.
2016-08-11 TUDC Hutt Road improvements. Yes=Tailwind: Eagle, Marsh, Foster, Free, Lee, Lester, Pannett, Ritchie, Sparrow, Young, No=Trackstand: Coughlan, Woolf.

While these issues, and the reasons for the votes are complex, we can do a rough evaluation of the Councillors with a “Tailwind” score – the percentage of their votes that progressed cycling. Here’s the rankings:

  • 100%: Andy Foster, Sarah Free, David Lee, Justin Lester, Iona Pannett
  • 75% Malcolm Sparrow
  • 50% Helene Ritchie
  • 22% Simon Woolf
  • 20% Paul Eagle, Simon Marsh
  • 11% Nicola Young
  • 0% Jo Coughlan

Note that these are the proportion of contested votes. All these councillors were part of unanimous votes on a number of cycling issues.

Obviously you shouldn’t base your vote in October just on this. But use the voting record as a basis for questioning candidates (do roll up to meetings and ask hard questions about cycling) and evaluating their public statements.

Wellington’s winds are a feature of cycling in the city – if you want the tailwinds of good cycling infrastructure, vote for the Tailwind candidates; but above all VOTE!