Cycle paths: quake proofing our transport network

Te Ara Tawa - Porirua trail
Ara Tawa between Kenepuru and Porirua

With all the fuss about Island Bay, you may not be aware of Wellington and Porirua Councils’ success in creating a 20km cycle route leading north out of the City, which, as well as providing for commuting and recreation, could be a vital part of our post earthquake transport network.

What is this lifesaving route? It starts at Takapu Rd Station as Ara Tawa (which surprisingly doesn’t rate a description on WCC’s website), heading north beside the railway line, past Tawa College and on to join Porirua’s Ara Harakeke past the city centre to Pukerua Bay.

When the “big one” arrives, this cycle route could be vital for people making their way home from Wellington CBD. Although there have been practices for people to find out whether they can walk home, biking will be a lot more efficient and quicker. In fact it’s an argument for biking to work, or at least having a bike at work; and it’s likely that central city bike shops will sell out quickly, as London bike shops did after the 2005 Tube bombings. A Kaikoura university student used a bike down shattered SH1 to catch a plane back to Canterbury Uni – interestingly beating the rest of his family who waited for a helicopter.

Why did Ara Tawa go ahead relatively painlessly, while Island Bay floundered? It’s complicated, but some key points might be:

  • Ara Tawa arose out of a community initiative to provide a cycling and walking track through the valley
  • There was adequate stream and rail reserve to put the trail on without encroaching on roads and parking
  • From the start, it connected logical destinations, particularly providing a “safe schools” route for students

Of course there is still the problem of getting to Ara Tawa’s southern end – Hutt Road, Ngauranga Gorge, the Johnsonville Triangle, and Middleton Rd are not yet bike friendly, and there is a need to build on the success of Ara Tawa by improving these linkages, and securing a resilient route for bikes from the Wellington CBD to the northern suburbs.

Even if you don’t live in the northern suburbs (and there isn’t an earthquake), it’s worth a ride on Ara Tawa/Ara Harakeke to see what has been achieved. You can use “bike the train” to get to and from the route, for example getting the train to Pukerua Bay, then riding “mainly downhill” to Takapu Rd, or reversing the direction if a southerly will give you wind assistance.

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