Two Christmases have passed since the Urban Cycleways Programme (UCP) was launched, promising generous funding of urban cycling projects. In Auckland this resulted in the award winning Light Path/ Te Ara I Whiti, and the Quay Street cycleway that has already overloaded its installed cycle counter. But Wellington is a different story. So far there has been little progress, although we’re due to see pole removal and improved entrance crossings on the Hutt Road Cycleway.
However we do have an opportunity to catch up with Auckland. Cobham Drive is one of the main ways in which people from the eastern suburbs bike, walk and run to the CBD. This is a key section of the Great Harbour Way/ Te Ara o Pōneke, the cycling and walking route around the great harbour of Tara. But the shared path on the northern side of SH1 is unattractive, despite the best efforts of the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Cycling or walking along the route, you’re dodging other people on bikes coming at you on the narrow path. You’re conscious of the stream of polluting vehicles heading for the airport, rather than the nearby beach with the occasional pod of dolphins rounding up a feed of harbour fish.
One of the UCP proposals is upgrade this shared path to separated cycling and walking paths. $4 million has been allocated to this. Making it more attractive will encourage more active commuting from Miramar and Seatoun. With good design, it could create a positive vibe about cycling, and could be a destination in itself, in the way that Te Ara I Whiti has become in Auckland, or the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge in Taranaki. There are no politically awkward conflicts with businesses and parking.
So what’s stopping Cobham Drive from being an early Christmas present to people who bike and walk in Wellington? There are some issues. The council’s concept diagram appears to have removed the on road shoulder, which won’t please roadies or fast commuters. There may be resource issues in developing the walking path close to the shore. The cycling path should be visually different from the walking path, looking like a road so that walkers aren’t tempted to stray. But these are standard cycleway design issues, and have been solved in countless locations around the world. What matters is that we get on with it, before the Government decides that the UCP funding is better utilised north of the Bombay Hills.
If you’d like well designed cycling and walking paths along Cobham Drive, send a message to Santa, in this case Sarah Free (Councillor and Portfolio leader for Public Transport, Cycling and Walking, firstname.lastname@example.org) and the WCC Cycling Team (email@example.com). And offer them the season’s greetings too – they deserve it!