Is there a project that could definitively say that cycling has arrived in Wellington? Wellington City Council has opened consultation on the Cobham Drive project, and this could be a chance for a cycling and walking facility that creates a positive image for active transport, in the same way that Auckland’s Lightpath/Te Ara-i-Whiti and Taranaki’s Te Rewarewa Bridge have done.
Why is Cobham Drive an important cycling project? First, it’s a key link between the eastern suburbs and the city. Secondly, it’s a project that requires few compromises with parking and businesses. But it’s also an opportunity to do more than just create cycling and walking paths. It’s in a stunning geographic location, with a view up Evans Bay to Mount Victoria and the northern ranges. It’s what many people travel along from the Airport on their first visit to Wellington. It’ll be visible from Mt Victoria, where most first time visitors to the city are taken. We’ve got the opportunity here to create a statement: Wellington is an active place.
Wellington Sculpture trust have already enhanced this stretch with the Meridian Energy Wind Sculpture Walk, so many people associate Wellington with the iconic Zephyrometer that they see bending low over SH1 after their charmingly energetic airport landing into a slight northerly breeze (known outside Wellington as a “gale”).
The big gap in the current plan is the lack of a safe crossing of Cobham Drive, for example to the Sports Centre. We should be challenging WCC to include this in the project.
Apart from that the proposals are good but not perfect, and some of the detail needs to be clarified.
- The cycling and walking paths need to be physically and visually different, to discourage people from using the wrong path for their mode. Auckland learned this lesson on Beach Rd, where a section that looked like a footpath was used by pedestrians despite “no cycling” signs. The sections that look like roadway don’t have this problem.
- The connections at the ends need work – it’s not clear how people biking the Mount Victoria Tunnel will connect to the cycleway, and the path comes to an abrupt halt at Miramar Cutting (although the connections to Miramar are the subject of a separate project). There’s no detail on the proposed signalised crossing of Evans Bay Parade for people biking north to the CBD.
- The proposed 3m width for the cycle path should be a minimum. Where possible it should be 4m or more, to provide for comfortable passing without conflict with oncoming cyclists.
- It would be good to have some features that break the wind, which (very occasionally) crosses the path.
- The current plans include some parking east of the Troy St roundabout. This is unnecessary: people can watch planes from a parking place on Calibar Rd, and Evans Bay Marina is better for launching boats. If this parking is retained, the cycle path should be on the seaward side of it, to avoid conflict with vehicles entering the park.
- There should be parking provision at Evans Bay Marina for, for example, wheelchair users, and families that want to bike the route but aren’t able to bike to it.
- The shoreline is currently made up of concrete debris from a power station that was demolished in 1941. It’s time to clean this up, and make the shoreline attractive. Indeed the design of the path should draw users attention to the seascape, rather than to the busy SH1 that runs on the southern side.
- It needs a good name. It’s part of Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Pōneke of course, but it should have a specific name. The name “seaway” has been proposed, but there are a lot of paths beside the sea. Perhaps a name like “Te Ara Ūnga”, the path of the landing place, would (with permission of the relevant iwi) reference the idea of a gateway, and the proximity to Wellington airport.
Above all it needs a “wow” factor – that will attract the attention of people coming from Weta Workshops and the Airport, or looking across from Mt Victoria, and have people saying “I want to bike that”.