Last year the Wellington City Council initiated a project and established a community stakeholder working group to find options for creating safe cycling along Thorndon Quay as part of the Urban Cycling Programme. The various people on the working group represented local businesses, residents, walkers and cyclists. Together they came up with a vision that would change Thorndon Quay from the current day ugly industrial looking commuter route to a boulevard-style destination. A number of objectives were agreed to enable that vision including avoiding impacting on the local businesses, but also ensuring a safe traffic design. The working group were on the same page and getting close to agreeing design options.
That is till the business representatives decided to approach the Council directly because of concerns that the parking changes for the design options would in fact impact on their businesses. After escalating this to a couple of the Councillors, our mayor was brought into the conversation. Justin Lester decided to pull the plug on the project (and effectively the working group) and instead go with a very watered-down design that would have painted cycle lanes at the south end of Thorndon Quay.
The cycling representatives from the now-defunct working group met with the Mayor to discuss their concerns and understand Justin’s motivations. This was what came out of that meeting, and our observations of that conversation:
- Justin said that Aotea Quay was an alternative option that should have been considered by the project. (That despite the fact that the project was asked to clarify this a number of times, and that David Chick – WCC Chief City Planner – categorically confirmed that Aotea Quay was not a consideration as it would be years away if it ever got agreement from the different authorities along that route. For more details, see the WCC document Why Thorndon Quay.)
- He had a concern that the design options would not get the backing from the majority of his Councillors. (It is understood that he never talked to his team to get confirmation of this).
- He was concerned that this could turn into another Island Bay situation. (Understandable, but this project was following a much better community engagement approach, and the working group had made good progress).
- He felt that the Council was making great progress with the other cycling improvement projects, and did not want to put all of this at risk. (A fair statement).
The key messages that we left him with is that his decision does nothing to address the risk of vulnerable road users on this dangerous route, but also that his action undermined the trust in the engagement process.
The Council has recently published the revised proposed design for Thorndon Quay for public consultation. The design only deals with the section of road between Davis and Mulgrave Street. A key aspect is that it changes the angle parking to parallel parking along the Westpac Stadium side of the street. You can see the proposed design and get access to the online feedback form on this WCC transport project page.
Meanwhile the cycling representatives who were part of the working group have set up a “Fix Thorndon Quay” Facebook page to encourage people to have their say. But also to highlight that this revised design proposal does nothing to address the risk to vulnerable road users along the busiest and most dangerous part of Thorndon Quay, between Davis Street and Tinakori Road.
With the darker and wetter winter months, the danger from cars pulling into or reversing out of the parking is unacceptably high. The angle parking forces cyclist on to the main road in the path of cars, trucks and buses; particularly with a number of cars now too long for the parking space. There is a real risk of a cyclist being seriously hurt or killed.
But also for walkers this part of Thorndon Quay poses a significant challenge and risk, with the lack of pedestrian crossings. Often we see people dashing between angle parked cars, cyclists and traffic on the road. Again an accident waiting to happen.
We have waited for years for the Council to resolve this situation. We don’t want to wait longer. Even if an alternative route via Aotea Quay would become a reality, then Thorndon Quay would still be used by a high number of cyclists and walkers as the most convenient route to get to their work or to get to the local shops.
We urge people to submit their feedback to the Council. Tell your own story, how the proposed design may help to address your concerns, and what concerns it does not address. Guidelines on writing your individual submission can be found here.
Have your say!