Tēnā koutou katoa,
In a recent Dominion Post article on the cycleway representatives of the Island Bay business syndicate expressed concerns that the final four options for the cycleway would "have a detrimental impact on businesses already struggling to stay afloat". Businesses often worry about the impact that more cycling will have on them, particularly if it involves the removal of parking to make room for cycleways. In reality the evidence shows that increasing the amount of cycling is more likely to have positive effects on the local economy. Walking and cycling are local by default, unlike driving, and active transport users are much more likely to shop locally. They also shop more often, for longer and they leave parking free for customers who really need it.
The New Zealand Transport Agency's research report 530 found that sustainable transport users account for 40% of the total spend in shopping areas and account for 37% of all shoppers. The data indicates that pedestrians and cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas. The study also identified that retailers generally overestimate the importance of on-street parking outside shops. Shoppers value high-quality pedestrian and urban design features in shopping areas more than they value parking and those who drive are willing to walk to the shopping precinct from other locally available parking areas. You can read many more examples of how bikes are good for business here. Cycle Aware Wellington also recently summarised the research in their post: Cycleways "support local".
I was at the Island Bay Residents Association meeting on Monday night where representatives of the Island Bay business syndicate reiterated their concerns. Fair enough, but as I said at the meeting please don't be fooled by confirmation bias. 200 angry people can definitely make a scene but they are not your entire customer base. The two recently released research reports on the Love the Bay process certainly point to there being a much broader spread of opinion about the cycleway, and transport issues in general, than was represented at the meeting. As another example, did you know that at the 2014 general election 26% of Island Bay voters gave their party vote to the Greens? (Rongotai and Wellington Central are the two greenest electorates in the country by far). That means that on average every 4th customer you get through the door voted Green. Your customers are actually an eclectic bunch and many of them will happily shop local if you encourage them to do so.
You can view the cycleway and the other changes proposed for The Parade as either a threat or an opportunity. I've actually been surprised, and a little disappointed, to see how little effort there has been from local businesses to try and leverage the opportunity presented by increasing levels of active and sustainable transport. Who's going to be the first business in Island Bay to try and attract customers with new bike racks or street furniture? Who's going to be the first business to purchase a cargo bike and offer deliveries? You could also contact Bikes Welcome, a really cool organisation whose mission is to help connect bike users and businesses, and who will have heaps of good ideas.
So please think carefully about the opportunity being presented before you make a submission, either as individuals or as a group. If you really can't stomach the thought of losing 17 car parks in the shopping centre, then submit in support of Option D. Or you could submit in favour of Option B or C but make a suggestion to use the business zone layout from Option D. You actually have some really exciting options open to you if you choose to see them that way.
One final thing, it's not clear to me who the 'Island Bay business syndicate' actually is. I know that there are businesses in Island Bay who are supportive of the cycleway and that there are others who are very keen to stay neutral, so it is clearly mis-leading to say, or imply, that you represent all businesses. It would be great if you could bring greater clarity to that so feel free to post a comment below. If you make a group submission it will obviously be important that there is full transparency about which businesses you are submitting on behalf of.
Thanks for reading.
Nāku noa, nā