Here comes another consultation on the Island Bay cycleway...
Wait! What? I thought the council made a final decision on this last year?
They did, as summarised in this article from the New Zealand Herald: Solution agreed for Wellington's controversial Island Bay cycleway. The consultation they are doing now is on the Traffic Resolution which is the how the council legally makes the required changes to the road. Under the Traffic and Parking Bylaw 2021 "Any resolution proposed under this Bylaw shall be placed on the Council’s website at least 14 days before the Council considers it. Any person may provide comments, in writing, on the proposed resolution and those comments will be considered by the Council before it makes a resolution." So this consultation is largely a technical process requirement but as the council says it's an opportunity to provide "feedback on whether we’ve got these proposed safety improvements quite right" so that they can "adjust and fine-tune the detailed design". It's not a vote and it's not a consultation on whether or not to have protected bike lanes on The Parade.
Ok, so what are the main changes?
The key changes are:
This is most of the upgrade that was already approved by councillors back in 2017 with 4 key differences:
You can read more about the changes and provide feedback on the council's Transport Projects website. The rationale for making the changes is explained from a councillor's perspective in this opinion piece by Jenny Condie: Island Bay cycleway revamp 'pragmatic middle ground'
Are the changes really still necessary?
Yes! These are all good changes which will improve the safety, comfort and attractiveness of the current layout, and they have mostly already been consulted on back in 2017 although the exact mix now isn't quite what was agreed back then. The current cycleway is ok but as the council admitted in the High Court in 2019 during the Island Bay Residents Association's failed judicial review of the 2017 decision "neither the status quo nor the original cycleway could be said to be reasonably practicable options given the safety concerns and issues of non-compliance that had been identified with them". This is also is why the cycleway will never go back on the road between parked cars and traffic and calls to "paint it back" are not just pointless but dangerous. The diagram below from Wellington City Council's Bike Network Plan shows that traffic volumes on The Parade would need to drop below 5,000 cars per day (half of current volumes) before bike lanes next to moving traffic could even be considered.
As the council notes the proposed improvements will bring the bike lanes and related street layout in line with New Zealand and international design standards, including:
If you have complained about the safety of the cycleway in the past then thank you because that is what has prompted these changes, and if you are even vaguely genuine and informed in your concerns about 'safety' you will support all of these changes.
What about the reduction in parking though?
The council has communicated the parking changes really badly. First of all, under the council's new Parking Policy (approved 14:1 in August 2020) they should have prepared a Local Area Parking Plan (LAPP) before bringing the November 2021 paper to council. A LAPP "would provide guidance to improve transport services and manage parking based on local circumstances". Basically it would give people the information they need to understand the reality of the proposed parking changes and take away some of the fear of change. Instead the council has simply presented the raw parking reductions, which is unfair and has understandably caused some angst. While the reductions might seem significant it's worth remembering some important mitigations:
A LAPP would also outline other possible mitigations such as resident's parking schemes and time-limited parking. Apparently the council is now preparing one but unfortunately it will be too late to stop a whole lot of unnecessary hyper-ventilating around this consultation.
It's also worth noting that there's a direct relationship between the reduction in parking and the cost of the upgrade. Cycleways can actually be very cheap to implement when they simply replace on-street parking. The cost of cycleways usually only goes up when there is a desire to retain a lot of parking and in reality the bulk of the cost of cycling projects is often for parking. In this case councillors decided 9:5 to implement a cheaper 'short-term safety improvements' option rather than the more expensive 2017 option that would have resulted in a smaller reduction in parking. If you have complained about the cost of cycleways in the past then you have pretty much got what you asked for here.
That said, it's hard to understand why there needs to be a reduction in parking at the shops. The councillor approved option from 2017 (see below) included cycleways but retained angle parking, which would actually be ok for cyclists - it's cycling behind angle parking that is particularly dangerous. Council have already agreed to this layout once so this would be something definitely worth raising in your feedback if you are concerned about the parking reduction at the shopping village and would prefer to have angle-parked cars backing into the traffic lane (which is the status quo).
The bottom line with the parking is that the council's Parking Policy clearly states that the "safe and efficient movement of people and goods (footpaths, bus lanes, cycleways, no stopping zones/clearways, construction and maintenance works)" is a higher priority than on-street parking, and with good reason as explained in the policy. Having put that policy in place the council have to implement it.
What other issues are there?
The council's presentation of this consultation is pretty average. They are at pains to state that "this is not a vote" but have also included their real-time dashboard that makes it look exactly like a vote. As can already been seen the results are going to be largely useless with almost all of the self-selecting responses (i.e. not statistically valid) either "Strongly opposed" or "Strongly supportive" of the changes. Most of the negative comments simply want to "pAiNt iT bAcK" which is out of scope and isn't going to happen. This is exactly how you generate a lot of poor quality engagement, waste a lot of people's time (incl. the council's), unfairly raise people's expectations and reinforce a perception of 'not listening'.
So should I provide feedback or not?
My advice is not to get spooked by the dashboard presentation. Various local Facebook groups are hyping people up that "it's your last chance to have your say!!" but let's take the council at their word that it's not a vote. If you want to signal your support for these changes and/or you have specific comments to make about specific elements of the plan (which is what the council is really looking for) that's fine but don't worry if you don't have time.
The proposal details and feedback form can be found here.
Edit 31/1/22: There's a good, constructive submission guide from Cycle Wellington here.
I heard from some people that Fleur Fitzsimons was the casting vote for the upgrade happening, but from some other people that she voted against it. What actually happened?
None of that is correct. It was a long and complicated meeting but essentially council officers gave councillors two options for upgrading The Parade: a long-term option or a short-term 'safety improvements' option. Neither of these was actually the 2017 'Mayor's compromise' that had already been agreed 4 years ago so councillors Fitzsimons and Day introduced an amendment to simply do what the council had promised to do and implement the 2017 decision. Despite that seeming completely reasonable it lost 5:9, with both Green councillors present voting against it.
Councillors Rush and Woolf then tried to get an amendment to 'put the cycleway back the way it used to be' which not only went against council officer advice, Waka Kotahi guidelines and what the council had told the High Court in 2019 but also included the embarrassing spectacle of Councillor Rush wrongly arguing that there used to be bike lanes painted on the road along the north end of The Parade when there never was (which was inconvenient for him because it undermined his 'paint it back' logic). This vote was lost 5:9.
Later in the meeting another amendment was proposed by Councillors Pannett and Free to 'beef up' the short-term improvements option by continuing the cycleway through the shops and improving the intersections with raised tables. Councillor Fitzsimons voted against both of these on principle using the rationale that she had run for council on the basis of implementing the 2017 decision and she wouldn't support anything else. This did risk not getting some significant improvements to the short-term option (which was the only option still in play at that stage) but the vote on continuing the cycleway through shops passed anyway, with Councillor Pannett using her casting vote to split a 7:7 tie.
The vote on the improved intersections was lost 6:8 with Councillor Pannett inexplicably deciding to vote against her own amendment citing 'fiscal prudence'. If Councillor Fitzsimons had voted for this it would have been a 7:7 tie but presumably would still have lost if Councillor Pannett had used her Chair's casting vote to vote the same way as she already had (but honestly, who knows?). Disappointing to see any Labour or Green councillors voting against safety at intersections though.
The substantive vote on proceeding with a short-term improvements option (i.e. after all the amendments had been made) then passed 11:3. So in summary, Councillor Fitzsimons did vote for the 2017 decision to be implemented (but lost) and did vote for the upgrade we are being consulted on now to go ahead. Her votes against the amendments to continue the cycleway through the shops and improve the intersections, although wrong in my view, didn't actually affect the outcome of those votes. It's certainly not true that she was the casting vote on any of this.
It's worth noting that despite known "safety concerns and issues of non-compliance" Councillor Rush, Councillor Woolf and Mana Whenua rep Liz Kelly voted against making any safety improvements at all which is pretty callous given all the evidence put in front of them.
If you want to read the official record of the voting you can do so here.