Work on The Parade upgrade finally got underway this morning just as news came through that the legal action that threatened to stop it has been dropped. The initial work is around the intersection of Medway Street and The Parade. Construction will then move north towards Dover Street, so that work is completed around the main retail area ahead of the busy Christmas period. Work will then move south from the library towards Reef Street and is scheduled to be finished by February 2016.
There will be temporary traffic changes in the main shopping centre during October and part of November. Between 9am and 4pm, traffic will be down to one lane on The Parade in two locations as the pedestrian crossings at either end of the shops are raised to footpath height to encourage safer speeds. Traffic management will be in place and delays are likely at times. You'll still be able to park in the shopping centre, use the footpaths on both sides of the road and get to all shops and businesses. If you are using Clyde Street as a detour please remember to watch your speed.
A group of local residents put on a morning tea for the construction crew to welcome them to Island Bay. The coffees, scones and ginger crunch were much appreciated by the workers.
Several Island Bay businesses are directly affected by the initial work. Let's make sure that we support The White Room Gallery and Island Bay Stationers over the next few weeks. Roti Corner and The Original Thai restaurant do most of their trade outside of normal business hours but they will still be affected by the disruption so please make sure you support them too.
As the work progresses we will keep you up to date on which local businesses are being affected so that we can all get behind them.
It was disappointing to read in The Dominion Post this week that a group calling itself The Democratic Voice of Island Bay (DVOIB) is requesting mediation with Wellington City Council with an option of a judicial review over the Island Bay Cycleway. The Island Bay residents who are part of this group are quite entitled to their opinions of course but their request to "sit down and talk sensibly" might have more merit if that wasn't something that has already happened and which two of their members chose to walk away from.
One of the least reported and least understood aspects of the Island Bay Cycleway consultation process is the work that the Island Bay Cycleway Working Party did during May and June of this year. The working party was set up by the council to give community stakeholders the chance to discuss the design of the cycleway in a mediated environment and make recommendations about any changes that should be made. It was also asked to test the cycleway against the principles in the new Wellington Cycling Framework to make sure that it conformed. The membership of the working party was the Deputy Mayor, the two Southern Ward councillors (who have contrasting views on whether the kerb-side cycleway should proceed) and four Island Bay residents. The four residents were myself and another supporter of the kerb-side cycleway design, and two opponents of the kerb-side cycleway design. The working party was mediated by an experienced facilitator, Anne Pattillo, and support was provided by council officers. The working party met on three occasions although the two opponents of the kerb-side cycleway resigned after the second meeting. Despite that, my view of the meetings is that they were constructive and conducted in good faith. You can read the report from the working party here and watch Anne Pattillo talk to the council about it here.
The working party made a long list of recommendations that were all agreed to by the council. Some of these were significant and demonstrate that the working party actually had some teeth and that the council was prepared to compromise. The key recommendations were:
The central issue of whether to have a kerb-side or street-side cycleway was discussed and the majority view was that the kerb-side cycleway should be pursued. However, by far the most important thing to come out of the working party from my point of view was getting a better understanding of exactly how the cycleway was intended to be implemented. The council officers explained that under both the kerb-side and street-side options for the cycleway all the same infrastructure would be built, including the bus-stop bypasses and the new intersection treatments. I had not properly understood this up to that point but when it was explained to me it made perfect sense. The only physical difference between the two options is where the parked cars will be. This is a really important point to understand because what it means is that switching between the options is as simple, and cheap, as giving the cycleway a new paint job. My immediate reaction was that this was not something that was widely known. If it was then surely it would mitigate any concerns that Island Bay could get stuck with cycleway that is not fit for purpose, especially when the working party had also agreed that an evaluation will be carried out.
At this point I should be absolutely clear - as a general rule I'm not in favour of unprotected street-side bike lanes. I think they expose people on bikes to an unnecessarily high level of risk and, more importantly, they don't help to increase the number of people riding bikes. I agree with the principle in the Wellington Cycling Framework that "where there are viable routes within the existing road space, we will implement protected bike lanes". I'm keeping an open-mind though, and if the kerb-side lanes in Island Bay turn out to be totally inappropriate then we will obviously need to look at reverting to street-side lanes. It's difficult to see how that could be achieved under the Cycling Framework, however, without either reducing the speed limit on The Parade to 30 kph, or completely removing on-street parking so that another form of physical separation can be used. That's also why the suggestion from some opponents of the kerb-side cycleway that simply extending the current street-side lanes all along The Parade could be a "compromise" solution shouldn't be considered. It would be more like putting the proverbial "lipstick on a pig". It's worth noting that one of the biggest compromises in the entire process was actually made very early on with the decision that the cycleway will not continue through the shopping centre. This is something that people on bikes will just have to accept despite the obvious dangers that riding bikes behind angle parking presents. Hopefully this situation might get fixed after people have had a chance to see the cycleway working and retailers feel more confident about how it affects them.
The DVOIB group are entitled to do pursue whatever course of action they want but the fact that some mediation has already occurred, some genuine compromises have been made, and that the option of reverting to street-side lanes is still a possibility would seem to undermine their cause quite a lot. In a sense the DVOIB group could end up being victims of their own success. Claims of a "lack of proper public consultation" don't really stack up when you look at the facts. Over the course of nine months in 2014 and three separate consultations the council received over 1,200 formal submissions, including over 700 from Island Bay. All the drama and publicity created around the cycleway means that, in the words of Councillor David Lee, it has been the "most over-consulted piece of infrastructure" of its scale in recent years. Opponents of the cycleway have also had some significant wins over the last 18 months, including forcing the expansion of the council's Transport and Urban Development Committee to include all councillors and the establishment of a Wellington cycling "masterplan" (the Cycling Framework). It was solely due to their efforts that the final decision to go ahead with the cycleway was taken by the full council, not a sub-committee. Cycleway opponents have also appeared regularly in local news media. None of this points to any "lack of democracy", in fact quite the opposite. Of course what has to be remembered is that in any democracy having a say doesn't always mean getting your own way, especially in the type of representative democracy that we have here in New Zealand. Ultimately, and with the greatest respect, it's hard not to arrive at the same conclusion as The Dominion Post that "it seems more likely that a lot of residents just don't want the cycleway and this is their way of fighting it".
Today's Cook Strait News contains an article on the construction of the cycleway beginning on 28 September. Although the article is fair and balanced I thought you might like to read the full answers to the four questions I was emailed by the student journalist, including whether the council should suddenly drop everything in Island Bay and start building a cycleway through Berhampore instead. The quotes actually used in the article are highlighted!
Why are you for the cycle way?
It will be a great thing for Island Bay and we are lucky to be the first place in Wellington to get a cycleway of this type. Lots of people, including kids, are either uncomfortable or unable to bike on a road as busy as The Parade so it will give more people the opportunity to enjoy riding a bike as an ordinary, everyday activity. I have kids aged 7 and 9 and their only options for riding down The Parade at the moment are on the pavement or on the road next to cars, trucks and buses, neither of which is appropriate. We are fortunate that because The Parade is nice and wide we can simply swap the position of parked cars and the current bike lanes to separate people riding bikes from motorised traffic. Protected cycleways are proven to increase the numbers of people biking which then has lots of health, social, environmental and economic benefits.
What do you think about how the public consultation for the cycle way was handle by the council?
The initial consultation probably wasn't the best but I thought the council quickly learned from that and it got a lot better. Over the course of 9 months and three consultations the council actually received over 1,000 formal submissions which is an amazing amount of feedback and meant councillors could make a fully informed decision. That's the most important thing.
What do you say to the opposition of the cycle way?
I'll defend anybody's right to an opinion and it's really important that people feel that they have had a chance to have their say. Some people also have genuine concerns about how the cycleway will work, which is perfectly natural. However, the decision has been made now and hopefully everybody's focus can shift to grabbing hold of this opportunity and making it work as well as possible. If people are prepared to give the cycleway a chance I think their concerns will fade away once they see it working.
What is your opinion on the issue of the Island Bay section being built before the Berhampore section, even though the Berhampore section as it currently stands is more dangerous than Island Bay?
Island Bay is just Stage 1 of a route all the way into the CBD and if it hadn't been delayed then work on Stage 2 through Berhampore probably would have started by now. I bike through Berhampore every day on my way to and from work so I agree that cycling conditions need to be improved there. However, there are some real challenges putting a cycleway through Berhampore so it will be good to have the Island Bay section implemented first so that we can learn from that. In the short term having a 30kph zone in Berhampore will really help so I hope lots of people will make a submission in favour of that.
More good news this week as Wellington City Council unanimously agreed a $101m investment in cycleways over the next 20 years. This money includes the $58m over the next 10 years which is already in the council's Long Term Plan. $30m of that money will be spent over the next 3 years to really get the programme going.
Apart from being great news for sustainable transport in Wellington what this decision also provides is some much needed context for the work about to begin on the Island Bay Cycleway. The fact is that cycleways are coming to Wellington. There is no debate about that any more. They are also extending out to most of the key areas of Wellington that you would expect within a very short space of time. Planning is already underway to implement cycleways in the CBD, north to Ngauranga, east to Miramar and Kilbirnie and yes, south to Island Bay, all within the next five years.
The council's Cycling Framework specifically states that "We are creating a new network of routes for people who want to cycle slowly, in their everyday clothes, away from heavy traffic. We want to change the culture of cycling and encourage more women, children, and older people to cycle". Also, "Our plan is to develop a cycling network that allows the beginner rider to have a go on some of the safer recreational cycleways. This will help them become a more confident rider who may ultimately start using cycling as their primary mode of transport for getting to work or school". The target market here is definitely not just existing commuter cyclists (although Island Bay has plenty of those) and the objectives are broader than just reducing crash statistics. The council clearly understands that perceived safety is just as important as actual safety, and that safety (both perceived and actual) is just one of the barriers that prevent more people from biking.
Much has been said about how The Parade is already "one of the safest places in Wellington to cycle" but if that's true it just goes to show how appalling our cycling infrastructure in Wellington really is. Would you honestly feel comfortable about a young child cycling down the current bike lanes right next to cars, trucks and buses travelling at 50 kph, with or without an adult close by? As the father of a seven year-old and a nine year-old I certainly wouldn't. Others may feel more confident about their child riding next to a 12 tonne bus as it approaches a bus-stop but the reality is that most kids riding a bike along The Parade ride on the pavement. As Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota, once said "a bicycle way that is not suitable for an eight year-old is not a bicycle way". The converse of the argument that The Parade "doesn't need bike lanes because it's already safe" is that it's precisely because The Parade is flat and wide that it is the perfect place for Wellington to try protected bike lanes for the first time, in a relatively risk-free environment.
Regardless, let's just pretend for a moment that the council had decided to start somewhere else. Does anybody really believe that the reaction from local residents would have been any different? Probably not. After all, change is hard. Overseas it's very common for cycling infrastructure projects to be met by "bikelash" from residents convinced that it hurts the neighborhood to dedicate any street space to anything other than cars. The irony is that if the council had started somewhere else the local residents probably would have been quick to start screaming "Why us? Why not start somewhere like Island Bay where they actually have room for protected bike lanes?". In the context of the Wellington Cycling Framework (which has the unanimous support of councillors don't forget) and the millions of dollars being poured into urban cycleways by both central and local government it's really hard to see what die-hard opponents of the Island Bay cycleway now hope to achieve. Maybe a few years postponement at best, before the cycleway is implemented anyway? Surely it makes more sense to take full advantage of the opportunity that presents itself now, and come together as a community to make it work as well as it possibly can. People can't possibly want to see it be implemented and then fail can they? What a massive waste of time, effort and money that would be.
A final thought on the money. It should be noted that the $1.5m budget for the Island Bay cycleway is just a fraction of the total cycling network budget, not just over the next 20 years (of which Island Bay is 1.5%) but even over the next 3 years (5%). And the total cycling network budget is just a fraction of the council's total transport budget, the vast majority of which still gets spent on cars. For some more local perspective, The Wellingtonian revealed this week that repairing the Island Bay seawall has a budget of over $800k, which is now expected to rise by another $500k to a total close to what will be spent on the cycleway.
Today Wellington City Council announced that the upgrade of The Parade that includes construction of the Island Bay cycleway is about to begin. The upgrade starts on 28 September and is scheduled to be finished by February 2016 in time for the Island Bay Festival, which is great news. In order to minimise the impact on retailers construction will begin at the south end of the shopping centre near the library and move north towards Dover Street. This means that work will be completed around the shopping centre well ahead of the Christmas period. Work will then move south from the library towards Reef Street. The council says the programme is still being finalised but it is likely there will be construction crews working in two different areas at any one time. Work in each area will take about 4 to 6 weeks. The council is keen to emphasise that the cycle lane won’t be obvious until the road marking changes happen towards the end of the upgrade.
The work that will be done over the next few months includes:
- new kerbside cycle lanes along The Parade between Shorland and Wakefield parks
- four new pedestrian crossings near Dee, Humber, Mersey and Tamar streets
- altering intersections to improve visibility and make them safer
- developing new-look bus stops with bike by-passes
- raising the two existing zebra crossings in the shopping centre to footpath height
- putting in speed humps (cushions) on either side of the shopping centre
The changes in the shopping centre are as a result of recommendations made by the Island Bay Cycleway working party. The community stakeholders on the working party were very keen to see measures taken that would help calm traffic in the shopping centre and reinforce the existing 30 kph speed limit. Because the bike lanes don't continue through the shopping centre it effectively becomes a shared space for cars and bikes, so it is important that the speed limit is observed.
The changes will give people more choices about how they get around Island Bay. They will obviously make riding a bike significantly safer and easier but they will also benefit pedestrians and motorists. They will give people who walk more places where they can safely cross The Parade and there should be far fewer bikes on the pavement. Motorists will benefit from fewer bikes on the road and greatly improved visibility at intersections. Bus drivers will also find that their interactions with bikes are significantly reduced, particularly when pulling into and out of bus-stops thanks to the new by-passes for people on bikes. The only motorists who might complain about the new pedestrian crossings and the traffic calming in the shopping centre will be those who currently use The Parade as a racetrack and who should probably take a little more care anyway.
The Council has engaged contractors, Ventia, to do the work. Normal work hours will be Monday to Saturday, 7am to 6pm. The council has already directly notified residents and businesses along The Parade about what is happening.
Although the impact of the cycleway construction on businesses along The Parade shouldn't be significant let's make sure that we support them over the next few months anyway. Read a bit more about the impact the cycleway will have on businesses, during and after construction, here.
Read the full council press release here.
You can follow the progress of the upgrade at www.wellington.govt.nz/ibupgrade or right here at www.islandbaycycleway.org.nz
Anyone interested in receiving regular project updates should email firstname.lastname@example.org