Kia ora Councillor Eagle,
I trust this letter finds you well.
I am writing to you as a husband, a father of 3, a Wellington resident living in Island Bay, and citizen of our beautiful country.
I am eager to see more Wellington streets transformed to address what I see as unbalanced and unsafe conditions, and for more space in Wellington become more equitable public spaces for living and travelling.
I imagine a day our urban streets are safe enough to not have to worry, as a parent, about my children walking or cycling more freely about our communities. I hope for a day a majority of people prefer to walk or cycle or use public transport over jumping in their cars to get around.
I look forward to the day Wellington joins the growing number of cities around the world enjoying the benefits of a more livable city, where the human experience of our public spaces is clearly highly valued. Streets are public space.
There are many pressing reasons for these hopes, and why they need dedicated attention from politicians in all New Zealand cities.
I am motivated for these changes on behalf of many other people I talk to who consider our streets unsafe to ride bicycles. I am motivated to make the city more appealing and accessible to more people who want to incorporate more active transport in their lives, but feel excluded or unsafe.
There is a significant inequality problem due to the historic failure to adequately provision safe active travel infrastructure as well as we possibly can. Biking is vastly cheaper than most other transport modes, both to build for and partake in.
New Zealand has consistently low numbers of people riding bikes as percentage of trips. If you are used to driving already, learning to cycle appears too dangerous and street space is rarely designed to intuitively prioritise vulnerable road users.
With better facilities to safely include more people riding bicycles, walking, scootering, skateboarding around, we will be effectively addressing one of the biggest health crisis facing this country in our history. With 30% of the population currently obese, New Zealand desperately needs to make more active lifestyles a priority. This won't happen by getting more sports activity, we are already doing more than most on that front. It will happen by integrating more active travel into our everyday lives.
Air pollution from motorists is also a very large contributor to poor health around the world. With such high car dependency, New Zealand is no exception. We are being poisoned inside our cars as well as outside.
I am extremely concerned about the spectre of climate change. New Zealand is not doing enough to combat climate change. Not by a long way. We are missing out on a huge opportunity to become a relative carbon sink with our natural resources, innovative businesses and already high renewable energy sources. Lower car dependency will help reduce our energy needs, and bicycles are the most efficient way to do this.
We won’t do this, however, if our infrastructure continues to compel people to depend on car ownership or hope for some miracle self-driving car fantasy future. Even with electric, self-driving cars, we will be impacting heavily on the environment thanks to their extremely high manufacturing impacts. A recent study shows that the manufacturing of batteries for a Tesla car has GHG emissions equivalent to average driving of a regular car for 8 years.
We desperately need to see a large scale shift away from dependence on large motor vehicles. E-bikes are comparable to regular bicycles in their environmental footprint, which is encouraging.
While there are some positive projects and intentions being progressed by WCC, I have been dismayed by the exhaustive and long running consultation marathon that has been plaguing Island Bay. The adaptation to a carbon free future must happen faster than this. We cannot waste time!
I appreciate the complex challenge of our democratic system and it’s value for improving our city. I hope future projects will be smoother and more straightforward.
I am sure you are committed to a healthy and prosperous Wellington, where people can all get around more easily without having to budget up to a quarter of their incomes to do so in a car. The Wellington brand has long identified positively with its compactness, walkability, and accessibility. Without dedicated and serious investment in reshaping many of our roads to be more equitable for active travel modes, we will lose this and will damage it's reputation.
Please help make Island Bay an example of an equitable, sustainable, and human focussed future. Please keep the cycleway in a protected, separated configuration. On road bike lanes have proven they fail to attract or safely accommodate people of all ages and abilities. Separated infrastructure is safer after all.
I was dismayed by the behaviour of many residents at the meeting last Monday night and call on you to use your influence to encourage more respect and maturity. I find your allegiance to the Island Bay Residents Association to be disturbing, and not fair to the wider community where a much broader range of views exist.
My wife, 3 children and I all very much enjoy (and frequently use) the separated kerbside cycleway and will all be submitting in favour of Option C for both the residential and business areas. The new designs look very impressive. I am very happy to see the raised intersection treatments and think Tonkin+Taylor and council officers have done an amazing job. We’re looking forward to the shops being a more pleasant place to visit more often.