What the Southern Ward by-election results tell us about the true size of opposition to the cycleway
As you will all know by now Fleur Fitzsimons is the new Wellington city councillor for Southern Ward. Congratulations Fleur!
The election results show that it was a hard-fought election (perhaps a little too hard-fought at times) with Laurie Foon coming a close second. This was an impressive result for an independent candidate. Vicki Greco came third with a solid bloc of support as expected.
The election had been framed by some as another informal referendum on the Island Bay cycleway. As such it was heartening to see the two most progressive candidates finish first and second. Fleur Fitzsimons and Laurie Foon have both been clear about their support for the Island Bay cycleway compromise solution and were rewarded with 59% of the first preference votes between them (2,155 votes for Fitzsimons and 1,723 votes for Foon). Vicki Greco, the candidate who was most vehemently opposed to the cycleway, picked up 24% of the first preference votes (1,590 votes). By the 6th STV iteration, when it was down to the final three candidates, the split was Fitzsimons 40%, Foon 32% (72% in total) and Greco 28%.
Fleur Fitzsimons (right) & Laurie Foon (second right) finished first & second in the Southern Ward by-election respectively.
Image via Living Wage Aotearoa.
While it's fair to paint this result as a solid 'win' for the progressives a couple of things need to be remembered. The first is that turnout was only 30%. That's low for a local body election but not uncommon for a by-election, especially right before Christmas. While elections serve a necessary purpose in getting candidates elected into roles, they are not random surveys and with such a low turnout the results can't be extrapolated to the entire population. The result is indicative of the entire population, at best. It also needs to be said that although she finished third Vicki Greco has done OK. 1.5k first preference votes is not to be sniffed at and the majority of those votes probably came from Island Bay.
When I first saw that Vicki had secured 1,590 first preference votes I thought that number seemed very familiar. It turns out it's almost exactly the same number of Island Bay residents who voted for the cycleway to be removed in the Island Bay Residents Association's infamous survey of March 2016, which was 1,559. IBRA's survey was another non-random survey, so the result can't safely be extrapolated to the whole population (despite the fact that IBRA tried to do exactly that) but it's interesting that the absolute number of people who 'voted' for the cycleway to be put back in the IBRA survey is almost exactly the same number of people who voted for Vicki Greco in this by-election. Of course, this means assuming every single vote Vicki got in the by-election was from Island Bay so the actual number could be lower.
Another important indicator is the results of the city council's recent consultation on the cycleway which are analysed in this report. There were 1,991 submissions from Island Bay in the consultation, 309 from The Parade and 1,687 from the rest of Island Bay (page 12). This is another non-random survey so once again the results can't be extrapolated to the whole population but according to the graph showing first preferences on page 21 90% of respondents from The Parade and 70% of respondents from the rest of Island Bay wanted a roadside cycleway as their first preference [Note 1], which adds up to 1,458 people! [Note 2].
While all three sources of evidence mentioned above have their flaws and can only be treated as indicative, taken together they provide fairly compelling evidence that there's around 1,500 people living in Island Bay who are actively opposed to the cycleway [Note 3]. That's about 20% of the population of 7,000 or around 30% of the adult population of just over 5,000. For that number to be any higher means assuming that there is a bloc of cycleway opposition who have never spoken out about it. For example, for opposition to the cycleway to be as high as the 80% of Island Bay residents which is sometimes claimed would mean that there are around 2,500 adults in Island Bay who are opposed to the cycleway but who didn't participate in the IBRA survey, didn't make a submission in the consultation and didn't vote for Vicki in the by-election [Note 4]. That simply isn't credible.
However, what's interesting about the 20% number is that although it's a minority it's still a significant minority. As such, it's not hard to see how a group of 1,500 people, representing 20% of the population, could easily believe themselves to be a much bigger number, maybe even a majority. After all, many of these people will be known to each other, moving in the same social circles, connected on social media etc. They will be talking to each other on a daily basis and probably correct in observing that "just about everyone I talk to is against the cycleway". 20% of the population of a community seems like just the right number of people to create the classic 'bubble' or 'echo chamber'. At the end of the day though, it's still a minority and having based pretty much their whole campaign on simplistic, all-or-nothing 'majority wins' rhetoric it's probably time that cycleway opponents accepted that. As previously explained here and here the truth is that the vast majority of Island Bay either support the cycleway or just don't care.
Note 1. It is important to note that the consultation was never set up to be a referendum. Using the first preferences in this way is a bastardisation of the methodology in order to roughly establish the absolute number of people who were 'against the cycleway' if the consultation had been a simplistic first-past-the-post vote.
Note 2. (309 x 0.9) + (1,687 x 0.7) = 1,458
Note 3. There are other sources of evidence but they are even less robust and none of them disprove the theory that the maximum number of Island Bay residents actively opposed to the cycleway is approximately 1,500. For example, 1,365 people signed this petition against the cycleway but many of them will not be from Island Bay. Another example is the 2016 local body elections where anti-cycleway candidate Brendan Bonner got 800 first preference votes and 1,269 votes in total, picking up a large number of 2nd preference votes from Paul Eagle but still finishing a distant third behind pro-cycleway candidate David Lee's 2,475 first preference votes and 3,230 votes in total.
Note 4. 80% of 5,000 is 4,000. 4,000 - 1,500 = 2,500
Godwin's law reared its ugly head in Island Bay this weekend, but not for the first time
It's been hard to avoid the fall-out from the Island Bay Residents Association's protest march at the weekend. You can read The Dominion Post's report on the march here and Radio New Zealand's report here. Wellington City Council also issued a correction of some incorrect reporting here.
Unfortunately, at some point between the end of the march and early evening Godwin's law came into effect and as reported by the Dominion Post a Nazi sign taken to the protest was put on by-election candidate Fleur Fitzsimon's fence. The story was also picked up by the New Zealand Herald 'Return of the Third Reich' sign put on Wellington Council candidate's fence, the Otago Daily Times Council candidate victim of Nazi slur and Newshub Anti-cycleway protester compares opponent to the Nazis which hardly seems like the kind of publicity the residents association were looking for.
I obviously agree with Fleur that this was a stupid and disappointing act. The sign shouldn't have been on the march in the first place, especially not when it was being carried by the husband of the Chair of the Island Bay Residents Association. It's disturbing that apparently not one other person at the march thought that the sign was inappropriate and should maybe go in the bin.
However, I see things a little differently to Fleur when she says we need to "bring the community back together". I've said many times that I don't think the cycleway divided Island Bay, it simply revealed the diversity that was already here. A desire to "bring the community back together" could be seen to imply that it was united in the first place. I don't think it was united so much as it was unchallenged, although debates about the seawall, marine reserve etc showed some cracks. A desire to "bring the community back together" could also imply that diversity of views is a 'problem' that then needs to be fixed. But people should be able to disagree. In fact, it can be very healthy to get outside your bubble and be challenged by different views
I see the real problem here as one of civics and civility i.e. it's why and how we are disagreeing with each other that's the issue. First, too many people don't seem to understand and respect the way local government decision-making actually works. Second, we don't always seem able to engage in a debate in a civilised way. That's what we really need to fix and that's where we need to see greater community leadership.
And this is where it gets a bit tricky. Fleur is right that "this kind of messaging is totally unacceptable" but the uncomfortable truth is that this type of rhetoric is not new. In my opinion the tone of the cycleway debate in Island Bay was established and then enabled over a number of years primarily by two people; ex-councillor and current Rongotai MP Paul Eagle and current councillor Nicola Young. Paul and Nicola both used language and tropes throughout the cycleway debate that in my view were often inflammatory and inappropriate. For example, Paul Eagle has previously used the Twitter hashtag #WCCGestapo to refer to the former Mayor, council staff and cycle advocates.
In another example Nicola Young compares the handling of the cycleway to "the Soviet occupation of Berlin after 1945". I also remember ex-councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer referring to the "Green Taliban" during one council debate on the cycleway (that one will be on YouTube).
When community leaders use language like this is it any wonder that community members feel they have license to do the same? In this particular case I suspect that Fleur, as the Labour Party candidate, is on the receiving end of some anger in the Island Bay community regarding Paul Eagle's previous behaviour. Ironically, this includes his recent vote for the cycleway compromise which has been largely seen by cycleway opponents as a betrayal (for example in this Cook Strait News story on Vicki Greco's election campaign).
So if we really want to get Island Bay back to somewhere better I think we should focus on civics and civility and not some utopian ideal of "community" where we all think and act as one homogeneous hive-mind. I suspect that's what people who want to "bring the community back together" really mean anyway. In fact, Fleur subsequently clarified her own comments:
The point is you can't repair something unless you've correctly diagnosed what the problem is in the first place. I think we need to be much more honest about what really fueled the "division and tension" in Island Bay and that includes demanding much higher standards of behaviour from our community leaders. That also includes the organisations they belong to holding them to account. I applaud Mayor Justin Lester for his unequivocal statement about the Nazi sign that "I'd expect better standards from anybody who is elected to council, or running for council, or even aspiring for council. I'm disappointed by the behaviour". However, I have to wonder why Wellington City Council and the Labour Party a) never called Paul Eagle out on his own behaviour and b) actually seem to have rewarded him for it. There's a clear double standard at work here. As long as we're demanding apologies from people perhaps a sincere apology from Paul for his own behaviour over the past few years would be in order.
For my part, I still stand behind every word I've written across the Island Bay Cycle Way website, Facebook page & Twitter, and it's all still there for public scrutiny. I've certainly disagreed with people in the past but I've always tried to do it in a respectful way with my reasons fully explained, just as I have tried to do here. But that doesn't mean I haven't screwed up at some point and it's true that I've been accused of 'social media bullying' in general terms on a number of occasions, including by Paul Eagle himself [Note 1].
The interesting thing is that I'm yet to receive a single complaint about anything specific that I've written, the accusations have always been framed more broadly as "you're a social media bully". I've had plenty of positive feedback too, including being nominated for an NZTA Bike to the Future award, so I feel like I must be doing OK overall.
Regardless, if anyone has specific examples of when they think I've over-stepped the mark then please let me know. I will definitely take any issues raised very seriously.
Paul's accusation that I have been the "catalyst for lots of hate" towards him and his family is wide open to interpretation. On the one hand he could simply be highlighting that my criticism of his position on the cycleway led to others behaving inappropriately towards him and that might even be true. A less generous interpretation is that it was an attempt to use his position of power to try and publicly shame a constituent who hasn't actually done anything other than disagree with him.
I actually had the opportunity to discuss this with Paul in person in November 2016. The meeting was very amicable and when I asked him if he seriously believed that my criticism of him was illegitimate or that I should be held responsible for others' criticism of him of course he said no. He understood that as an elected representative he should expect his position on any matter to be publicly critiqued. He agreed that although what I had written often made him feel uncomfortable that I was well within my rights to say it. That tweet is still on his timeline though.
With Southern Ward by-election voting papers due to arrive in letterboxes any day now, here's everything you need to know about the candidates (or at least pretty much everything we could easily find out).
Here's links to their official WCC profile, their Cook Strait News profile, Scoop Wellington profile (if they have one), their Facebook page and their Twitter account (if they have one).
Scoop Wellington did a great write up of the Newtown Residents Association Meet the Candidates evening which you can read here.
Cycle Aware Wellington asked the candidates some questions about active transport and cycling. You can read their responses here.
Please let me know of any other interesting links and I'll add them.
The voting period for the election is 30 November - 22 December. Results will be announced on 28 December. Make sure you vote!
Mayor Justin Lester held a press conference this morning and proposed a compromise solution for the Island Bay Cycleway. The proposal is similar to the proposal put forward by council officers on Friday but with a few more tweaks. It looks like a pragmatic, sensible solution that carefully balances the differing views and needs of a variety of stakeholders.
Here's the video of the press conference:
Here's the full media release from the council:
Solution for Island Bay Cycleway launched
A compromise solution for the layout of The Parade will be proposed by Wellington City Councillors this week.
The proposed new layout (2MB) will have a dedicated cycleway between the footpath and the kerb at the same height, with cars once again parking up against the kerb.
The lanes on the road will be widened to 3.5 metres in each direction, and unmarked car parking will be restored along the length of The Parade.
“This is a common-sense solution that will improve the Parade for everyone,” Mayor Justin Lester said.
“It will mean the lanes on The Parade will be widened, the cycleway comes off the road, drivers will park against a fixed kerb and car parks will be saved.
“The outcome is a safer, separated cycleway, wider lanes on the road, and car parking available for residents and shoppers.”
The Council’s Walking, Cycling and Public Transport Portfolio Leader, Councillor Sarah Free, said the solution was informed by more than 3700 public submissions and discussions Councillors had at the drop-in sessions held in Island Bay earlier this year.
“There was a real diversity of opinion from the public – it was clear people weren’t anti-cycling but for a lot of people the current design simply wasn’t working. People wanted something that was safer, that gave drivers and buses more room to manoeuvre and that protected car parking, especially for local businesses. This solution achieves all of those goals.
“We will also make further safety improvements to reduce the cycling speed on the cycleway, be removing speed humps that were scraping against buses, and restoring angled car parking by the medical centre.
The new option would cost $4.1 million and be paid for out of existing council budgets, meaning no new rates money would be needed. A further $2 million will be set aside to reseal the road once the project is completed, and for contingencies.
Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle said the solution would make the Parade much better.
“People in Island Bay absolutely love their suburb, and they’re proud of The Parade. This solution sees the beautiful wide lanes restored, and the cycleway off the road. As an Island Bay resident, I’m thrilled.
“This has been a very long saga and it’s great we’ve got something that will work and that finds a good balance for most people. Not everyone will be happy, but I think most people will see we’ve done the best job possible of coming up with something that works.”
The option will be proposed as an amendment at Wednesday’s Council Meeting. If adopted, installation of the new layout will begin in early 2018. With this solution, the new design will include:
Here's the cross-section of the proposal:
I like pies and I like charts, so I really like pie charts. Here's the only chart you need to understand the latest Island Bay Cycleway consultation.
One of the most significant paragraphs in the Island Bay Cycleway Recommendations released by the council on Friday is this one on page 172:
Despite the fact that we have consistently been told that "the majority of Island Bay doesn't want the cycleway" only 24% of Island Bay residents actually participated in the final consultation. The truth is that the vast majority of Island Bay (76%) don't care enough about this issue to take 2 mins to fill in an online form.
The council have been absolutely clear that the consultation was not a vote but if you look at the preferences of those who did participate an even clearer picture emerges. According to page 187 of the report 59% of respondents from Island Bay expressed an overall general preference for a roadside cycleway and 41% expressed an overall general preference for a kerbside cycleway. These figures equate to 14% (24% x 59%) and 10% (24% x 41%) of the total population respectively (Note 1).
What this boils down to is that a grand total of 14% of the population of Island Bay expressed a clear preference for a roadside cycleway through this consultation. That is a long, long way from being any kind of majority. In fact, the majority of Island Bay (86%) have either expressed a preference for a kerbside cycleway or no preference at all.
In addition to the council's very clear statements that the consultation was not a vote another really important thing to remember is that it was a form of non-random, self-selecting survey. That means the quantitative 'results' can't be used to infer a result for the entire population, especially not with a 24% participation rate. This is just basic maths and has been discussed on this blog previously in regard to the Island Bay Residents Association's March 2016 survey and their mis-leading interpretation of the survey results. However, if we set those concerns aside for a moment and treat both the IBRA survey and the latest consultation results as at least indicative of the entire community's preferences we can see something else that is very interesting.
The residents association made the claim that their March 2016 survey showed 87% of Island Bay residents didn't want a kerbside cycleway. They have consistently stuck with that interpretation and repeated the claim as recently as the council's June 22 City Strategy Committee meeting. If that was true then the latest consultation results show a collapse in opposition to a kerbside cycleway from 87% to 59%. That's a 28% decline over just 18 months (Note 2) and if that trend continues then we can expect opposition to a kerbside cycleway to be in the minority within 6 months, by March 2018. That's actually prior to when work is expected to start on whatever option councillors agree on at this Wednesday's council meeting!
The consultation was not a vote but even so it provides more than enough evidence to conclusively state that the claim that the majority of Island Bay residents don't want a kerbside cycleway really is just pie in the sky.
The 59/41 split is based on the Borda counting method which takes into account 2nd, 3rd and 4th preferences to determine an overall general preference. The report also includes the first preference results in a chart on page 173. This shows an approximate 70/30 split using first preferences only. Using these figures would only change the percentage of the population of Island Bay expressing a clear preference for a roadside cycleway from 14% to 18%.
If the first preference split of 70/30 is used here instead of the Borda split of 59/41 there is still a 17% reduction in opposition to a kerbside cycleway over 18 months. If that trend continued then we could expect opposition to a kerbside cycleway to be in the minority within 21 months, by June 2019. That's less than 2 years, when the council is making a 20-30 year infrastructure decision.
News from Wellington City Council...
Work is continuing on the analysis of the 3763 submissions received on proposed options for a revamp of the cycleway on The Parade, Island Bay.
David Chick, Wellington City Council’s Chief City Planner, says the level of public engagement on the project has been encouraging and that it is great to see communities so involved in the future of the cycleway and The Parade.
“The volume of submissions and the depth of information we’ve received from members of the public is rich and detailed, which means we are forming a clearer picture of the aspirations and desire submitters have for The Parade. The Council will now review and decide on the final recommendations at its meeting on 27 September.
“This revised timeframe allows sufficient time to fully analyse the submissions and to prepare a well-briefed and scoped report for the Council to consider on 27 September. It also allows sufficient time for the independent peer reviews to be completed and considered,” Mr Chick says.
Since the period for submissions closed on 13 August the following process has been undertaken:
For further information please contact:
Media Manager | Communications & Engagement | Wellington City Council
P 04 801 3578 | M 021 227 8180 | F 04 801 3010
E firstname.lastname@example.org | W Wellington.govt.nz
The final consultation on the Island Bay Cycleway closes on Sunday 13 August at 9pm. If you haven't had your say yet please make sure you do! You can go straight to the online submission form by clicking this button:
If you support safe, comfortable cycling for all ages and abilities then the choice is clear. I recommend ranking Option C first, then B, then D. Any of those options would be a significant improvement on the current cycleway and make a big contribution to growing the number of people making active, sustainable transport choices. If you are concerned about the impact of lost parking at the Island Bay shops then you might want to consider ranking Option D first because under that option most of the parking is retained. You can read my full rationale in this blog: The final four options - analysis & recommendation. If you have time I also recommend reading the full Design Report and the Frequently Asked Questions.
The choice is clear. Are we going back to this?
Or do we move forward and build on this?
Choosing any other option than C, B or D would be a step backwards. Roadside bike lanes are not appropriate for a road with the volume of traffic that The Parade has and do not adhere to current NZTA guidelines. Implementing bike lanes that place a person on a bike within the 1.5m minimum safe passing distance recommended in the road code should be completely unacceptable. Just because that situation already exists in places around Wellington is no excuse. New projects must be built to current standards if there is the opportunity to do so. In most other situations we wouldn't even be questioning whether nationally recognised standards and the advice of technical experts should be ignored.
What happens in Island Bay will set a precedent for what happens across the rest of the Wellington Urban Cycleways Programme. While each area has its own set of circumstances that prevent a standard design or solution, we should always strive for the solution that maximises safety, comfort and the potential uptake along a route. Let's make sure that's what happens in Island Bay.
Thanks for your support. Let's do this!
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.
Kia ora koutou!
It takes 60 seconds to provide feedback on the Island Bay Cycleway. Could you please do it? Here’s the link.
I’m a cyclist, and so is everyone in my family, including my kids. So, I am here pleading for the protected kerb side Island Bay Cycleway. The outcome of the #LoveTheBay consultation on the cycleway will shape all future cycling infrastructure in Wellington (directly or indirectly).
Don’t ask the council to build cycling infrastructure for me. I am (barely) brave enough to share the roads with cars. Instead, please ask the council to build cycling infrastructure that will work for people of all ages and all cycling abilities.
My 5 year old daughter, who just learned how to ride without the training wheels. My 8 year old son who loves to go on Mountain Bike trails with me. My mum who loves biking but is terrified of the traffic. They all love cycling. And they are all vulnerable riders when they are on the road. However, they are also hazards for pedestrians when they’re cycling on footpaths.
My vision for Wellington is for an inclusive city, with complete streets that offer multiple transport options including active transport (i.e. cycling and walking facilities) for all ages and all abilities.
Did you know that recent surveys indicated that 76% of New Zealanders would cycle if they had access to segregated cycling infrastructure? So, here’s your chance to start giving it to them.
My favourite design options for the cycleway are C, B and D (in that order). All design information about the cycleway is on the Wellington City Council website if you would like to know more about it.
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