Here's 8 reasons to be optimistic about Wellington City Council's new Bike Network Plan
Yesterday Wellington City Council voted 14-2 to consult on their new Bike Network Plan. Only Councillors Diane Calvert and Simon Woolf voted against it (you know what to do voters in Wharangi/Onslow-Western Ward). Nicola Young voted against part of it. You can read the full council paper here. Georgina Campbell wrote this excellent analysis in the Herald and Joel McManus also wrote this great piece for Stuff.
The plan looks good and results in 147km of cycleways in total. 23km of that is existing. 34km in the CBD will be delivered by Let's Get Wellington Moving. The remaining 90km will be delivered by Wellington City Council over the next 10 years. By that time most of the city will be within 500m of a bike lane.
It's worth noting that 147km is still only 20% of approx 700km of roads and footpaths in Wellington. So anybody who thinks this means being 'forced' to bike anywhere can take a deep breath and sit back down. At best this is a minor dent in the status quo. You will still be able to drive and walk everywhere.
We've seen these kind of 'cycling masterplans' before but with very little change as a result. 23km of existing bike lanes on 700km of Wellington roads (about 3%) speaks for itself. So what makes this any different? Here's 8 reasons why I think there's cause for some cautious optimism this time around.
1. There's explicit reference in the plan to WCC's new Parking Policy. It sounds boring but it's a crucial enabler that didn't previously exist. The entire Newtown Connections Project was put on hold because of the lack of a Parking Policy so it's good to see it talked about right up front here.
2. There's also a clear connection made to the recently approved Spatial Plan. Holy smokes! Are we actually recognising the significant inter-dependencies between housing and transport? Are we really gonna talk about cycling and active transport in a context of enabling greater urban density? Hell yeah!
3. This is a funded plan! Wellington City Council set aside $226m in their latest Long Term Plan for this. That's never been the case before. "Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value" etc.
4. The draft plan identifies the streets that will be affected. That's hugely important and again, hasn't happened before. It will definitely kick off an outpouring of localised angst about loss of free on-street parking but it also creates much-needed certainty and at least gives those residents and businesses the ability to plan ahead.
5. The plan proposes using Innovating Streets processes and temporary traffic management to deliver a transitional programme. I don't want to sound snarky but "improvements will be delivered quickly and then monitored, evaluated and adapted" is a major change in approach for WCC and they've already proved they can do it with the Brooklyn Hill cycleway.
6. Two of those transitional projects are already identified (between Newtown and the city, and the Botanic Garden ki Paekākā and the city) and work will start this financial year! If they move as fast as they did with the Brooklyn uphill lane they could both be completed by early 2022. At this point I think I need a lie down.
7. Consultation on the plan will happen at the same time as consultation on Lets Get Wellington Moving and the draft district plan as part of telling "an integrated story of the city’s growth and transformation". OK, so that sounds a bit buzz-wordy but wow - I think we're finally starting to see the big picture that housing and transport are interdependent and you can't really fix one without fixing the other - who would have thought?
8. A high level traffic resolution will be used to signal to property owners and residents which streets are part of the network. This shows real intent by WCC and again, hasn't happened before. I dunno, it's like the council might actually do this.
It gets better. Plans to finally upgrade The Parade after 4 years of waiting are imminent. Watch this space.