In today's Dominion Post Councillor Nicola Young argues that cycle lanes are a good idea but must be based on sound planning and "hard evidence". It's a shame then that her article is so mis-leading.
"In the past few days Statistics NZ has released its 2013 Census data, which means we can map the commuting journeys made by cyclists"
This isn't actually correct. The census data about main means of travel to work was first released by Statistics NZ nearly a year ago as part of the Meshblock dataset release: http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/data-tables/meshblock-dataset.aspx. No new data about cycling or mode of travel to work was released in the Quick Stats on Feb 3 or in the subsequent NZ.Stat: Transport and communications release on Feb 10 that Councillor Young is referring to. All that is new is the way the data is presented. The data about main means of travel to work has already been thoroughly analysed by people with an interest in cycling like Cycle Aware Wellington who published these visualisations in April 2014: http://cyclingwellington.co.nz/2014/05/census-data-visualised/
"Across the city in the past decade, the numbers cycling to work have increased by approximately 100 per cent, relatively slight (and off a low base) compared to the 200 per cent rise in the CBD, where our population growth has been greatest"
This statement is true but ignores the fact that only 72 people living in the 'Willis St-Cambridge Tce' Area Unit being referred to by Councillor Young cycled to work on census day in 2013. Not only is this a low number in absolute terms it represents a mode share of only 1.7%. In the adjacent 'Lambton' Area Unit only 42 people cycled to work, a mode share of 1.6%. For comparison, 228 people biked to work from Island Bay (7.5% mode share), 105 from Berhampore (7.5%) and 282 from Newtown (7.8%). The fact is that very few people living in the CBD actually cycle to work. Most of them (around 70%) walk or jog.
"Common sense says new cycle lane infrastructure around the CBD would have that maximum impact, rather than a location like Island Bay, which in commuting terms is very much "end of the line""
When Councillor Young describes somewhere like Island Bay as being the "end of the line" in commuting terms she's got it the wrong way round. Places like Island Bay, Miramar and Karori are actually the "start of the line". The vast majority of people going to work by bike start their journey in the suburbs and travel into the CBD. You clearly won't get more people commuting by bike if you only improve the infrastructure in the CBD, which is at the end of their journey. Common sense says that at the very least you need to strike a sensible balance between projects focused on the routes coming in from the suburbs and projects in the CBD. The data on its own simply doesn't support any other conclusion.
A discussion about prioritising cycleways is also not just about commuter cyclists. Suburban cycleways make it much safer and easier for residents to get around their local area, including children, the elderly and other people not comfortable riding on the road. For Councillor Young to refer to the Island Bay cycleway as a "cycleway to nowhere" dismisses the needs of those users as being irrelevant. This is also why the kind of data-driven approach being advocated by Councillor Young is flawed. The biggest beneficiaries of protected cycleways are the very people who don't feature in existing cycling datasets because they don't currently cycle. Yes, data can be helpful, but it is not the full picture and used carelessly it can actually be mis-leading.