New Wellington Mayor Justin Lester recently announced portfolios for the new council. Incumbent councillor Sarah Free will take on the public transport portfolio, as well as cycling and walking, and new councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman will focus on transport strategy and operations. So what can we expect for cycling from our new transport overlords? The good news is that both scored pretty highly in our pre-election survey of bike-friendliness. Here are Chris and Sarah's responses from when they were questioned by Cycle Aware Wellington before the election.
Do you ride a bike: what for (recreation, commuting, trips to the shop, etc), and how often?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: I ride bikes mainly for recreation. I have an electric bike. Up until 2013 when I lived in west London I rode almost daily, and taught my young son to ride confidently in traffic. Now in Wellington, the cycling conditions are not as conducive, as the traffic speeds tend to be much higher but I enjoy riding recreationally just the same.
Sarah Free: Yes, commuting about once or twice a week, recreation once a week.
What best describes your attitude to riding a bike: “strong and fearless”, “enthused and confident”, “interested but concerned”, or “no way no how”?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: Enthused and confident.
Sarah Free: Enthused and confident
Should we encourage more bike trips as part of Wellington’s transport network?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: Absolutely.
Sarah Free: Definitely!
What should WCC’s annual cycling budget be (excluding central government funding)? $5 million, $10 million, $20 million?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: Probably about $10 million annually. However I’m aware there is considerable central government funding available including for the Great Harbour Way between Miramar and the central city. I would want to see a lineup of schemes in design before I committed to an annual budget as I believe the consultation problems that beset the Island Bay cycleway illustrates the problem of having an annual budget and pressure to deliver from it within a single year.
Sarah Free: $10 million in the short term (at least 5 years) while we build the main cycle network, dropping to $5 million as we do more minor works and maintenance.
Do you support slower speeds in the Wellington CBD?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: Speeds on the Golden Mile have already been reduced. While lower speed limits are a useful reminder to some drivers, many take their cue from the prevailing road conditions. There are ways of altering these “cues” such as lane narrowing and of course traffic calming, depending on circumstances. If a blanket reduction in speed limits is set it needs to be enforced.
Sarah Free: Yes, apart from the main through-routes which I think should stay at 50 Km/hr.
Do you support removal of parking if necessary to provide cycleways, for example on the Hutt Road cyclepath?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: Yes, where necessary and practical. Free parking for businesses should be secondary to road safety and the provision of good quality cycling infrastructure. There are often creative ways of dealing with residential parking, for example making provision for displaced car parking on side roads. Wherever possible we should look for a win-win as otherwise the removal of parking can simply inflame anti-cyclist tensions.
Sarah Free: Yes, but other parking solutions should be found.
What is your preferred solution for the Island Bay cycleway?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: That’s a difficult one. I think it was well-intentioned but ill-advised as the carriageway width is just slightly too narrow for what was implemented. I don’t believe it’s seriously deficient as a design, but it falls short of best-practice. My main concern is that if faster cyclists prefer to stay on the main carriageway they can be abused by drivers. I believe the council should have taken a more in-depth look at the parking demand – much of it probably comes from commuters, not locals, so displacing some of this parking would not necessarily have been problematic. The solution might be to remove parking from one side of the road and spread everything else out, although I appreciate this would be expensive and untidy and could further inflame local tensions. The main lesson to learn is to undertake more in-depth planning and consultation before embarking on such projects.
Sarah Free: First, I’d like to see some adjustments made to the existing design to reduce the cycleway width slightly on both sides and make the width consistent for the whole length, which would allow more space in the carriageway for vehicle traffic and buses. Also cats-eyes or some other treatment on the edge of the cycleway so people don’t park over the lines. But if the community comes up with an alternative idea that has widespread buy-in I’d be happy to support it.
What do you see as the three most important cycling projects to implement in the next year?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: 1. The Cobham Drive/Evans Bay Parade section of the Great Harbour Way, as a protected cycleway. This will probably be a 2-4 year project but designs must commence soon. There’s no reason why the Cobham Drive section can’t be built this summer, as it’s not problematic. 2. The Hutt Road cycleway, provided it isn’t compromised by the retention of footway parking. 3. Planning for a high quality cycle route at both ends of the proposed second Mt Victoria traffic tunnel, with a proper segregated route through the eventual tunnel itself of course.
Sarah Free: Hutt Cycleway, Miramar cutting to Waitangi Park around the Bays route, Uphill route on Brooklyn Road
Do you think electric assist bikes are a good way to encourage more cycling?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: Definitely.
Sarah Free: Yes, they will be transformational.
Do you have any other comments on cycling in Wellington?
Chris Calvi-Freeman: Providing safe infrastructure is a real challenge with Wellington’s narrow and hilly streets. But as Mandela said, it was only impossible until it was done!
Sarah Free: We’ve actually come a long way in three years…. Who would have thought we’d be talking about a cycling budget of $37 million!! But we need to keep talking to all sorts of people and explain the WHY of getting a better and safer cycling network. Although people who cycle often wish we could move faster, I personally believe we need to make haste slowly and build a widespread groundswell of support- this will come as kids take up bikes in schools, retired people buy eBikes and school kids start to ride to school and sport.
Chris wrote extensively about his policies on wider transport issues on his website prior to the election. Sarah also wrote a few words about her new role here.
They have a tough job ahead of them on the long walk (and bike) to Free-dom so good luck to them both!
Here's Bob Mould singing Husker Du's "In a Free Land" with J Mascis and Lou Barlow from Dinosaur Jr because why not?