I attended Wellington City Council's City Strategy Committee meeting on Thursday morning to talk about their new proposal for funding The Parade upgrade by rolling it into a $32 million integrated plan for the southern suburbs, including the Newtown Connections project.
Here's what I had to say:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning in support of the Southern Connection Cycleway Development paper.
I'll get straight to the point - I think the funding opportunity presented in this paper is simply too good to ignore despite some reservations about the delays it will cause to starting work on The Parade upgrade.
When I first read the paper I was disappointed that it meant work not starting for another year, although I'm glad to see that you are planning some much needed remedial work in the meantime.
However, on further reading I decided that on balance the opportunity to roll The Parade upgrade into an integrated plan for the southern suburbs is the right way to go.
The Island Bay cycleway was always intended to be just the first stage of a safe and comfortable cycling route all the way into the CBD.
So apart from the obvious financial benefit what's pleasing to see about this proposal is Island Bay again being recognised as part of a network plan.
What's even more pleasing is the recognition that cycling networks are not just about commuter routes to and from the CBD but also the inter-suburb connections.
Largely because of geography Island Bay, Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook are intimately connected and good transport connections between them are really important to the people who live there.
My sons are 10 and 12 and they often ride their bikes from Island Bay up to Berhampore to visit their Grandma. The first part of the journey along the cycleway is sweet. The second part is a nightmare and so they ride on the pavement.
As a family one of our most frequent destinations is Newtown. That's a journey of a just a few kilometres that we would love to bike more often and which is exactly the type of short, local journey you should trying to encourage people to get out of their cars for.
Island Bay absolutely should be brought back into a strategic business case for the southern suburbs and aligned with the Newtown Connections project.
I do think there are some risks with this approach:
An obvious one is that the extended time-frame provides more opportunity for attempts at re-litigation.
There's also the risk that NZTA don't come to the party.
But with both of those risks I think whether they actually turn into issues is entirely within your power to control.
If you are divided over this plan then it's a self-fulfilling prophesy that these risks will become issues. If you are united they won't.
Even in respect to NZTA's involvement I think that if you are united behind this plan then NZTA are far more likely to come on board. If you're divided that's less likely.
So yes, there are some risks to be managed. However, there's also some really good people among the council officers in this room and there's some really good people around this council table. The bottom line for me is that I trust you.
I'm pleased to report that councillors supported the proposal unanimously.
I was also very impressed by the comments made in support of this by councillors. It was a positive, well informed and forward-looking discussion and the most united I have ever seen the council be around anything Island Bay Cycleway related. It really feels like we are all starting to understand what we are collectively trying to achieve.
Read the council's media release here: Council to work with the Government on walking and cycling