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Politics, bureaucracy stop Island Bay cyclists in their new bike track

Jan 15th, 2015 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Lead Story, Most Popular, News


TOWN PATH: The Island Bay cycleway upgrade would ultimately create a complete route to the city.

A NEW year was supposed to bring an upgraded cycleway to Island Bay, but politics and red tape have cast doubt over exactly when the project will become reality.

A February 3 meeting has been called for by eight Wellington City councillors.

They propose that all decision-making on cycleways should be made by full council and a master plan of all related projects reviewed in the long term plan.

If approved, the decision is likely to halt construction of the cycleway.

Councillor David Lee, who voted in favour of the cycleway, says he thinks the proposals will be successful.

“It’s just another delay tactic to undermine the project,” says Mr Lee, who represents the Southern Ward.

“We’ve seen this before. It’s almost verbatim to the same motion last year which failed [to stop the cycleway].”

Mr Lee believes some of the eight councillors have been swayed by a vocal few.

“If you over-consult, you do nothing.”

Councillor Paul Eagle, who is the other representative for the Southern Ward, backed the notice of motion being discussed but was not available for comment at the time of publication.

The planned cycleway stretches from Shorland Park up The Parade to Wakefield Park, and Wellington City Council ultimately intends to connect existing routes with the city.

The proposed cycleways design drew passionate responses, with 729 submissions, 45% of which were opposed to the plan.

The final design for the upgraded Island Bay route was given the green light at a crowded December 3 transport and urban development committee meeting. Councillors took over four hours to deliberate the issue.

“Transport projects are always divisive but I feel if we don’t agree on this, it will be very hard for us to make a decision on anything else,” committee chairperson Andy Foster said during the meeting.

The extension is the first step of a greater transport strategy to make it easier to commute by cycling.

“It brings Wellington on par with other international cities with strong urban transport routes such as Melbourne and Amsterdam,” Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said.

During the meeting’s public submissions, few people were applauding the council’s proposal.

One of the few supporters was Patrick Morgan, chairperson of the Cycle Awareness Network.

“It’s a project which is forward thinking. The current cycleway isn’t actually fully joined, which makes it dangerous.”

He wants an explanation from councillors who backed the February meeting.

“It’s a disappointing attempt to stop this worthy project but I’m sure we’ll overcome this new hurdle,” says Mr Morgan.

Other residents who spoke at the December meeting were sceptical of the benefit it would have.

“The boundary lines could maybe use a good lick of paint but otherwise I don’t think the changes would increase safety,” said Island Bay resident Francesca Grant.

“In fact, narrowing the road could make it worse.”

The Parade will be narrowed to make way for a cycleway lane shifted from its current position alongside traffic, to be next to the curb with parking spaces separating it from the rest of the road.

“Safety experts recommended widening the gap between the cycleway lane and the road but the current design has a 60 cm buffer, which we feel is enough,” the project’s chief engineer Joe Hewitt, told the December meeting.

To date $1.68 million has been spent on the project, which is $400,000 more than the expected budget.

Some residents were unhappy with the consultation process, saying the way a feedback form was written forced them to respond in favour of the project.

Councillor Foster said the consultation process led the council to improve the way it received community input.

“I think we’ve learnt from this experience as we can see in projects like the Island Bay Seawall. To be fair to council officers, they did their best to engage with the community,” Mr Foster said.

Councillors were encouraged by a central government initiative to fund half the budget for eligible cycleway projects, with councils paying the rest.

“The government is allocating $10o million in funding for urban cycle routes and we have to ask ourselves whether we want to be a part of that,” Ms Wade-Brown said.

Councillors Nicola Young and Jo Coughlan were the only committee members to vote against the final design.

“We don’t even know if we will get this funding,” Ms Young said.

Ms Coughlan objected to the decision not being made by the whole council, also saying the design, built to international codes and being piloted in the Island Bay, may not necessarily translate well in Wellington.

Construction was planned to start in February after two independent safety audits.

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