City council plans triple boost to cycling spend

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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Wellington's green-tinged council is planning to triple the amount it spends on cycling in its next budget.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown - whose campaign pledges included investment in a "good, safe cycling network into and across the CBD" - said the top priority would be a southern route, connecting Island Bay with the central city, via Newtown.

The city council comprises six new members, several of whom had cycling improvements as a major platform during this year's election campaign.

Two of the new councillors, Sarah Free and David Lee, are Green Party members.

The council's long-term plan had committed $1.3 million to cycle lanes and safety initiatives for the 2014-15 year, but councillors announced yesterday that they plan to raise that to $4.3m.

Last month the council indicated it was eyeing a 2.5 per cent rates increase.

Ms Wade-Brown said there were options for a southern route, both on and off-road, and it was possible more than one could be developed.

She could not say how much of the increased budget might go towards the route.

The important thing was increasing the budget, to help the city catch up on cycling infrastructure after years of neglect, and attract new cyclists who were too nervous to hop on a bike.

Transport and urban development committee chairman Andy Foster said it was possible most of the money could go towards the southern route. "The higher the quality of the facility we provide, the higher the cost," he said.

The funding boost would have to be balanced against other priorities in the annual plan, but cycling was growing in popularity and facilities had to improve.

"Commuter cycling numbers in Wellington doubled between 2006 and 2012 despite relatively little investment prior to 2009, so there's obvious evidence of demand."

The proposed funding was welcomed by the Cycling Advocates Network, whose spokesman, Patrick Morgan, said it would mean greater safety for cyclists.

"We need protected cycle lanes on the main routes."

While the plan was to start with the southern route, other areas needed attention, including improving problem intersections and Thorndon Quay and Hutt Rd, which was judged "most room for improvement" at the Roll Out Wellington cycle awards last night.

Mr Foster said improvements had been made to Thorndon Quay already.

Hutt Rd was a priority, but would not be funded through this project as it would be addressed through motorway projects and the Great Harbour Way cycle path.

The Automobile Association also welcomed a boost for cycling funding. Spokesman Dylan Thomsen said it would make sharing the road easier for motorists and cyclists, and wherever possible the organisation wanted separate cycle lanes.

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Surveys showed 86 per cent of AA members wanted to see cycling facilities improved, he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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