Safe cycling plan faces big blowout
Plans to triple the amount Wellington spends on cycling are already facing a budget blowout as the needs of cyclists and motorists clash.
Much of the proposed $4.3 million the city council aims to spend on cycling improvements has been earmarked for the route from Island Bay, through Newtown, to the city centre.
But those plans have already had a spoke thrown in their wheel because of the extra costs involved in replacing roadside parking spaces that would be lost to cycling lanes.
If the safest and most expensive of several options is chosen, it could double the bill.
The proposed $4.3m cycling budget is included in Wellington City Council's draft Annual Plan heading out for public feedback. The aim is to maintain that spending in following years.
Some of next year's budget will go to small improvements around the city, such as replacing grates and smoothing road surfaces, but most has been earmarked for the Island Bay route, a council committee was told this week.
Potentially, that means up to three years of the budget could be spent on just one route.
Choices get especially complicated on the narrow 2.5-kilometre stretch along Adelaide Rd, where there are few ways to compensate for lost parking without big budget implications.
For the safest option - marked cycle lanes on both sides of the road, raised to be level with pedestrians - the cost would go from $5m to $8.5m if 133 lost car parks were replaced with on-street parking, and as high as $10.8m if community off-street car parks were built on reserve land, the council's safe and sustainable transport manager, Paul Barker, told the council's transport and urban development committee this week.
Committee chairman Andy Foster said it was not surprising that budgets would be markedly increased by parking replacement, as the biggest problem was always going to be how to allocate space on narrow roads.
The question would come down to how much the council wanted to invest in each route. The safest options for the 19 routes around the city were unlikely, as they would mean years of the budget being soaked up for each project.
It was important that projects were prioritised, and public feedback was taken into account, he said. However, he acknowledged the debate "could get heated".
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade- Brown - a cyclist who lives in Island Bay - was not prepared to put her weight behind any of the options at this stage.
She said she knew from personal experience that cycling in the "door zone" along Adelaide Rd was not much fun. Whichever option the council eventually settled on, it was likely some existing parking would be sacrificed.
"There will naturally be compromises along the way, but we do want to make the city safer for cycling . . . Wellington is not good enough for cyclists yet."
Cycling Advocates Network spokesman Patrick Morgan said the raised cycle lanes would be the preferred option for cyclists, but he warned discussions should not be touted as a battle between car parks and cyclists. It was important to get the Island Bay route right, as it would set the path for the development of other routes.
"We don't want it to turn in to a shitfight between people on bikes and everyone else."
The Dominion Post