Basin Reserve Inquiry
The Basin Reserve flyover will come complete with a fancy new $6 million overbridge for cyclists, but will they actually use it?
That was the concern on the minds of an independent board of inquiry at the flyover's resource consent hearing in Wellington this morning.
Board member David Collins raised the issue with Wellington City Council chief transport planner Steve Spence as they discussed the proposed shared pedestrian and cycle path that will run alongside the proposed $90m flyover, 20 metres north of the Basin.
The New Zealand Transport Agency plans to build the shared path at the same time as the flyover and eventually connect it to another shared path inside a second Mt Victoria Tunnel.
But Mr Collins said most Wellingtonians seemed to enjoy cycling around the bays rather than going through the existing tunnel, even though the path around the bays was not ideal.
"Cyclists don't mind biking further because they enjoy it. What they don't want is to be mixing it with traffic."
He asked Mr Spence what confidence he had that cyclists would actually use the new path.
It was an important question, he said, because the board needed to fully explore the agency's claim that the flyover would benefit cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists.
Mr Spence said it was clear from the number of complaints received by the council that the existing tunnel was deterring more people from cycling.
He believed a better facility through the new tunnel would entice more Hataitai residents on to bikes.
Board member James Baines took the discussion further by questioning the agency's plan to "improve" pedestrian and cycle facilities around the Basin by converting many of the surrounding footpaths into shared paths.
He noted that the footpaths were already quite heavily used by pedestrians at certain times of the day, particularly before and after school.
He questioned how adding cyclists into the mix would constitute a benefit, especially since there were no plans to widen any of the paths.
Mr Spence said the benefit to both groups would be less cars in the area and more crossing time at intersections.
Cycling around Wellington was quite hazardous at present and the council was keen to find more space for bikes, he said.
But he added that the board was quite right to question the logic behind the agency's design.
Mr Baines asked why a pedestrian underpass, or subway, similar to the one at Wellington Railway Station had not been considered at the Basin Reserve.
Mr Spence said subways tended to be unpopular with pedestrians because people on foot did not like having to change level.
But he admitted that if a subway was designed well enough, much like at the railway station, then pedestrians would make use of it.