Research finds support for cycleway

A surprising number of Wellingtonians are happy to sacrifice on-street parking in favour of safe cycle routes, according to new research by Victoria University students.

Wellington couple Jean Beetham and Ed Randal both completed masters degrees in environmental studies last year, which focused on cycling in the capital.

Beetham investigated the feasibility of an arterial cycleway between Wellington's southern suburbs and city centre, including a Tory St route, and business impacts from removing some on-street car parks.

"The reason I did the research is I started noting from people anecdotally that they would like to cycle in Wellington, but didn't, because they felt unsafe."

The research involved an online survey of 600 people and a survey of 400 Tory St shoppers. About 60 per cent of non-cyclists supported sacrificing on-street car parks for a cycle route, citing concerns for cyclist safety and the stress of sharing roads with them.

"That really surprised me," she said.

About half the respondents said they would consider biking in the city if they felt safer on the roads.

A separate survey of Tory St shoppers found only 6 per cent used on-street parking on Tory St.

"The private market is able to supply car parking and it does, but it can't supply cycleways because they're not something that can be charged for.

"If we used some of our public road space to implement cycle ways strategically in selected streets, it would very likely reduce cycling-related deaths and accidents, and encourage cycling."

Randal, who worked for the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities, focused his research on how to get more Wellingtonians cycling.

Promoting recreational cycling on Wellington's tracks to non-cyclists would boost their confidence on a bicycle and could increase commuter cycling.

"Even though Wellington has the highest rate of serious harm or death for cyclists in the country, it is also one of the only main urban centres in New Zealand where commuter cyclist numbers are still going up," he said.

Beetham presented her findings to Wellington City Council late last year and had since started working on similar research city-wide for Opus Research, which had been contracted to assist the council in its push to make the city more cycle-friendly.

The council significantly beefed up its annual cycling budget from $1.3 million last year to $4.3m for the year starting July 1.

"It is very encouraging to get some independent verification of what we have been thinking," acting mayor Justin Lester said.

However, he noted the council would consult extensively before any car parking was changed.

A new round of public consultation over one of its major initiatives, a new cycleway from Island Bay to the city, would start in a few months once detailed designs were finalised. About 50 on-street car parks in residential areas were likely to vanish as a result of that cycleway.

Cycling Advocates Network spokesman Patrick Morgan, who is in Adelaide with about 15 other Wellingtonians for an international conference on cycling, welcomed the research but noted there was "no silver bullet" to solving the city's cycling woes.

Cities around the world were looking to use roads for cycling and walking rather than private parking.

"Our streets are the most valuable real estate we own. We need to give that back to people. We are talking about shifting parking, not getting rid of it."

The Dominion Post