Cycleway expert touts fast-track approach as solution to Wellington's woes

Canadian urban transport specialist Tyler Golly visited Wellington to talk about Edmondton's journey towards building a ...
AMBER-LEIGH WOOLF/STUFF

Canadian urban transport specialist Tyler Golly visited Wellington to talk about Edmondton's journey towards building a successful cycleway network.

Cycleway success in Wellington could mean flexible trials before permanent changes to city infrastructure, a cycleway expert says.

Urban transportation specialist Tyler Golly said having an "adaptable" design was a lesson he learned from achieving cycleway success in Edmonton, Canada.

An adaptive design meant having a cycleway that could be improved over time, he said.

"Sometimes, there's people that are just worried," Golly said.

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"What we found is if we took an adjustable design ... we have a much better conversation with people who might have legitimate concerns."

At a heated debate last month, the Wellington City Council voted to compromise on the contentious Island Bay cycleway design to address concerns some people had about the cycle lane that was built along The Parade in 2016.

The $4.1 million solution will widen both road lanes on The Parade to 3.5 metres, and restore unmarked car parking along its length to ease public concerns.

Golly has worked on the Edmonton cycleway project since 2008, building almost 8km of cycleways in one year and increasing cycleway use by 90 per cent in a month.

Wellington was in a similar place with "a list" of plans, he said.

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"All the challenges that you have, from what I have heard, are similar to other cities."

Golly made a presentation at the City Gallery about Edmonton's journey on Friday, spelling out how the "rapid implementation" approach boosted cycleway support there.

The Edmonton project was presented to the council in 2009 and got the green light with "zero dollars to make it happen", he said.

"All good things start with a plan."

But Edmonton's cycleway plans were not an instant success.

In the early days, the city's mayor called the bike lanes "a nightmare" and some were ripped out, Golly said.

At that rate of the development, bike lanes would not open there until 2020, he said.

"That caused a lot of frustration."

People found a lengthly, six-part consultation process very difficult to accept, he said.

They decided to fast-track the pilot in a rapid implementation approach, which meant using infrastructure that allowed for adjustment to test "bugs" before the cycleways were permanent, he said.

The council approved it after 46 letters from Edmonton businesses wrote to it in support.

By 2013, the network had increased to 230km of on-street bike routes.

"They weren't perfect, they were painted bike lanes ... but even still, we were increasing the numbers."

Lessons learned included looking to other city's experiences and creating adaptable designs that allowed adjustment and improvement over time, he said.

It was important to focus on projects which would show value fast.

"If you don't do that, you will just lose public support."

Work to boost support included making the Edmonton cycle lanes attractive, including placing plant boxes around them, he said.

"People don't value something unless you show them that it's valuable."

With business and community support, the uptake of Edmonton's cycle lanes increased 90 per cent in one month, he said.

Speaking before the presentation, Wellington city councillor Sarah Free said most progressive cities were striving to achieve what Edmonton had.

Wellington was making progress on its cycleway masterplan by revisiting the controversial Island Bay cycleway, and by making minor progress on the CBD cycleways and looking to connect the Eastern Suburb's by cycleway, she said.

After the presentation, Cycling Action Network project manager Patrick Morgan said he was assured Wellington was on the right path.

He had confidence that if the cycleways were not working, the council had the ability and to improve them.

 - Stuff

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