Flashback Friday: Cycling projects around Wellington

As I mentioned last week, I missed attending the just-finished 2WALKandCYCLE Conference in Wellington, but I’m actually now up in our capital city for a little holiday. I guess you could call it a “busman’s holiday” as I’ll be jumping on a bike to have a look around at some of the recent cycling developments – will report on those in due course. While some of the latest cycleways in Wellington are certainly impressive (even if occasionally controversial…), the region has in fact been quietly chipping away at their biking network for quite some time. In fact, back in late 2015 I was there and saw some pretty interesting developments already, as reported in this blog originally from Dec 2015

Follow the pink cycleway into Auckland (c/ willduadua)
Follow the pink cycleway into Auckland (c/ willduadua)

It’s great to see so much happening around Christchurch on the cycling front, but we’re certainly not the only ones in NZ at present. The Urban Cycleways Programme is generating some great projects all over the country; for example, there was a lot of fanfare regarding the opening last week of the new bright pink Te Ara I Whiti “Lightpath” cycleway in Auckland, leading riders through the motorway Spaghetti Junction and down Nelson St towards the waterfront via separated bikeway. Between this and some of the other recent cycleway works up there, I’m looking forward to checking them out when I make a few visits there next year.

{P.S: if you’re looking for another excuse to visit Auckland, have a think about the 2WALKandCYCLE 2016 national walking and cycling conference in the City of Sails next July…}

In the Wellington region, there is also a lot of work underway to create some new cycleways, despite some of the controversies dredged up with some of them. I was in Wellington recently for a meeting of the Active Modes Infrastructure Group (a national working group who consider potential changes to signs, markings, rules and design standards for walking and cycling) and, while we were there, we were lucky to do some site visits to what’s been happening around the Greater Wellington region.

An interesting bike parking “tree” at Redwood Station, Tawa

Even before the Urban Cycleways Programme got underway, there have been various projects happening around Wellington, especially in the suburbs. For example, the Tawa Valley Pathway has been slowly developing between the Porirua Stream and the railway corridor in Tawa, providing a 5km connection the length of the valley.

Good signage marks the way along the Tawa Valley Pathway

It’s interesting, in the wake of the unfortunate cycling accident in South Hagley Park last week, that one section of the Tawa Pathway sandwiched between the railway and the stream has fencing on the railway side but not down to the stream…

Hmm, which one is the real risk?

The other popular river route in Wellington is the Hutt River Trail, running 29km from the Rimutakas to Petone. While it started out as predominantly a recreational route, increasingly it is proving to be a handy cycle commuting route too. However, in trying to keep out motorbikes from the trail, some of the barriers seem rather overzealous if you’re on a bike with panniers (not to mention large prams and wheelchair users) and that has caused some angst amongst the locals.

A tight squeeze for some path users…

One of the first Urban Cycleway Programme projects to get underway was the Pukeatua bridge at the top of Wainuiomata Hill in Lower Hutt. This allows both recreational and commuter cyclists to safely get across a busy 80km/h road and connect with the many pathways in the area (including new 4m-wide pathways alongside the main highway).

The Pukeatua Bridge certainly catches your attention…

It’s certainly a nice bridge and allows access to some of the best views of Wellington Harbour as well – well worth the ride up!

Cross the bridge, then check out the view

A really neat programme being trialled around Wellington is a Bikes in Schools scheme; this is where Council helps to fund the construction of bike tracks at a school and provide a fleet of bikes. Some of you may recall that a similar scheme was set up locally by Kendal School in Burnside before it was closed.

Bikes and tracks all ready to go at Holy Cross School, Miramar

One of the initial sites in Wellington was Holy Cross School in Miramar. School kids showed us how they take full advantage of a fantastic resource right on the school site (and out of hours, the tracks are freely available to the public). A fleet of 50 bikes (safely stored away in a container at the end of each day) covers all sizes of kids.

Riding a sealed circuit, with a pump track in the background

Kids have a choice of a smooth sealed circuit, a skills tracks with obstacles, and a pump track with lots of undulations. Each class gets regular time with the bikes and they can also use them at play times. Wellington City is funding $200,000/year for other schools to become part of the programme.

Negotiating the skills track obstacles

Unused utility corridors are another potential opportunity for providing useful biking connections. In Kilbirnie, the new Leonie Gill Pathway follows such a route for 1100m (and connects to neighbouring Rongotai College); the land was always there, it was just a matter of creating a new sealed pathway (and some raised crossings over minor streets).

Part of the Leonie Gill Pathway – easy to create when you already have the land

In central Wellington, the new Pukeahu National War Memorial Park is a really nice space for walking and cycling (now that traffic is tunnelled out of the way). One initial glitch in the shared spaces was the use of very subtle low kerbs that had a habit of tripping up unwary cyclists; now they have either chamfered down some of these edges or installed some more obvious stone blocks.

Riding through the National War Memorial Park – notice the kerb edges though

Nearby, the Wellington Inner City Bypass has a shared pathway running adjacent to it. It used to have separated walking and cycling zones… except that no-one bothered to keep to their side (hmm, like the pathway on Riccarton Ave by the Botanic Gardens…). So sanity prevailed and they just let people choose where it suits them.

Lots of pathway space so choose your side

The final project we looked at was the Victoria St upgrade downtown. One interesting aspect of this project was the addition of a cycle lane to this busy one-way route (which originally wasn’t going to have any), including one section of lightly separated cycleway.

Looking down Victoria St with the new separated cycleway

As part of this section a bus stop was located where passengers would have to cross the cycleway. All manner of signs and markings have been used to catch everyone’s attention; mind you, it might have helped if they’d actually provided an island between the bus and cycleway for passengers to safely step down.

Caution – conflict zone ahead

One good thing is the traffic signal phasing, which lets cyclists go before turning traffic is allowed to, just like we’re starting to see around Christchurch.

Bikes get to go while turning traffic waits

Unfortunately, for all this great new infrastructure, sometimes you just can’t help human nature and the default habits of motorists…

Nice cycle lane – if you can get to it…

So that’s a whirlwind overview of some of the things going on around Wellington. There are plenty of other bits underway too, including the Island Bay Parade cycleway, a new “Beltway” cycling route alongside the Hutt Valley rail corridor, a shared pathway along the Kapiti Coast, and some great cycle bypasses through the new SH2/SH58 Haywards Interchange.

What do you think of the cycling projects around Wellington?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *