Solution agreed for Wellington's controversial Island Bay cycleway

Georgina Campbell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Nov 2021, 3:58PM
Island Bay cycleway. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)
Island Bay cycleway. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

Solution agreed for Wellington's controversial Island Bay cycleway

Georgina Campbell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Nov 2021, 3:58PM

Wellington City councillors have decided on an interim fix for Island Bay's controversial cycleway after a gruelling and, at times, confusing meeting. 

The decision was made with emotions running high, one councillor saying that the cycleway was the biggest mistake of his council career. 

The road will be resurfaced and repainted with kerb separators between parked cars and the cycleway. The cycleway will also be put through the town centre, meaning some car parks will be changed from angle to parallel.  
The decision comes five years after the cycleway was initially built and overturns a previous decision made in 2017 on how to fix it. 

The 1.7km cycleway has been the subject of court action and safety concerns. It's currently set between the footpath and parked cars, with the road on the other side. 

The council's Planning and Environment Committee narrowly agreed on a short-term fix for the cycleway today, put forward in an amendment by chairwoman councillor Iona Pannett. 

It was narrowly passed with Pannett's casting vote. The option goes further than what council officials had originally proposed as an interim solution because it also puts the cycleway through the town centre. 

Mayor Andy Foster, Ngāti Toa Rangatira representative Liz Kelly, and councillors Diane Calvert, Fleur Fitzsimons, Sean Rush, Simon Woolf, Nicola Young voted against it. 

Councillors Pannett, Jenny Condie, Jill Day, Sarah Free, Rebecca Matthews, Teri O'Neill, and Tamatha Paul voted for it. 

The decision comes in at a cost of between $2.5 million and $4.4 million and will result in the loss of up to 101 residential car parks and 15 car parks in the town centre. 

A short-term fix was proposed after Let's Get Wellington Moving revealed all four options for mass rapid transit will go to Island Bay and directly down The Parade. 

It means the road will be ripped up again to accommodate either bendy buses or light rail. 

Pannett said a cheaper short-term solution was the right thing to do at this stage rather than spend $14 million on a permanent fix. 

"I wasn't prepared to support putting in millions of dollars to then have to dig it up." 

But she said the most critical issue from a cycling perspective was to install the cycleway through the town centre so cyclists weren't "squished". 

"You can't have gaps in a network, the point is if you're going to have children, vulnerable people, and less confident cyclists going down there, they need a cycleway." 

Pannett said she wanted to move on and gain some quick wins until more clarity was provided from the multi-billion-dollar Let's Get Wellington Moving plan. 

She acknowledged the cycleway has been divisive. 

"I'm very sorry for that and there are things we could have done better." 

The amendment also included a proposal that any time-limit car parks lost will be relocated to the next closest car parks available to businesses and community facilities. 

Mayor Andy Foster said the cycleway has occupied a disproportionate amount of time, resource, and emotional baggage. 

"Whatever we do today there are going to be some people who are going to be unhappy, that's the blunt reality of it. We've just got to try and make the best of the situation." 

The Mayor's compromise 

Fitzsimons failed to get an amendment across the line for the council to implement a solution agreed on by the council in 2017. 

This was known as "the Mayor's compromise". 

"I feel like I've aged more than usual since 2017 and this cycleway is part of the reason", Fitzsimons said. 

Fitzsimons said it would put parking back to the kerb, include raised buffers, improved visibility at intersections, create a wider road for traffic, raised crossings and reduced speeds, and lower car park losses than other options. 

She was confident it could be delivered within the $14 million budget. 

"By deciding against an already agreed decision we will give rise to a whole new grievance." 

Fitzsimons urged councillors to consider whether it was worth it. 

"I won't be able to defend another decision because it's not consistent with the council's already agreed position." 

But she did gain enough support for a local parking policy plan to be undertaken. 

Reinstating The Parade to what it was 

Rush failed to gain support for his amendment to reinstate The Parade to its original configuration, adding the northern extension to the cycleway up to Dee St. 

This would include safety improvements at the discretion of the council's chief executive and up to a maximum cost of $3 million. 

Rush said this would act as a temporary measure pending decisions around Let's Get Wellington Moving. 

"This is an opportunity to actually respond to the community." 

The cycleway was divisive because people didn't want it, Rush said. 

The amendment was seconded by councillor Simon Woolf who told his colleagues he was the reason they were all in the room today. 

Woolf was the deciding vote that swung the decision to move forward with the original Island Bay cycleway design before it was built. 

"It was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my council career and it weighs heavy on me." 

He said reinstating the cycleway with some safety improvements was sensible until there was more clarity about Let's Get Wellington Moving. 

"It's pragmatic, it learns from our mistakes, and it should be fiscally prudent."