Four big votes, four big wins for Wellington cyclists and pedestrians

A sweeping set of changes to make the capital’s streets safer and greener – and making it easier to share the roads – has been passed in one of the Wellington City Council’s final meetings of the three-year term and a day before voting opens.

First off, the Planning and Environment Committee voted in favour of dropping speed limits on 80% of city streets to 30kph within a few years. Then it signed off on safety upgrades to notorious cycle black spot Chaytor St in Karori, followed by a series of “soft” measures to get people out of private cars, and finally voted to proceed with the controversial Newtown to city cycleway.”

It was a massive day for Iona Pannett, the committee chairperson and 15-year council veteran, who was involved in opposing the inner city bypass before her time on council and opposing the Basin Reserve flyover during her time on it.

Thursday’s votes would have been unimaginable 15 years ago, she said.“It is literally transformational,” she said after the successful vote to reduce speed limits.

Safer cycling networks are one of the winners from today’s meeting. (File photo)

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Safer cycling networks are one of the winners from today’s meeting. (File photo)

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The decision will send council staff away for detailed planning and studies into how each street will be affected. There will be a consultation process next year before the change goes back for another council vote. But it should mean 80% of the city’s roads dropping from 50kph to 30kph by 2027, some going to 40kph, and some arterial routes staying at 50kph.

Councillor Iona Pannett said the Thursday votes would have been unimaginable 15 years ago.

Monique Ford/Stuff

Councillor Iona Pannett said the Thursday votes would have been unimaginable 15 years ago.

Next was a vote for safety improvements at the intersection of Chaytor St, Raroa Cres, and Curtis St in Karori, a known black spot with nine crashes since 2017 including two involving bicycles and four involving mopeds.

The council voted unanimously to again send council staff away to look at a range of safety improvements which, range from tweaks, to the gold-plated option, costing up to $16 million, including traffic lights, footpath and road widening, and making Raroa Rd one-way with no exit onto Chaytor St.

Dave Young was knocked off his bike in 2020. It took him 18 months to fully recover from his Injuries.

MONIQUE FORD/Stuff

Dave Young was knocked off his bike in 2020. It took him 18 months to fully recover from his Injuries.

It was a big win for cyclist Dave Young, who was knocked off his bike by a car at the intersection in 2020 and, after shoulder surgery, and 18 months of full recovery said he was yet to regain full strength. His only opposition was that some initiatives – such as improvements at Chaytor St – were not coming fast enough.

“The biggest barrier to getting people on bikes is safety,” he said. “Any initiative that can make things safer needs support.

The third council vote was about the behaviour change package for the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme – a $7.2 million initiative over the coming two years ($52m over a decade) funded by the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. The city council will contribute staff time.

Outside the meeting, regional councillor Roger Blakeley said it consisted of “soft measures” aimed at getting people out of privates cars and into public transport, or walking and cycling.

Options such as a congestion charges and parking levy were still up for consideration in the future but not part of Thursday’s vote.

The committee voted 10 in favour of the behaviour change plan, with Rush, Calvert, Young, and Woolf the only opponents.

And finally came the Newtown to City cycleway and bus lane, a contentious change that saw some businesses take the council to court – claiming it had severely impacted businesses and needed more public consultation. The issue was settled out of court and the matter went for more public consultation, before going back to the council on Thursday.

The Newtown to city cycleway, outside Wellington hospital. (File photo)

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

The Newtown to city cycleway, outside Wellington hospital. (File photo)

There was some contentious debate, with Calvert putting forward amendments to delay the cycleway again for more consultation.

Ultimately the council voted in favour of the route – but Mayor Andy Foster flipped from his previous support of the cycleway and bus lane, becoming one of five councillors to vote for a delay to the route.

In debate, councillor Laurie Foon thanked the people who made submissions on the Newtown cycleway and bus lane.

Addressing the businesses who opposed the changes, she said: “I know it’s hard and there will be an impact. But we are changing the street to make the area more vibrant and a place people want to visit.”

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