6 Feb 2022

Cyclists allowed to use stretch of Transmission Gully despite 'no cycling' sign

6:41 pm on 6 February 2022

Confusion over Transmission Gully highway has ensnared cyclists.

Some thought they'd been banned since last September from using a key stretch of road, and road signs said as much: 'No cycling'.


Photo: 123RF

But Waka Kotahi says they haven't been barred, and can still use the 3km stretch of existing SH1 between Paekākāriki and Mackays Crossing - and it will ask the contractor, which had told cyclists they could not use the road, to cover up the signs.

It's the latest in a series of frustrations for locals over the multibillion dollar highway north of Wellington that has missed five promised opening dates.

It remains uncertain when the motorway will, in fact, open, with the regulating council Greater Wellington saying it does not currently have any resource consent applications for processing from the project, and noting "a significant number of non-compliances that have occurred on the project" during construction.

Even with the interim green light on SH1 for cyclists on the 3km stretch, they will face a definite bar from that stretch once the motorway does actually open - and it will take at least another six months till they get a proper cycle route in its place.

That strikes Kāpiti Cycling Club President Glynis Te Maipi-Kemp as treating cyclists as almost an afterthought, even when their numbers are swelling rapidly nationwide.

"It feels like it is an add-on", she said, to have to use a longer detour through neighbouring QEII Park for six months.

"The road planners should really, really engage and plan for the use of our roads by cyclists right from when they start thinking about any change or any new road."

Te Maipi-Kemp gets up at 5am to ride just over two hours - plus a half hour if a southerly is blowing - from Waikanae to her job in Wellington many days. The six-month detour will add 20 minutes to that.

Many other cyclists use the 3km stretch as part of a training loop from Kāpiti to the Hutt and back over the Akatarawas.

"We are traffic, and to be fair, we do deserve a space on these roads," Te Maipi-Kemp said.

Waka Kotahi jumped the gun, gazetting Transmission Gully as a motorway in August 2021, when it thought its opening was imminent.

It was not till 9 December that the agency granted a temporary dispensation to lift the ban on cyclists using the newly gazetted road.

Seeking to clarify this, cyclists - some of whom had been riding on the stretch despite the 'No cycling' signs - met the agency two weeks ago; some emerged thinking there was a ban in place, while others thought the opposite.

"There is some confusion around this and most of that is, I think, due to a lack of public information" from Waka Kotahi, Te Maipi-Kemp said.

The Cycling Action Network's spokesperson Patrick Morgan put it more strongly.

"I'm bamboozled by this," he said. "There's a sign there prohibiting cycling.

"This is just another sorry chapter in the saga of Transmission Gully."'

Porirua with Transmission Gully in the foreground.

Transmission Gully has missed five planned opening dates and there remains confusion about when it will open Photo: Supplied / Waka Kotahi / Mark Coote

The agency is officially committed to "mode shift" to encourage people away from private car use to address climate change. However, this project showed it had to do better, Morgan said.

"People who ride bikes around the Kāpiti area feel let down at the poor communication and mismanagement from Waka Kotahi."

The Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP), which last month told cyclists there was no legal access to the 3km stretch, did not respond to requests for comment.

Waka Kotahi said it made it very clear at a meeting with cyclists on 20 January, just where things stand currently - that they can use the 3km - and how things will stand once the motorway opens.

"The ['No cycling'] sign does not reflect the current status of the Mackays Crossing to Paekākāriki section of SH1 for cyclists and should have been covered when it was installed," an NZTA spokesperson told RNZ in a statement.

"The purpose of this meeting was to inform cycling groups of the need for a detour for the period of time between Transmission Gully opening and completion of the construction of SH59 between Paekākāriki and Mackays Crossing, and to seek their feedback on the detour route prior to it being put in place."

The SH59 route will become the permanent path for cyclists, but it is not ready yet.

"The builder [WGP] has also asked for the assistance of cycling groups in communicating the detour," NZTA said.

"The next step is to finalise the detour route and then, prior to the motorway opening, put a traffic management plan and detour signage in place."

Bruce Henderson of Kāpiti Cycle Action said the temporary detour route looked like it would go halfway through QEII Park from the south, then cut up to the Kāpiti Expressway at McKay's Crossing.

This would be better than going all the way through the park, Henderson said.

Te Maipi-Kemp said the detour that aims to use an existing, somewhat improved track through QEII Park would be far from ideal for large groups of cyclists training on the 'loop', as it was shared by families out walking and slower cyclists, but they would have to make do in the meantime, and ultimately the permanent SH59 route would be good.

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