3 Aug 2022

Division over plans for cycleway in Wellington Botanic Gardens

11:38 am on 3 August 2022

Wellington cyclists claim they are taking their lives in their own hands riding around the Botanic Gardens - but there are fears a cycleway will be terrible for business and residents.

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The Wellington Botanic Gardens. Photo: Natalia Catalina/ 123rf

Yesterday Wellington City councillors held a public hearing for feedback on the proposed Botanic Garden ki Paekākā to city route.

Many agreed that they were not likely to get their complete satisfaction on the matter and a number of tweaks were put forward to council, who would finalise the plan next week.

Wellington City Council decided last year to accelerate cycleway plans for two parts of the city - Thorndon and Newtown, meaning someone could cycle from the Botanic Gardens to the waterfront, to the hospital.

Since then the Newtown route has come to an abrupt halt as the matter only recently became settled out of court.

Avid Wellington cyclist Andrew Jacombs told councillors he wanted to be able to take his young niece cycling to the Botanic Gardens this summer.

"I want to live in a city that prioritises children, that prioritises the lives of children," he said.

"I want to live in a city where a kid could get a bike for Christmas and then they could [have a] sense of achievement when they get all the way up that hill to the gardens and have an ice cream."

En route to the Botanic Gardens there's busy Tinakori Road, Bowen Street, and a string of car parks constantly in high demand for short, medium and long term stay.

Raised bus stops will be put in place on Tinakori Road.

Raised bus stops will be put in place on Tinakori Road. Photo: Supplied

Cyclists share the narrow roads with motorists and on any given day cars can pile up behind cyclists.

Around 160 carparks will have to go for the new cycleway across almost 2 kilometres.

Alyssa Barbieri drives and bikes around Wellington, and said she avoids that area for safety.

"That Bowen hill would be like a near death experience to bike up," she said.

"When I bike uphill I tend to go very slow ... and I just lose that ability to stay in a streamlined straight lane and there's this fear that I'm going to drift into the cars."

The Thorndon Residents Association called for balance, saying the plan is a big risk to the livelihood of businesses in the area.

Bowen Street 24/7 shared bus/bike lane.

Bowen Street 24/7 shared bus/bike lane. Photo: Supplied

David Middleton said some people saw Tinakori Road as nothing more than a corridor.

"The road is more than just a through route. Homes need to have service and trade vehicles to stop nearby and businesses need deliveries, often in quite large trucks."

He said many homes in the area were built during a time before off-street parking was seen as a need and residents' parking was valued.

Long-term local resident Vivienne Revell said the council had flawed assumptions about the community and a lack of transport data about the road.

She accepted that a bike lane was necessary, but would rather it operated part-time.

"It would be for commuter cycling, basically like 4-6pm, Monday to Friday, and the rest of the time [the road] would be available for other road users to have short term parking," she told council.

"Whatever the cyclists get is going to be better than what they have now, we certainly support better cycling."

But Revell said the issue was that the plan would make an "expressway" out of their suburb.

There was one thing almost everyone agreed on - the need to reduce the speed limit down to 30km/h in the area.

Seperated bike lanes on Whitmore Street.

Separated bike lanes on Whitmore Street. Photo: Supplied

Councillors spent the afternoon hearing more than 15 speakers on the issue and asked questions of their positions.

Feedback will now be given to council officers and councillors to finalise the cycleway plan.

Councillor Iona Pannett, who chairs the committee, said it was likely not everyone would be completely satisfied.

"Some compromises have already been made as a result of feedback from the community. It's just really the question of how much you compromise - because obviously we wouldn't accept large gaps in the vehicle network either," Pannett said.

"We do need to fill in those gaps and we do know for cyclists it's really unsafe."

Councillors will debate the final plan next Thursday.

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